Up until this point, all fitness watches have been fitness first, watch second. The Withings Activité flips that on its head. It’s an elegant timepiece that just happens to track your steps and your sleep, and deliver that information in the most subtle of ways. The $450 price tag isn't cheap, even for Swiss-made precision. However, if you value fashion as much as fitness, this is the watch for you.
In our digital age, there’s something refreshing about the analog face of the Withings Activité. It looks and feels like a classic timepiece, and hides its technology well. You would never know that housed inside the polished stainless steel case and scratch-proof sapphire crystal glass are an accelerometer and Bluetooth radio.
The watch face itself is elegantly minimalist. The hour and minute hands are both stainless steel, as are the hour marks along the edges. Inset in the lower right is a second dial that goes from 0 to 100; this shows, at a glance, your progress toward the day’s goals.
The model I tested had a black watch face, black leather band and red activity hand, but Withings also makes a version with a white face, tan leather band and blue activity hand. Both are equally attractive.
The Withings Activité is the first fitness or smartwatch I've worn where someone didn’t ask me what I was wearing. And that’s the point: It’s meant to look like a watch.
The main screen of Withings’ app shows your timeline — the number of steps you’ve taken in the current day, as well as the percentage of the goal that you are on your way to completing. Below are summaries of steps and sleep from the previous days and weeks. All the charts are brightly colored and easy to decipher at a glance.
You can earn badges by meeting certain goals, such as hitting 10,000 steps. Some are a bit quirky: I earned the Loch Ness badge by moving an accumulated 100 kilometers — roughly the distance around the Scottish lake.
A menu on a left-hand screen lets you switch between your timeline, dashboard, leaderboard, profile and set reminders.
The dashboard repeats some of the same information that's on the timeline, but has Withings’ cloverleaf-shaped icon at the top, with each leaf corresponding to different aspects of your health: Weight, Activity, Sleep and Heart. The more you complete activities in each quadrant, the more the leaf fills. However, you won’t be able to fill in Heart or Weight without using another product, such as Withings’ Smart Body Analyzer scale ($149).
You can also pull in data from other sources, such as Nike+, RunKeeper, MyFitnessPal and BodyMedia, and also share data with Apple’s Health app.
In all, Withings' app is bright, colorful and intuitive, but lacks the diet tracking found in the Jawbone and Fitbit apps.
As it’s meant as a general activity tracker, I didn’t rely on the Activité to be as precise as a GPS-based device. Rather, it was nice to know if I was nearing my daily goal of 10,000 steps.
Like other non-GPS fitness trackers, such as the Fitbit Charge and the Basis Peak, the Activité uses a three-axis accelerometer. With both the Activité and Peak strapped to my left wrist, I swung my arm back and forth about 10 times. After, the Activité registered 28 steps and the Peak recorded 27 steps.
Although it can be spoofed as easily, the Withings is more accurate than the Peak. After a quick stroll of 185 steps, the Activité recorded that I had taken 176 steps, much less than the Peak’s 129 steps.
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The Activité is water-resistant to 5 ATM (164 feet) and, with a future firmware update, will be able to automatically track how many strokes you take in the pool. I wouldn’t want to risk ruining the leather band by going for a swim, but fortunately, the band can be easily swapped out for the included silicone watch strap.
As with most other fitness bands, the Activité can track the quality of your sleep. I especially like that, similar to the Basis Peak, you don't have to press any buttons for the Activité to automatically enter sleep mode.
As a second benefit, the Activité also acts as an alarm clock. After setting the time in the app, you can tap twice on the Activité’s display, and the hands will rotate to show you what time the alarm is set for. It’s pretty neat to see the dial move on its own.
The Activité vibrated gently about 10 times to wake me up; I wish I could tap on its face to put the watch into snooze mode.
Running off a CR2025 coin battery, the Activité will last up to eight months on a charge, according to Withings. By comparison, devices such as the Fitbit Charge and Basis Peak will last about a week, but can be recharged via USB. After the Activité dies, you’ll have to purchase a new battery, which costs about $1 each. To replace it, just pop off the back of the Activité (using the included tool).
A recent NPD study showed that 42 percent of people stop wearing activity trackers after six months. By positioning itself as much as a watch — and a really stylish one at that — as a fitness device, the Withings Activité promises to have a much longer shelf life than its competition.
If $450 is too steep a price, Withings also sells the $149 Activité Pop, which looks similar to the Activité and performs the same functions. In the place of metal, sapphire and leather, however, the Pop has a PVD-coated metal body, a silicon strap and a glass case. But if you’re looking for a luxury watch that happens to double as a fitness tracker, look no further than the Withings Activité.
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