Withings Activité Steel review

The fitness tracker you won't realise is a fitness tracker

With the Activité Steel, Withings hasn't added more sensors or changed what it is tracking.

Instead it has smushed together the best bits of the previous two devices - the style of the original Activité and the price point of the colourful Activité Pop - into one, very wearable, potentially very useful tracker.

This latest Withings wearable isn't pushing boundaries anymore but you can't deny this is a lovely thing to wear day in, day out, it makes you watch a little bit smarter in a useful way and the price is now genuinely affordable.

Withings Activité Steel: Design

The original Activité was made from stainless steel, domed sapphire glass and came with a calf leather strap so what does the Activité Steel bring to the table? It's an almost identical design apart from the fact you get a silicone strap with this one.

Read this: The best fitness trackers you can buy right now

The standard Steel Black model (which we tested) has a black watch face and chrome hands and a black strap but if you're willing to pay extra, this latest Withings also comes in a range of coloured straps - khaki, mocha, raspberry etc - all with a white watch face instead.

Like its predecessors, it's well made, with a surprisingly thick lower half which does a good job at hiding all the tech in a small, light, comfortable watch body that's just 36.3mm in diameter.

The Steel Black model with the black watch face isn't the easiest to read (both for time telling and glancing at activity progress) in lower lit rooms or at night, though. And the glass is quite reflective, too, so that's worth bearing in mind.

Activity is again shown via a dial which goes from 0 to 100% and doesn't look at all tacky. It doesn't require any computing either - I'm on 3,700 steps so I need at least 5,000 more - just a glance to show you're halfway, say to your daily goal. As with the Pop there's no 50% marker on this model but that's fine by us.

It's chic and the 18mm strap is great for women's wrists, though perhaps a little too slim for mens' wrists. The omission of the leather strap makes sense for price reasons but we did miss it slightly.

Withings Activité Steel: Features

The core features of the Activité line are all present and correct - there are no notifications, Withings keeps things health, fitness and sleep focused. The Activité Steel will track your activity (steps, distance, calories burned) and sleep.

Plus there is a silent alarm which makes the watch vibrate - just the one instead of beeping at you, though you can't snooze it once it starts. Once you've set the time in the app, the Activité Steel does of course tell the time, we noticed a bit of lag on the second hand though it always caught up.

Your activity and sleep stats are displayed in the companion Withings Health Mate app which is now on Android (4.3+) as well as iPhone (4S and above).

Activities - walking, running and now swimming (it's waterproof to 5ATM) - are recorded and displayed separately in the app and can now be pushed over to MyFitnessPal to increase your calorie allowance for the day thanks to a partnership.

Read this: A beginner's guide to MyFitnessPal

This is a really nice way to bring together food tracking and activity tracking though it only works if you're entirely honest with MyFitnessPal, otherwise you'll just be allocating yourself more calories to consume via your walking or running when you haven't quite entered everything you should.

The third party app support is really great - you can sync up your Withings stats to Google Fit or Apple Health and add in metrics that the Activité itself doesn't track, via other gear - heart rate, blood pressure etc - plus Withings' own Smart Body Analyser smart scales.

The aforementioned dial on the watch face shows your progress to your daily steps goal which you can now customise in the app - it doesn't have to be 10,000 steps a day. If you hit your goal, it returns to zero and starts again.

Withings Activité Steel: Tracking and app

Step tracking on the Activité Steel has generally been very accurate but for the first time, the device overestimated our activity by at least 500 steps or so on one day and 50 - 100 steps otherwise versus both Google Fit running on our Android phone and a Misfit Shine 2.

That's odd as previously we've seen Withings devices go slightly under rival trackers- perhaps the algorithms (which are never perfect) have changed as it's the same 3-axis accelerometer inside.

It's still useful in terms of seeing that you've gone over your goal or that you're still languishing at 25% (shout out working from home days) but it's worth bearing in mind when you're digging into estimates of calories burned etc. As we said, there are no new sensors and GPS is still missing so this isn't the kind of device that's ideal for runners.

As for the bursts of activities, this could be helpful if you do plan to entrust your running routine to the Activité Steel but it gets a bit annoying seeing the Health Mate app chunk up sections of walking of as little as two minutes at a time.

Sleep tracking, on the other hand, is pretty damn good - it's automatic and got our going to sleep and wake up times spot on. One thing it wasn't so accurate at tracking was the number of times we got up in the night - it missed the occasional toilet break - but that's less important.

Also, on one occasion - so we'll let it slide - it registered Thursday's night sleep as Friday's in the Health Mate app which was pretty weird. We assume this has something to do with going to bed past midnight every night and we hope it sorts itself out eventually.

Still, on the good news front - you can see data on time spent awake (very accurate) as well as light and deep sleep. It's also worth repeating that the Activité Steel is more than comfortable enough to wear in bed plus there's the fact that you don't need to charge it every night so you're more likely to wear it 24/7.

The Health Mate app is pretty comprehensive with a profile for entering height and weight, Badges to unlock with alerts when you do and graphs to dig into. One niggle is that you get day and week views but no monthly/yearly views - that's a shame if you're using the Activité Steel to make long term changes to your lifestyle.

We tended to keep the Bluetooth on our phone switched off since we weren't getting alerts to the Activité and just sync up every night when we returned home - pairing is easy but we found the syncing to take a bit longer than usual for fitness trackers, a bit of a pain.

Withings Activité Steel
Withings Activité Steel


Withings Activité Steel: Battery life

The Activité Steel boasts the same great battery life from its swappable coin cell battery. Withings quotes eight months of battery life from one battery but you should get at least six months from it.

Compare to that to two day, three day and five day trackers which show you very little else in terms of glanceable info beyond the time and your activity progress and the Activité Steel comes out on top.

That's the benefit of ditching the screen as many other smart trackers/watches from the likes of Fossil and HP have done since the first Activité.


Withings Activité Steel
By Withings
This tracker isn't for sports enthusiasts or regular runners - it's for everyone who wants to get a bit fitter, move more and keep an eye on their sleep schedules. The option is there to do more, adding smart scales and accessories but the Activité Steel succeeds as a simple tracker that looks damn good while it does its basic job. It nows plays nice with both Android (yay) and MyFitnessPal and we look forward to more collaborations. As ever, accuracy isn't 100% but we've found that the combination of the dial and the Health Mate app does spur us on to reach our goals. If you're aware of what you want to get out of it, this is a damn fine choice for the money.

Hit
  • Looks stylish
  • Awesome battery life
  • MyFitnessPal integration
Miss
  • Not ideal for run tracking/sports
  • Limited views in the app
  • No new sensors


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