Gadgets

Withings announces Steel HR: equal parts fitness, style, and smartwatch

Nokia-owned Withings has unveiled its latest activity-tracking wristwatch, the Steel HR. It offers users fitness tracking, a heart rate monitor, and smartphone notifications — all within a stylish, metal design with a 25-day battery life. And yes, it tells the time, too. The Steel will go on sale in October, and is available in two sizes (36 millimeter and 40 millimeter) for $179.95 and $199.95, respectively. It also represents an interesting progression in the Withings lineup, adding more functionality to its previously analog wares.

The company’s activity trackers have always been attractive because they look — pretty much — like regular watches. 2014’s Activité had a leather strap, a traditional circular dial, and two pairs of hands: one for the time, and one for your daily activity. The Activité Pop in 2015 had the same functionality, but used cheaper materials to make it a third of the price. Then, earlier this year, the even cheaper Withings Go ditched the analog display altogether in favor of an E-Ink screen.

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The Withings Steel HR with its connected app (available for iOS and Android).

The Steel is more expensive than both the Pop ($149.95) and the Go ($79.95), but offers more functionality and a classier design. As well as two pairs of hands that tell the time and show the wearer progress on their daily activity goal (reaching, say, 10,000 steps), there’s a heart rate monitor and a “dynamic digital screen” built into the watchface that shows health data and smartphone notifications. A button on the side of the Steel allows wearers to scroll through this info, which includes calories burned, distance, sleep duration, and notifications for calls, texts, emails, and calendar events.

This extra functionality moves the Steel out of the realm of pure activity trackers, and into the hinterland of semi-smartwatches. These devices aren’t as capable as the Apple Watch or Samsung Gear, but they do channel extra data from your phone onto your wrist. Another example would be the Fitbit Blaze, which offers activity tracking and notifications, as well as some functionality that the Steel doesn’t — including music control and GPS. We’ll have to wait and see if Withings has struck the right balance between functionality and simplicity with the Steel HR.

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