I used to be a fitness tracking junkie. A fitness tracker in the guise of a watch was strapped onto my wrist during workouts all throughout my twenties; eventually I switched to strapping myself with a Bluetooth heart rate monitor across the chest for more accurate readings while pounding the pavement or lifting weights. Alas, I’ve (long) fallen off that bandwagon, no longer quite as serious about improving my mile time, interval workout heart rate, or training for races – all activities where tracking incremental improvements can be important.
That said, I feel like there’s still a place for fitness tracking somewhere in my life, even with a less intense fitness regimen. The Steel HR by Withings might be the impetus for a return to keeping count of distance, intensity, and a caloric use on a daily basis automatically.
A fitness tracker is only useful if you wear it. Previous fitness tracking devices – whether in the guise of watch, bracelet, or strap – never appealed as an all-day wearable no matter the amount of marketing. Even something as multi-functional and aesthetically less-techy as the Apple Watch – which keeps tabs on my activity with questionable accuracy – hasn’t quite won me over as a “I’d like to wear this every day” accessory. Call me old fashioned, but I like watches that look like analog watches…watches my father and his father before him wore.
The Withings Steel HR captures some of that classic horological spirit I desire, but with an extra veneer of minimalist aesthetics and an even deeper layer of technological functionality. This is a watch I can imagine wearing all day, every day.
Most impressively the Steel HR is an activity tracker outfitted with a heart rate monitor that can last for 25 days between charges. This is made possible because unlike large digital display smartwatches, Withings kept the digital display small and monochromatic, pushing the heavy graphical UI lifting over to an interconnected iOS or Android app.
The fitness watch tracks heart rate, steps, distance, calories and sleep with a monitor sensor programmed to keep tabs on heart rate while moving, “from ping-pong to volleyball to dancing”; water sports enthusiasts will appreciate the 50 meter water resistance.
At $179 for the 36mm edition with thinner bezel face (my preference) or $199 in a black 40mm edition, neither Steel HR heart rate monitoring version will break the bank. Withings has made the laudable decision to forgo complicating the watch as a watch, designing a wearable fitness tracking device that doesn’t require constant attention and recharging. Thus, the Steel HR succeeds as wearable technology that seems genuinely wearable throughout the day, week, and nearly for a month.