Wearables need to be wearable. That's the ethos at Withings, the French company following up the gorgeous looking Swiss-made Activité with its cheaper offspring, the Activité Pop.
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At £119 / $150, the Pop is an iPhone compatible, fitness tracker-watch hybrid that's set to appeal to the masses more than its bigger, brasher, brother. But does the cost-cutting come with some unwanted compromises?
We've had the Withings Activité Pop strapped to our wrist for the last couple of weeks. Read on to find out….
Withings Activité Pop: Design
The original Activité, which is around three times the price of the Pop, uses premium materials such as scratch-proof domed sapphire glass, stainless steel and French calf leather. Withings' new arrival is constructed from a PVD-coated metal, features mineral glass and has a silicone strap.
It feels anything but cheap though – the rubber is soft, texturised and stretchy and it's incredibly comfortable to wear. As stated in the intro, we've had the Pop on our arm for a couple of weeks now (including a few nights sleeping with it on) and there's been no skin irritation issues to report.
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The watch face may not sparkle quite as much as the original, but the Pop is still fantastic looking and, with a range of colours and straps on offer, you're bound to find one you like. All colours are unisex, in theory, although the sand option is the most feminine.
While it's very compact compared to other watch-like fitness trackers, the Pop is slightly thicker than a regular 1.3-inch, 18mm strap watch. But you'll hardly notice the small rear-bump (where the battery and sensors are stored) while wearing it, and it's not exactly a device that stands out. To a non-techy bystander, the Pop looks like a regular (and stylish) wristwatch.
The 18mm strap is interchangeable too, so while you might not be wearing genuine French calf-leather as you would with the original Activité, you could always grab a fake leather strap off of eBay without breaking the bank.
On the watch face is a pair of analogue hands and non-numbered five-minute interval markers, along with the 1-100 dial that represents your progression towards your daily step goal. Unlike its more expensive brethren, this dial isn't double glass domed and there's no added texture on it. There's also no 50 marker, but that's hardly a deal-breaker.
The 'Swiss-Made' tag is also missing, for obvious reasons - this one is produced in China.
Withings Activité Pop: Features
The functionality of the Pop is exactly the same as its more expensive namesake, with fitness and sleep tracking on board, and it uses the same Withings HealthMate app – but more on that later.
Setup is a doddle - the watch pairs to the app and sets the time automatically based on your smartphone. There is a calibration process to go through – to make sure the hands are all in the right places – but it's really straightforward. The reason for this is it's actually a digital watch powering analogue components. The Pop knows how to move its hands at the right pace, you just need to get them in the right place to begin with.
A cool sidenote - if you change time zones while wearing the Pop, it automatically resets itself. It does this using your phone's time setting though, so don't expect it to change mid-flight if your mobile is on airplane mode.
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You can set a silent alarm for the Pop using the Withings app so you'll be alerted with a series of vibrations at your desired time. It's a touch annoying that you can't stop this alarm once you're aware of it though, you need to just wait for it to stop – it's around 12 vibrations. You can also sadly only set one. Checking the alarm time on the watch face is simply a case of double tapping the glass and watching the hands spin around to display the programmed time.
Another bummer is that, although the app lets you set reminders (get some milk, go for a run, clean the car and so on), they just appear as pop-ups on your smartphone – the Pop doesn't buzz at the same time, which seems a wasted opportunity.
If you hit your daily step goal, the Pop's hands spin for a bit, like a little analogue party, and the device buzzes. The counter then returns to zero and starts again. It's a bit underwhelming but hey, if you're buying a Withings Activité device, you're not doing it for onscreen updates.
Withings Activité Pop: Tracking and app
That step goal is 10,000 and not a step more or less. Despite the company stating on social media that the option to change the goal will be hitting the HealthMate soon, it hasn't yet.
10,000 is also a lot of steps when you consider that Withings is a lot more stringent than some of its rivals. We've found the Pop to be pretty consistent with regards to step-recording to other devices from the company that we've tested – i.e. it tracks less steps than the likes of Fitbit or Jawbone.
Step counting using an accelerometer and an algorithm based on personal statistics isn't an exact science, and is a relative measurement depending on the device you're using. However, we think that it's a bit harsh that an 8km run, combined with about 20 minutes of walking, still doesn't mean a 100% goal achievement on 10,000 steps. This was the case on one day for us while testing.
Talking of running and you should consider the Pop a basic assistant rather than a training device. That 8km run we mentioned was tracked as 7.3km of running and 1.7km of 'other'. There's no GPS, so it's not a dedicated running device and you should take its activity recording results with a pinch of salt.
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The app nicely breaks down your activities into clusters of days or weeks, though, and on the day mode you can even see bursts of individual activities and the time of day that they occurred.
Sleep tracking data is displayed in a similar fashion to activities in the HealthMate app, and the good news is that sleep detection on the Pop is automatic – you don't need to press any buttons before nodding off. We found the sleep monitoring to work pretty well and it helps that the Pop is so comfortable to wear. If you're used to wearing a watch to bed, you'll have no issues keeping it strapped on.
The HealthMate app is also used for the Withings Smart Body Analyzer and the Pulse tracker, so you'll see empty sections for weight (unless you manually add it), heart rate and elevation within your activity. This is a tad annoying but you can pull in extra data from some third party apps to fill in the gaps and Apple Health is compatible too.
The one major downside is that the Withings Activité Pop is only compatible with iOS at the moment, although we're told Android support is imminent. With the Apple Watch on the horizon, it makes sense for Withings to work on Android compatibility as fast as it can.
Withings Activité Pop: Battery life and extras
The Withings Activité Pop is powered by a regular CR2025 coin battery, and you can expect a power-cycle of around eight months. You'll get a little tool in the box to open the back of the watch, and it's just a case of swapping the cell out. This tool can also be used to reset the watch using the button on the device's rear.
Like the original, the Activité Pop is 5ATM water resistant, meaning you can take it swimming. In fact, its makers claim that swim tracking is a feature that will be added in a firmware update soon.
- Great price-point
- Plenty of colour options
- Fantastic battery life
- App information is very detailed
- Step counting is slightly harsh
- You can’t change the step goal
- Only one smart alarm
- Run tracking is hit and miss