First Look at Withings Activité activity tracker & designer watch

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Late last week Withings announced their latest device – the Withings Activité, which combined an activity tracker into a more normal looking high-end designer watch.  This would in effect be pulling in much of their existing Withings Pulse activity tracker unit and stuffing it into the insides of a Swiss made watch.  I had a chance to get a bit of hands-on time with the Activité and talk with the team on how it works.

The Activité is in many ways like any other activity monitor.  It’ll track steps using an accelerometer inside the unit, which is then transmitted to your phone continuously using Bluetooth Smart.  Which, in retrospect is probably the first time you’ve ever seen a watch looking like this with Bluetooth Smart stuffed inside of it.

Instead of having a LED/LCD display on it though to show you your steps, it will keep track of that via progress towards your goal steps.  Like most activity monitors the Withings has a goal feature which you try to hit each day by walking a specific number of steps.  The progress towards the goal is displayed on the inner circle of the watch with the small blue hand (0 to 100%).

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As of today the goal isn’t yet customizable, but it will be by time the Activité is available – which is slated for ‘Fall 2014’.

While the device itself doesn’t display either raw steps or distance, both of those are tracked and available on the app on your mobile phone, which it’s syncing continuously.

In addition to steps, the unit will also track sleep.  That information is relayed to the app as well and the full set of data about sleep will appear within the Withings Health Mate app, the same app used today by the Withings Pulse activity tracker as well as the Withings line of scales.  Note that unlike the Pulse however, the Activité will not capture stair data (how many stairs you’ve climbed in a day), though it will of course count steps while on the stairs.

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The Activité contains a standard coin cell watch battery which Withings says will get about 1 year of battery life before you must replace the battery.  In order to maintain the 5ATM (roughly 50-meter) waterproofing rating though, you’ll want to do that at a typical jewelry/watch repair location.

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Like most activity trackers, the unit will automatically sync to your phone’s time.  This means that when you travel, the watch hands will simply change to whatever time your phone displays.  There won’t be a method to manually override that though, so if you prefer to have your watch on a different time zone as your body, you’ll need to have the phone be on that time zone as well.

To demonstrate the hands moving, here’s a short demo video I shot showing an automated test program that moves through the course of the day – increasing the time of day while the goal increases as well (presumably because you’re walking around).

In addition the unit features a vibrating motor, which is used in conjunction with the app to create time alarms (such as a wakeup alarm at 7:00AM).  It will simply vibrate to wake you up.  Vibration is also used to notify you when you hit your goal for the day.  Additionally, the glass is able to respond to tap gestures.  So you can tap the glass twice to validate your set alarm time.

The Activité is billed as  ‘Swiss Made’ watch, which dictates that at least 50% of the components are made in Switzerland, and then that the full unit is assembled in Switzerland.  To that end, it has the appearance of a designer European watch – logical for a company based in Paris.

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The band is unique in that it actually easily pops off with a little lever.  You can see the small lever to the left edge of the leather band:

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This enables you to swap out the leather band for a separate non-leather (rubber material) band.

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The reason you’d use the rubber band is if you wanted to swim or run with it.  It was hinted at in their launch video that swim tracking might be a part of the future of the unit.  In talking with them, they noted that they’d like to get swim tracking (laps/distance) added in, but initially it’ll likely just be activity time.

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Meanwhile, on the running side the unit (like the Withings Pulse) will automatically trigger recording of a run and track distance and time, and then enumerate that separately onto the app.  That said, the running functionality is pretty basic here and there’s no connectivity to other sensors – so it’s more for casual use than anything else.  And, in my testing of the Pulse in the past with run distance – it doesn’t tend to be super-accurate (like most other activity monitors that try and guesstimate running distance without a footpod or GPS).

Last but not least, the unit comes in two flavors – black or white.  All the shots you see here were with me using the white variant, below is a shot from them of the black variant.  Both are the same price at $390/€390 when they become available this fall on both Withings’ site as well as “high end retailers”.

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Overall I’m pretty impressed with the direction Withings has selected to go here with the Activité.  No doubt it instantly becomes the most expensive activity tracker to date (more than double the next most expensive unit), but at the same time it’s also a watch that has a designer appearance.  And as I’ve heard from many of you when looking at other activity monitors, it’s an area that many have been indirectly asking for (less ugly devices).  There’s quite simply no other activity tracker on the market (at least any major ones) that have this look to them.  And thankfully there’s very little compromise on features.

Note that at launch the unit will only be iOS compatible, but Withings is working to get Android compatibility sorted out down the road (but no specific timelines are there yet).  Additionally, I’ve added the Withings Activité to the product comparison tool under the ‘Activity Trackers’ section.

