The wristwatch strikes back
Technically speaking, the Withings Activité is a smartwatch – but don’t expect to use it to read your mails. On the surface, the Activité is a stylish unisex watch. Under the face, it hides high-tech sensors that connect – like other activity trackers – to a smartphone via Bluetooth LE.
We’d had our eyes on a Moto 360 since it was announced earlier this year (and “coming summer 2014”) – but now Withings has knocked the 360 out of the park when it comes to design flair and desirability.
The Activité is simply a gorgeous-looking device. Not only does it look really smart, but it also faces the elephant in the room with regard to smartwatches: most models so far have been ugly, clunky and added very little value, perhaps with the exception of the Pebble, which never tried to pack in too many functions.
Furthermore, except for the enormous Neptune Pine (still only in pre-order stage), no smartwatch has actually been very smart when you take away the smartphone. And with a promised battery life of one year, Withings is also tackling another of the biggest bugbears when it comes to smart wearables – the constant need to replenish the onboard power supply.
Back to analog
Billed as a “contemporary reinterpretation of classic time pieces”, the Activité introduces an analog dial to show users how much progress they’re made towards their daily goal: a readout that’s in a totally different class to a clunky OLED display, a set of flashing lights (Fitbit Flex, Misfit Shine) or nothing at all (Jawbone UP series).
It’s also a refreshing departure from the push towards a smartwatch being a multi-function device (who would ever choose to try and type a message on the screen of a smartwatch?): under the surface, the Activité is collecting as much information as most other trackers – it’s just selectively displaying only two daily metrics: the time, and progress towards a chosen goal.
Users can check richer stats via the Withings Health Mate website (which requires the purchase of a Withings tracker) or iPhone app (which also collects data from the phone, or works in combination with a tracker).
Activité also tracks sleep and offers a vibrating alarm. It is waterproof to 5 ATMs and specifically offers swimming tracking, something that the Fitbit Flex really appears to struggle with. The smartwatch carries a recommended retail price of USD 390, and Withings is yet to announce pricing in any other currency, or availability. It comes in two colors – black and white (our favorite is the white one) – and we can’t wait to get our hands on one.
In the battle for wrist space, the humble wristwatch strikes back.