What would happen if smartwatches & classic watches had a baby?
This is a question that Withings set out to get an answer for couple years ago. The startup was so successful that they got bought out by Nokia, however this lasted just couple years and the founders of Withings managed to buy themselves out.
The main advantage of Withings watches was their design. People wanted to have statistics about their fitness activities and their days, however everyone was complaining about wooden and ugly designs of most fitness tracker bands.
Withings Steel HR is available for ordering worldwide in both 36 or 40 mm screens for official price of $179.95 if ordered from their official website. However the model has now been available for sale for quite long, as well as there are discounts every couple months so it is likely that you can find for cheaper than that with lowest price reaching $99.95. However the base price is quite expensive compared to fitness trackers of the same quality, including the other Withings offering – Withings Move. There is also a potential upgrade, going for Withings Steel HR Sport, that includes couple high-end functions, for increased price.
On first sight noone would guess that this is something different than a regular watch. It is also extremely slim compared to the majority of the popular smartwatches and has a premium-looking design. The only difference between a regular watch is the small black screen which is there to show your preferred choice of heartrate, steps, distance, battery, alarms and current time(???). You can cycle through those options with a push of the crown on the side of the watch. It is surprising that you cannot turn it and your only option to use it is with a slight push. This feels kinda weird when you have to push it 6 times to make a complete cycle, so you can check, let’s say the remaining battery.
Just above the 6 o’clock there is a dial that shows the accomplished percentage of your goal. The goal is set through mobile app and is easy to follow or make changes to.
Despite the screen and percentage dial the time is easy to read. However it is important to note that the seconds hands is missing and the only available hands are for minutes and hours. This might be a dealbreaker for some use cases, so keep this in mind.
There are multiple official straps, both silicon and leather, including a milanase strap which are all pretty easy to change. You can also order generic straps, as most of them will work. Would love to hear more about your choices of straps in the comments, as this is the easiest way to customize a watch and make it truly fit your own style.
And this is the moment where the product disappoints a bit as it lacks some important functionalities. For example during a muscle workout it will not record and log any activities beside the steps you take.
However once we are passed this issue everything starts to get better and brighter. If you go for a walk or a run, or just casually moving it automatically starts tracking and logging every single step and gives some of the most accurate results compared to other fitness trackers. First thing you will notice is that the number of steps are lower (in some cases 10-15% lower) than other trackers and physical counting shows the Withings numbers as quite accurate. Best of all this works on couple other types of excercises, including swimming. Yes, Withings Steel HR is resistant to water and can be taken to pools and kept with you while you do your distances.
However the big highlight of the hybrid watch is the heart rate tracker that is located on the back of the watch and keeps track of your heartate(beats per minute) constantly, with the information available on the mobile application. You can also bring this as a statistic to be seen in the small screen by clicking the crown twice from the default position.
Final small function is the alarm system, that will wake you up silently with vibration on your hand. This is perfect if you want to wake up, without noisy alarms that will wake up other people in the room. The only downside is that the power of the vibrations is a bit lacking and might not be strong enough if you are very heavy sleeper.
The mobile application is very easy to use and configure goals/alarms with. It also works with both Android & iOS, supporting all the most recent versions. You can see your heartrate log for every 30 minutes by default, however during workouts it shows more often. On the app you can check a detailed graph about your sleep quality as well, including information about your REM sleep, times you wake up and more.
And this is the moment where this hybrid watch shines. The Withings Steel HR battery will last for over a month on a single charge! If you compare this to Apple Watches or Fitbits, that last from day to 3-4 days, it is quite impressive. Obviously it offers less functionality without having an actual display to power up, but the results are spectacular. To make things even better there is an actual charger for the watch, so you don’t have to buy specific type of batteries and it will charge itself from 0 to 100% in just a hour.
Overall this is a great timepiece, decent amount of functionality crammed into a sleek design that will be a perfect fit for more casual people, who want to track their activities without having an ugly bracelet or a watch they have to recharge every night.