It’ll be interesting to see what the competition does in terms of potentially following suit with equally pretty devices, as well as seeing if Withings can deliver the unit on time.  Their last announced sleep tracker product – the Aura – is running a number of months behind schedule, previously slated for Spring and now for late summer.  Still, I’m definitely looking forward to both devices, and will dive into reviews of both once I have final units in my hands.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to drop any questions below.

46 Comments

  1. Nedim

    I have long wondered how a marriage between a classic watch and a running watch would look like. Very happy to see others are thinking about these things too!

    The only thing I would object is the looks -- I have to believe that active watch lovers are more into Breitling/Hublot masculine designs vs. the classy, dare I say oversimplified look. Nevertheless, I like it!

    Reply
  2. the watch looks really good! I am just wondering for how many people the price will be justifiable. especially as tastes in design are so different I imagine that this design leaves too many people out of scope (very classy, elegant, not playful...)

    Reply
  3. Gary B

    Not my cup of tea as I like the geeky look products like the Basis bring however I think this will have more appeal to the masses. Excellent idea from Withings. Nice to see so much competition in this sector.

    Reply
  4. TimRPM

    Looks great! Not interested in a tracker myself, but really encouraged to see such nice design ported across to tech sector watches. I for one was really put off many watch options in the triathlon sector by their awful 1980s Casio look. Hope this trend towards more stylish design continues!

    Reply
  5. If you look at it as a nice watch with activity tracker features instead of primary an activity tracker I think the price is justified. Actually I expected the price to be higher. I definitely like the looks and will forward this post to my wife as a birthday present hint.

    Based on the features mentioned I'd already buy the watch, but I'm very curious what it will be able to do once production ready.

    Reply
  6. Jared

    I'd pay double if it has optical heart rate too.

    Reply
  7. Sean

    Ray,

    Could we have a profile shot of it on your wrist? It looks quite thick, and I'm interested to see if it sits awkwardly high.

    Sean

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Yup, no problem. Just added in a photo (about 1/3rd of the way through the post). Enjoy!

      Reply
    • Matt B replied

      Poor old Rolling Pin must be feeling left out.... :P

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Yeah, don't worry, it'll get back in action again soon. Next week I believe...

      Though, I've gotta fix one of the handles, broke off this weekend. :-/

      Reply
  8. Graham Rose

    I didn't see any mention in the preview, but did they remove the pulse and o2 sensors from this? if not, it just got a whole lot more interesting

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Correct, they are not in there (I had hoped to take a photo of the back, but they appeared concerned it was too scuffed up for a photo...).

      Reply
  9. Samantha

    "Which, in retrospect is probably the first time you’ve ever seen a watch looking like this with Bluetooth Smart stuffed inside of it."

    link to citizenwatch.com

    ;) It's not quite the same in terms of 'looking like' it, but it's got Bluetooth Smart to your phone for notifications.

    Reply
  10. It's a $400 fitbit. Let that sink in for a moment.

    Want. :)

    Reply
  11. Matt

    I really like the look of this. I've been very pleased with both the original Withings scale and Pulse. The silent alarm feature is the one thing I've really missed on the Pulse, glad to see it there. Turning it into a smart alarm like Sleep Cycle, would make the sleep tracking a little more valuable. I haven't found much value in the Pulse's heart rate sensor, although having continuous tracking would have been a killer feature (along with killing battery life).

    It will be interesting to see what Apple comes up with, but this is more in line with what I want out of a "smart" watch.

    Reply
    • Matt replied

      Just to add, Withings still lacks any way to export step data from their website, which is a huge complaint. Also the fixed 10,000 step goal is annoying, but it sounds like that will be fixed soon.

      Reply
    • Matt replied

      Nevermind... Looks like activity export was added to the website, one less thing to complain about!

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Yup, and the fixed step goal goes away at roughly the same time as Activité releases.

      Reply
  12. Turn The Damn Cranks

    Impressive. I've not pulled the trigger on an FR15 because I can't see wearing it daily -- I like my real watch, so I use a Fitbit One. This, however, is very attractive and would save me having to charge and would be less likely to go awol than the tiny one. In sum: want.

    Reply
  13. It may sound odd, but I've been wanting a reasonably priced automatic watch like this for a while and syncing to your mobile works much better than the atomic clock (still needs tweaking and timezone information) or a GPS chip (hefty power consumption).

    Props to them for going with a completely button-less design.

    If you're gathering feedback from them, I'd actually pay the same amount for it if it could be purchased without the activity tracking dial, just as a nice, clean, zero-button always-accurate watch. If they combined it with a discreet solar charging capability (such as the modern eco-drive watches that don't scream "solar panel") it would be stunningly perfect; even without that I'd get one to wear.

