Withings Activité review: Withings latest activity trackers adopt an alternative approach to design and functionality and the Activité is the perfect embodiment of this.
Design: French on the outside, Swiss on the inside
For some the idea of a fitness tracker or a smartwatch seems more appealing than the actuality of one and whilst I don’t have hard data to back up this claim, most people prefer tech that doesn’t look like tech – particularly when it’s intended to be worn.
As a long time Nike FuelBand user and having been well acquainted with many of the other top trackers on the market, the Activité is something of a rare breed. It’s the one wearable that friends and family who don’t share my addiction to technology have remarked upon, saying they’d actually wear one and if you’re on the fence about these sorts of devices, the aesthetics alone might be enough to sway you.
On first inspection the Activité looks like a real watch – a considered, analogue watch comprised of premium material choices, a clean, comfortable design and that all-important ‘Swiss Made’ mark at the base of its face.
Take it off and its thickness is the only real clue that this is more than just a conventional wrist watch, as it houses a standard watch battery and, whilst you can’t see it, a Bluetooth radio.
The back also conceals a button to switch the watch into pairing mode for initial setup and access to the catches for the quick-release straps. By default the white version comes with a tan leather strap, whilst the black version packs a strap to match and both also feature a rubber strap for times when particularly heavy physical activity may be on the cards.
Comfort: Barely there
Luckily the aforementioned physical bulk doesn’t translate into excessive amounts of weight and you’ll seldom notice the Activité perched against your wrist. As the watch adopts a unisex design, the included strap may prove a little small for larger-wristed folk, as I was on one of the larger fittings despite having relatively spindly wrists.
Withings has appeared to have used a higher quality strap than other smartwatches and wearables that purportedly pack real leather, as it’s supple and flexible out-the-box. The only bugbear with the straps is that you have to swap them out if you don’t want to ruin the leather option when you plan on getting physical.
Functionality and performance: Fire and forget
The Activité’s face features three hands; an hour and a minute hand and a third smaller hand in an accented colour (blue for the white version, red for the black) that ticks around its own dial. Instead of counting seconds, this special hand ticks up from zero to 100, representing the percentage of progress you accumulate, as you stay active throughout the day.
It’s ideal for those who favour a fire-and-forget approach to tracking their daily routines; whether it’s walking, sleeping or thanks to a new update, swimming, the Activité is at home logging an array of activities.
The legwork really takes place within the companion app, which connects to the Activité via low-energy Bluetooth. As such synchronising takes place sporadically throughout the day or data can be manually pulled from the watch to your phone by physically opening the app.
The Health Mate app features a clean, colourful interface that breaks down activity logging into timeline, dashboard, friends, profile and reminders. Timeline automatically shows you the latest activity logged and you can tap to drill down on the finer details of your last workout or sleep.
Dashboard collates all the data gathered from the Activité and weighs it against your weight (you can set a target weight to work towards). The wellness levels graph gives you can overview of your progress and should you wish you can augment the app’s abilities from this screen as it offers up interoperability with other apps like RunKeeper.
You can also set reminders to help with your fitness regime; such as going for a run, weighing yourself or taking your blood pressure. The app also suggests good practices like drinking herbal teas and from this part of the UI you can also set a silent alarm so that the Activité vibrates to wake you up gradually in the mornings.
There are a couple of omissions, like being able to specify the activities you’re partaking in and there’s no element of dietary tracking or water intake logging, which can have a massive effect on your well-being, but it’s an easy-to-use, relatively low-maintenance experience that complements the Activité well.
Verdict: Really worth your time.
As was said at the beginning, the Withings Activité is something of a rare breed, but based on the approach the company has taken to designing such a distinctive activity tracker, it has the potential to appeal to an impressively broad range of users.
If the Swiss Made mark, aesthetics and ease of use aren’t enough to convince you, the eight month battery life is a huge bonus over pretty much every other tracker on the market, not to mention it’s one of only a handful of trackers that offers swim tracking and more recently Android users can make use of one too.
You pay a lot for what is essentially a supercharged wristwatch at £320 direct from Withings, but it can be had from other retailers for less and the newer Activité Pop offers the same functionality with less exotic construction materials at a considerably lower price tag.