Fitbit faces some fresh competition with the launch of Withings Pulse HR, a $130 fitness tracker that promises 20-day battery life.
Design: Playing it safe
The rectangular Pulse HR, which goes on sale Dec. 5, looks more like a Fitbit than Withings’ analog watch-like Steel lineup. Its design harkens back to the original Withings Pulse O2, the company’s first wrist-worn tracker in 2014 (which can still be found on Amazon for a steal).
The new band comes in black with a black silicone band. You can swap in colorful bands to change up the look.
Pulse HR’s OLED display shows information such as the time, heart rate and notifications from your smartphone. You can tap the screen or use a side button to toggle through your stats.
Fitness: Just the basics
The Pulse HR is extremely basic, especially compared to its rivals. It has an optical heart rate sensor for continuous heart rate-monitoring in workout mode, then the sensor samples your heart rate every 10 minutes when not exercising. The band relies on your phone’s GPS for accurate tracking of running, cycling, walking and hiking. It can track 30 types of exercise, from yoga to ice hockey. During workouts, the band only displays your heart rate and time elapsed. Afterward, you get more detailed information about the session by syncing the Pulse HR to the Withings Health Mate app for iOS and Android.
The Pulse HR is comparably priced to Fitbit’s Charge 3 and Garmin’s Vivosmart 4, but both of those bands offer more advanced features, including SpO2 sensors for tracking blood oxygenation levels while sleeping. The new Withings band claims to offer 20-day battery life, compared to the Charge 3 and Vivosmart 4, both of which last about a week depending on usage.
I plan to put Withings’ battery life claims to the test to see if lengthy battery life is worth giving up the more advanced features you can find in similarly priced bands.
Withings is staging a comeback, but the world of wearables has shifted dramatically in the years that Withings spent under Nokia’s umbrella. Smartwatches are becoming more widespread, led by the Apple Watch, and fitness bands are offering more features for less money to stay competitive.
Is the Pulse HR worth buying? Stay tuned for a full review.