    Reply
  14. Susan

    Do you know if they will they have a women's sized version? If not could you post a picture of it on The Girl's wrist, I think it might look like I was playing dress up if I were to wear it.

    And I agree I would love for it to have a heart rate sensor.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I don't believe they'll have separate watch sizes, though perhaps separate straps - I'll check. I don't have a unit with me at the moment to take pics on The Girl's wrist, as it was only for the duration of the meeting. Sorry!

      Reply
  15. Maggs

    That's a nice looking activity tracker. I know a major jewelry line is planning on making bracelets for fitbits to go in, read that last winter, but this looks better than what those could ever be.

    Reply
  16. Joacim Lindback

    What's the weight of the Activité? My wife is concerned that it will be too heavy, she has the pulse today.

    Reply
  17. Ray Reynolds

    Beautiful looking watch.

    Reply
  18. Arnaud

    I have been looking for something like this for a while. The price is a little steep but still something to consider...
    Thanks for the info.

    Reply
  19. Looks like a nice product; going to be interesting to see how long they can make the battery last.

    Reply
  20. Michael

    I think they completely nailed it with this product. Some people spend a looot more for watches and this is a nice compromise with sufficient built in features which you can then check afterwards on your smartphone. Clearly it needed to be a european company to add style. The moment this is available for around 300 bucks, I am in!!!

    Reply
  21. Paul Tourkin

    Leather is a deal killer for some, including more and more athletes. Too bad. (yes I know that there is another band, but some of us don't purchase such products.)

    Reply
  22. isa

    I love the innovation and looks of this. As an aside, Microsoft is joining in on the fun soon per link to dailytech.com

    Reply
  23. Gary

    Does the watch have any storage or will I have to be tethered to my phone for it to pass activity data? For example, I have my phone on a dock charger at work. Will I have to remember to take my phone with me when I take a break and walk around the office?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It's actually interesting, I asked about that and they were hesitant there on giving me an answer for how long the duration would be (i.e. how long could I go). I asked about a week though, and they said that was fine. Still, I didn't feel 100% confident in that answer.

      Reply
  24. Trish

    Not for me....I like digital displays and pretty lights!
    Waiting for Fitbit's next product hopefully with a HRM

    Reply
  25. Jonas

    There's definitely a market for it. I've been seeing more and more c-suite types wear the fitbit or nike fuelband. They have the cash and not much time for exercise so something like this may be an interest direction.

    However I can't complain too loudly, as its also become okay to wear my F2 with a suit...

    Reply
  26. Tim

    Great looking watch and exactly what I have been looking for, an activity tracker that matches up well with business dress code. I was loving the product review, until I reached the "iOS only" part. Maybe Withings will have that sorted out sooner than later--still a let down.

    Reply
  27. Chris

    Will it track your activity while you are away from your phone? Some people work in places where phones are not allowed.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Yes, though the exact length of time it can store data was unclear.

      Reply
  28. Sebastien Gagne

    Interesting, I like that it has a classy look, but at that price point, the newly announced Moto 360 Android Watch might be a better choice. It'll have a "normal watch" look while having more features. I don't know if it'll have the activity tracking features, but if it does, it'll be much cheaper, albeit a little thicker, but you'll have a design watch look.

    Reply
  29. Alice

    I like the simple elegance of the design, looks good to me!

    Reply
  30. Wow, what a lovely watch. Some I use just as accessories. Time is not important to me, since I have my iPhone anyway. What these watches can do is what I'm after.

    Reply
  31. Mark J. Fine

    Withings, by far, have the best heath and fitness products and are always improving their line. Already have the Smart Body Analyzer and Blood Pressure Monitor. The Activité would be a perfect addition / replacement for my Fitbit Flex... and would make one less app to deal with. As far the addition of an on-demand heart rate sensor, I believe the latest Health Mate app includes one that's fairly reliable and uses your phone's camera.

    Reply
  32. M Pigott

    If it comes in Android, and the app isn't as buggy as reported in the play store, I'm there.

    Reply
  33. Dmitriy

    looks great. interesting idea. maybe someone in Switzerland, say Breitling or Hublot, also should think to add this functions to their time masterpieces. who knows what future transoceans can do in 20 years from now.

    Reply
  34. Clare

    My main interest, as someone already active, is an inactivity/ prolonged sedentary period alert. Thus, set at 10,000 steps is fine for me, as a guide, as I'm not as concerned about activity. I actually prefer digital, and having the date, but have always struggled to find something that actually looks good. If it had a prolonged sedentary vibration capability, I'd buy it. Does it?

    Reply

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