The Withings Activite brand of activity trackers offers a balance between functionality and fashion. They are simple and disguise its function well. And to me that's the main appeal of these pieces. Are they watches with activity tracking or activity trackers that can tell the time?
I have been riding the "quantified self" wave for a while, collecting vital data such as steps, weight, heart rate, exercise and sleep, using this to establish goals and provide that little bit of "control" over things that sometimes seem hard reach.
Over the last few months I have been doing this with a series of devices but these all had something in common: they were "bracelets" and while some even showed time, they aren't really replacement for watches in a fashion sense. Yes, I am one of those who stil wear a watch, despite the number of smartphones and other devices around that can tell me the time.
While some of the new smartwatches around offer some activity tracking features, they are still bulky, ugly or worst have short battery life - I mean you need something tracking your movements all the time - including sleep - so when are you charging those smartphones if they need charging every 24 hours?
Enter the Withings Activite line of trackers, which are finaly landing in New Zealand. These devices look pretty much like analog watches, and good looking at that. Designed by a French company, the devices come in two flavours (Activite and the more casual Activite Pop), each with multiple colours and bands.
Basically you have a watch with a main dial showing time and a secondary dial showing your progress (percentage) towards your daily goal. A tap on the glass and the hands on the main dial will move to show the time for the next alarm. And that's all you get from the tracker.
Even though it's simple in form, Withings Activite devices constantly collect data - your steps, your swim, your sleep. You then use the mobile app to connect to the watch via Bluetooth and synchronise the data to the cloud where it's accessible through the Withings website or through the app itself.
As mentioned, these devices come in two versions: the Withings Activite Pop, which is designed in France and made in China, has a colourful face, with a silicone band and glass, whilte the more formal Withings Activite alsobeing designed in France but Swiss made, with a more traditional black or white face, saphire glass and leather strap.
Both come with a special tool to open the watch allowing the user to replace the battery, a standard CR2025 one. The Withings Activite comes with a spare battery and an extra silicone band for activities when you don't want its leather strap to get wet.
The devices are both waterproof up to 50 metres and can track swimming activities, so you want to make sure to switch the leather band on the Withing Activite.
I've noticed the silicone band on the Activite Pop seems to be more resistant than the one that comes with the Activite, perhaps because this one is used all the time, while the later is used only when the leather band can't be used.
The battery life is impressive: up to eight months, compared to five days of a Fitbit device - or 24 hours on most smartwatches.
I have used both Withings for a while now, and compared the data collected with the Fitbit Surge I have. Steps and sleep were pretty close with both models and in any case you won't ever get 100% accuracy from any device - you should be more interested in getting a baseline and a goal to work towards to. In this case both the Withings Activite and Withings Activite Pop seem to be accurate enough for this task.
Both devices are really light, despite the use of higher quality materials such as stainless steel and glass/saphire.
The app itself is easy to use and show the data in charts for day or weeks. I would suggest it to support more than one device simultaneously though, so one could swap from the more casual Withings Activite Pop to the more formal Withings Activite without having to pair the devices again.
Also interesting to note you can "calibrate" the hands (hour, minutes and progress) which seems something I had to do every few weeks with my Withings Activite Pop which seemed to slowly drift (for example at 11am the hour hand would be just before 11 and the minutes hand would be just after 12), while the Withings Activite seemed immune to that.
The mobile app also supports some gamification including badges and a leaderboard. Because the device is new in the local market though don't expect lots of friends using it so your leaderboard won't be as full of names as the one on Fitbit - but this is no reason to not use it for the numbers.
Both versions support a silent alarm. The vibration is not as strong as in other devices (such as the Fitbit) and it will vibrate twelve times with no way to stop it. Just let it ring...
Overall pretty happy with these devices as they definitely fill a space in the market - one that I always considered important myself.