Forget Fitbits, Misfits and the Apple Watch: the Withings Activité is easily the best looking wearable on the market. Well, it was. Now it’s got an easy-on-the-eye sibling that’s kinder on the old wallet too – the £139.95 Withings Activité Steel.
Sitting above the truly budget Activité Pop, this isn’t just another addition to the mass of unwearable wearables. It’s an activity tracker that will take you from your morning meeting to a night out with mates without looking out of place. With the Steel, Withings has reinvented the best fitness tracker on the market and made another hit. Well, mostly.
- Stunningly elegant design
- Accurate fitness tracking
- Amazing battery life
- Hard to read the time in the dark
- Time markings are too dull
- Glass a little reflective
Withings Activité Steel Design: Perfect, but for one major flaw
Most wrist-based wearables look and feel like ASBO bracelets (we, er, assume). Withings, however, has kept things simple and refined. Like its siblings, the Activité Steel oozes a level of style and class not usually associated with the fitness tracker space.
There’s no clumpy, oversized plastic or garish styling. Instead, you have a fitness tracker that’s disguised as a real watch. And not some bulky, oversized smartwatch like the LG Watch Urbane or Huawei Watch either – but a slim, attractive bit of kit that doesn’t unnecessarily draw the eye, weigh down your arm or make you look like you’ve been shopping at Del Boy’s market stall. Simplicity might be an alien notion to many tech designers, but it works here.
Sure, it has cut some high-end material corners compared with the flagship, £320 Activité. The crystal glass display has been replaced by a less robust, more reflective option, and the posh leather band has made way for a silicone strap. But the Steel’s polished metal body still looks the part. It’s comfortable to wear too, whether you’re on the treadmill or in the club.
While the switch in materials works, the other design tweak doesn’t. Withings has pushed the focus from the wearable’s watch-credentials to its activity-tracking nous. The small inner dial – which monitors your zero to 100% progress on a pre-set activity goal (such as 10,000 steps) – now takes pride of place, popping from the otherwise understated face thanks to bright white markings.
Although it’s a welcome addition that makes your activity levels a little clearer, this does have a downside – and a pretty major one at that. The dark grey time markings on a black watch face give a sleek, stylish look during the day. When the lights drop, however, this monochrome colour scheme makes things pretty difficult to read. If there’s no street lamps to brighten things up, time telling is anything but a glanceable affair. Instead you’ll have to contort your wrist to catch the right angle of whatever light there is. As such, an additional, lighter colour option would be nice.
Withings Activité Steel Features and App: Accurate with a battery that won’t quit
OK, so the Steel might have a classy look, but this isn’t the most sophisticated of wearables – in terms of core features anyway. There’s no call capabilities or integrated heart rate monitor. No inbuilt music storage or ability to receive message alerts. You don’t really miss all that, however. What you have instead is a device that nails the basics of core fitness tracking.
Repeatedly pacing out 100 steps, the wrist-borne gadget’s recordings were bang on. Unlike many of its rivals, this thing’s not overly generous in its steps counting, and doesn’t mistake every gesticulation for a footfall. It’s not particularly stingy either. Sure, walking with your hands in your pockets, holding your partner’s hand, or carrying your weekly Tesco shop will skew your readings slightly – but then we’re yet to use a fitness tracker that doesn’t have the same motion-restricting shortcomings.
Although only offering basic activity progress on the watch, the Steel is secretly storing all your intricate fitness data. This is relayed via Bluetooth to the accompanying Android and iOS app. Like the watch itself, this app is simple, elegant and sugarcoated with an easy-to-use finish. There’s daily, weekly and monthly breakdowns of all the key data metrics, from steps count and calorie burn to distances covered and even time active.
It makes absorbing and understanding your daily actions simple without clouding your mind with unnecessary fluff. Sure, it might not capture any more data than a £50 fitness tracker, but you won’t be embarrassed to wear this one all the time. More prompting on how to work towards new goals is the only major omission here – although that could easily be rectified with a future update.
As well as keeping the Steel looking flash, the lack of unnecessary smartwatch features has another benefit – battery life. While smartwatches struggle to get through the day and many fitness trackers top out after a week, the Steel can go up to 8 months between battery changes. Well, that’s according to Withings.
Having lived with both the original Activité and the Pop, we’d be surprised if the Steel lasted longer than 6 months before the coin cell battery needs to be changed. Although some way off the mooted figure, this is still far from shabby and without rival.
Despite some low-light time telling difficulties, this is still one of the best looking and most accurate fitness trackers on the market. Classier than the Pop and only marginally more expensive, the Steel is a wearable for all occasions and one which won’t disappoint – unless you’re overly fond of late-night walks, that is.
With better night-time time telling, the Steel would be getting full marks. As it stands, however, it’s just not quite as well rounded as its little, Pop-based brother.