The world of smart watches in a bit of a rough spot – virtually none of the current watches have really managed to capture large parts or the market, with the exception of certain Fitbit models. Even once popular watches like the Apple Watch and the Moto 360 are often relegated to the gadget drawer. One of the biggest drawbacks of most smart watches is their limited battery life.
French company Withings (now part of Nokia) has always been on the cutting edge of design when it comes to fitness tracking watches, but they always lacked true “smart” features – until now. The new Steel HR is one of the first hybrid analog/digital smartwatches that offers accurate fitness tracking, sleep tracking, notifications and heart rate monitoring. Available in white or black, this is definitely a smart watch you can wear for most occasions.
The Steel HR has three main displays – traditional analog time, a step counter showing a percentage of your daily steps and a small round digital display. These three displays combined provide everything a good smart enabled watch needs. The step counter shows how close you are to your daily step goal, and you can set this goal in the app. As your day progresses, you can instantly see how close you are to this preset goal.
The digital display shows the time, date, alarm, steps, heart rate and of course any incoming notifications. In my test, the only notifications you can select to receive are SMS, phone and calendar. Since the display is so small, it makes sense that longer notifications like email are not supported, and in this day and age of notification overload, it is actually quite nice to keep things limited to the really important information.
The next big feature is battery life – no watch can call itself smart if you need to charge it daily, and the Steel HR doesn’t disappoint. With up to 25 days battery life, you can easily leave the charger at home during your next trip. Additionally, the watch is water resistant to 50M (164 feet), allowing for everything from a shower to a swim in the pool.
The watch is compatible with iOS and Android, and the Withings app offers a single interface for most of their products, including watches, smart scales and more.
The Withings Steel HR is now in pre-sale, starting at a very acceptable $180 for the 36mm version, and $200 for the 40mm (seen above). In my (brief) test, the watch has performed incredibly well – never dropping its connection, taking accurate heart rate measurements and providing timely notifications. The price is incredibly competitive, and knowing I can wear it for several weeks without having to worry about charging is a real treat.
Downsides are the limited notification support, lack of Android smart-lock support and a pretty finicky charger base. It took me almost a minute to get a reliable fit on the charger. And finally, the watch comes with a silicone band, something that not everyone will like. Thankfully, the band uses a relatively standard size, and is easy to replace.
You’ll find more information about the Withings Steel HR on their site, where you’ll also find their pre-sale signup link.
This review is of a commercial version of the watch, purchased directly from Withings.