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Withings Activité Pop Review – New tricks with a classical face

Sports bands and activity trackers are now big. There is no debating that. Similarly, the technology they contain is growing with every generation or firmware update. However, one thing that many activity trackers lack is a universal style. They all look like sports devices, or bits of modern technology. So for those who prefer a more analogue style Withings have you covered with the Withings Activité Pop. A smart watch, with old school looks

Withings Activité Pop Review – New tricks with a classical face

Watches are very much like glasses, highly personal items. Some people for whatever reason don’t LIKE to wear what looks like a digital watch or a neon green fitness tracker. Personally, I really liked the subtly of the Garmin VivoSmart, but quite understandably there are people who also feel that this doesn’t blend with certain work clothes, or a business suit for example.

Withings addressed this initially with the exceptionally elegant Withings Activité watch. A Swiss movement watch, will all of the class, and pricetag, of a quality watch. The glass and metal construction with a beautiful leather band is reflected in the Activité’s ~£350 price point.

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Not content to merely provide an analogue activity tracker to the well-heeled, Withings have launched the Activité Pop. The same technology, with brighter colours but at a lower price point of ~£80.TitaniumGeek IMG_5348 Withings Activité Pop Review - New tricks with a classical face withings swimming smart watch running activity tracker

If we want to stay with the Swiss analogy, think of the Pop as the Swatch of the two Withings Activity trackers. Some of the available straps are certainly in the bright and colourful side of the equation

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One thing that personally I find a shame, is you can only get what I think of as the best colour combination – orange and black – by buying Withings extra strap pack

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Yes, some may say I have questionable tastes, but I’m colour blind, so maybe it looks very stylish to me!

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Watch design

Straps

Just to stay with the strap design for a moment, the way you change the straps is very elegant. Little silver latches on the underside of the watch, allow you to quickly and easily slide the straps out without any issue

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With the strap removed, you can see this is merely a very clear way of attaching a normal strap pin. Meaning a regular watch shop would also be able to provide you with replacement straps of different materials.

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I say straps of various materials as I’m not a great fan of the silicon straps, I found they can creak a little when new. Personally, I’d have liked the option to pay a bit more for a leather strapped version. But again, personal preference, and that is still possible, I just have to go to the watch shop, and in the mean time, I’ll keep rocking the orange band.

Size

The Pop is actually a rather small device. Which becomes very apparent when compared with a Fenix 3 – making the Pop look almost anaemic, however, when its compared to by grandfathers watch, which I use for special occasions, you can see it fits perfectly with the traditional sized watch.

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Watch Unit

The Withings Activité Pop can get a colossal battery life because there is no LED display – your steps are displayed on the bottom RIGHT-hand corner dial, and communication is done with the low energy Bluetooth 4.0. This all adds up to give the POP a claimed battery life of….EIGHT MONTHS!! That takes this the Kindle of the Activity Tracker World!

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There are no obvious buttons on the Withings Activité Pop, just a small silver dot on the back of the watch, which is used to take the watch out of hibernation when you first open it, and to change the coin cell battery underneath.

The interactions with the watch itself are very limited. You can double tap on the watch glass to show you the time you’ve set the silent alarm, from the Withings App, and you can see how far towards you goal, in percentages, you are on the bottom dial – which again you set up in the app. Otherwise, the Withings Activité Pop is very simple. Its a watch, that tracks you steps. That simplicity is its key

Additional Features.

Now just because the Withings Activité Pop is simple on the face of things, doesn’t mean its stupid. The Withings Activité Pop also has

  • Sleep tracking – and is capable of recording both light and deep stages of sleep
  • Silent alarm – really useful, rather than waking your partner, or telling the world you have an alarm going off, the Pop vibrates. That vibration isn’t like many other smart watches or phones though. The vibration is practically inaudible – that might seem a minor point, but I think its great!
  • A smart activity tracking in a smart watch – Using the accelerometer inside the watch the Pop can tell if you are walking, going for a run or swimming, in which case it will log the activity correctly in the Withings App.

Withings Health app

Setup

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This is hub of the Activité Pop – at some point the tech level did have to increase! That said, setting up the Withings Activité Pop, thanks to an excellent user interface, and the Withings Activité Pop’s bluetooth smart system is probably one of the easiest devices I have EVER set up!

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You pair with your smart phone from the Withings App, by pressing the silver dot on the back of the phone, and the app then does everything!

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From here the app will do everything, even including checking for new firmware – which Withings are very good at bringing out!

Your only interactions with the setup, are to ensure the analogue hands are lined up, which is done with a large onscreen wheel, and is a lovely approach to calibration

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Finally you have to confirm your step goals for the day, with a simple on screen slider

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And with that you are done! The alarm is similarly set with an easy to use on screen slider

Gamification…

There is a lot about the gamification of activity and sports (I word I’m not keen on but still) – Nike tried it with the original Fuel Band. Fitbit has a similar system where you can see you activity compared to others. But as a rule of thumb these are closed ecosystems. Which might be an effective way of encouraging a family, or group to buy into a particuarl brand, but if you are outside of a companies sphere of influence, you are left outside in the cold.

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Withings goes some way towards addressing this with the Health App. The Health App is free, can be downloaded by anyone with an android or iOS device, And then the phone itself is able to track your activity level, which will also allow you to take part in the family/group challenges even without a dedicated Withings device. The same system will cover you, if for some reason you leave you Pop at home. By toggling a switch within the app, you’ll get your steps recorded by your phone that day, rather than the Pop!

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Badges

As you use the Pop, and walk greater total distances, you unlock badges… This isnt too well signposted or discussed in the app as initially they seem arbitrary. You’ll get a popup saying “You unlocked Loch Ness!” you go “huh?!” and then the message is gone. When you look into the app, the badges relate to land marks corresponding to total distances you have walked with your device. An interesting idea, but not really integrated very well

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Sleep

Sleep is recorded showing light and deep sleep. This recording happens automatically when the device recognises you been still for the appropriate length of time. However if you take you Pop off an leave it on a desk for an hour, you will have to clear a section suggesting you’ve just had a nap! But i’ve never had that happen watching a film or the like.

I think the tracking compares quite favourably to that of the Withings Aura, which is a more accurate measure of sleep activity, as you can see here

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Which you can break down further to light and deep section of sleep, so you can monitor your number of sleep cycles

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Your activity levels are show in the app across each hour, with darker reds corresponding to more activity, or running. With further break down below on how far you walked each hour.

This is my 17,000 steps when lecturing on a Friday – I pace a lot…

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Thats my “I wish you hadn’t asked that question face”

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Conclusion

I’d argue the Withings Activité Pop isnt for everyone. If you are a data hog, attached to Strava, and looking to monitor everything, this probably isnt for you. BUT if you are looking to increase your fitness, monitor you activity, and want a subtle device, that doesnt make you look like you are from an episode of Star Trek. This is for you.

Similarly, I think this a great present for some adults, who might be turned off by the technology of some smart watches. The setup is mind bogglingly easy, and everything you need to see is on the watch face! Whats not to love?

Perhaps my biggest issue with the Pop, and this is going to seem churlish, is the strap, the plastic just isnt of great quality. It has a tendency to creak, although that might improve with time.

All in all a great device, especially something for a Christmas list perhaps?

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James Gill

Author of TitaniumGeek, which started after smashing off my RIGHT elbow. Feel free to drop me a line about sports tech, medicine, or frankly anything that you want to chat about!!