Withings Steel HR Review / Compared to Apple Watch
- Nokia Health is now Withings. Same products, same team, same commitment to your health. For more information, contact our support.
- HEART RATE MONITORING - Maximize your workouts with continuous heart rate and in-depth reporting plus daily and overnight HR.
- LONG-LASTING BATTERY - Up to 25 days battery life on one charge, plus 20 more days on power reserve mode (time & activity tracking only)
- 24/7 TRACKING: Automatically tracks walk, run, swim, and 30+ activities in workout mode. Connected GPS provides a map of your session with distance, elevation and pace and now enjoy Strava integration.
- WATER RESISTANT TO 50M - Steel HR is water-friendly - from automatic swim recognition to having no fear when you shower, go snorkeling, or get caught in the rain.
- SLEEP TRACKING - Wake to a Sleep Score based on light & deep sleep cycles, interruptions, depth & regularity. iOS compatibility (iOS 10 and higher)-iPhone 4S and more recent, iPod touch 5th generation and more recent, iPad 3rd generation and more recent
- SMARTPHONE NOTIFICATIONS - Call, text, event and app notifications from your smartphone right on the watch screen. Plus, you can now ask Alexa about your activity stats when you enable the free Alexa Skill.
- Withings products on Amazon must be “ships from and sold by” Amazon or Withings to be eligible for warranty/replacement by Withings.
When the whole smart wearable market started to explode with old school devices, I wasn’t particularly interested. As someone who collects watches and loves the elegant look of a Corum or Bulgari, the idea of wearing a plastic and rubber digital gadget never interested me.
When the Apple Watch was born, my interest only slightly increased. While I am an Apple fan, the Apple Watch just never really seemed like it got the style down just right in order to make it a viable alternative to a nice swiss watch, nor was it ever meant to be I suppose. After a generation passed and the Apple Watch 2 hit the shelves, I decided to add on to my collection of watches thinking that if I got the nicest stainless steel case and band, I wouldn’t feel like I was wearing some cheap fitness tracker and I’d be more likely to wear it. This in fact, partially came true. I didn’t feel like the Apple Watch was as cheap looking as I anticipated – so I it became a part of my watch rotation especially when I went for long walks or to the gym. After all, that’s what it’s for, right?
Admittedly I never really gave the Apple Watch a chance because it never made sense to me – all of the apps and notifications constantly bugging you with taps and vibrations.
Fast forward 2+ years and I began looking for an alternative to the Apple Watch. Many Android watches started popping up and even luxury makers began making watches that were beautiful but still clunky (i.e. TAG Heuer Connected Modular).
When I stumbled on the Withings smartwatch I was a pretty excited since it exuded the elegance of a simple time piece with just enough tech to make it viable as a smart watch. I was sold! So I purchased this gizmo from Amazon in June 2019. (a quick note : Withings was acquired by Nokia and then separated back as an independent company. Some watches sold will be marked as the NOKIA Steel / HR)
This review will encompass the real world use of the Withings Steel HR after nearly 6 months of ownership and daily use.
The Appearance of the WIthings Steel HR:
The first thing that got my attention was the simple beauty of the Steel HR. I’ve long been a fan of the Withings brand because of their attention to design detail, and this smart watch is evident of their brilliant efforts.
The face is an elegant and simple design with a nice modern and minimalist look. The look of the watch is nice enough to nearly confuse it with a Movado or similar watch at a glance.
Available in both 36 mm and 40 mm bezel sizes, 3 editions, 2 face colors, and numerous watch band styles, there is a good number of combinations to personalize your watch. The only real downside is that the smaller bezel is the only model to offer a White face on the popular and most affordable “Regular” edition watch. So if you prefer the larger bezel you’re limited to a black face in the “Regular” and “Sapphire” edition watches.
What is actually the most elegantly executed part of the watch the small yet readable display on the face of the watch used for notifications and the functions that the watch offers. By pressing the crown, you can flip through each function which is represented by a simple and common sense icon. With such a small display, you might thing it lacks the ability to provide information, but it is just the right size and the scrolling effect of notifications like a ticker tape makes the small digital screen really useful.
On the rear of the watch there is the heart rate sensor as expected. Again, adding to the beauty of the watch is the ability to integrate the heart rate sensor while keeping the overall profile of the watch quite slim.
So far, with daily use, the build quality appears to be top notch. I’m very hard on devices and have yet to get a scratch or chip in the bezel or on the face of the Steel HR. The included rubber strap is soft and has a simple clasp. The only complaint is the straps seem to be excessive in length leaving quite a bit extra strap. This, however, would be welcomed if you have large wrists.
Most smart watch owners know the frustrations of having to remember to charge a watch every night. The Withings Steel HR has the best battery life of any device we’ve tested, hands down. Owning this watch for over 5 months, it’s only been charged 3 times. Most people report getting 25-30 days, however, I was able to get nearly 6 weeks of use between charges!
I love that there is no complex OS that runs the watch. Nothing is more annoying than your watch needing some extensive update that takes 30 minutes or more. However with a simple OS comes limited function. The Steel HR has all of the basic functions you’d expect from a fitness tracker and can track workouts like walking, running, swimming, cycling, etc. There is a full list of optional excesses you can track but the watch only allows 5 to be loaded at a time. So if you want to play Ping Pong and have it tracked as an exercise, it’s possible! But it better be one of your 5 favorite activities you want to track, or you are stuck using the phone app to switch which 5 activities you choose for quick access fitness tracking.
As far as the other functions of the watch screen go, you can access heart rate, steps, distance, calories, alarm, battery level, and notifications. All of these are accessed through the push of the crown — and can be enabled or disabled from the watch via the phone app.
So before buying one of these you should strongly consider what you’re looking for in a smart watch. For most people the fitness functions and notifications will be more than sufficient (as it is for me) while others will want all of the ancillary apps like Apple Pay and various navigation apps as a part of the smart wearable / watch experience.
One nifty feature on the Steel HR is the analog movement / step meter. The small complication shows a dial representing percentage of the goal accomplished. By default, the goal is set to 10,000 steps – so the small dial moves around until it reaches 100% of your step count.
If you wear your watch at night – you can let the Withings Steel HR track your sleep and assign a sleep score. I don’t like wearing a watch to sleep so I can’t speak to the accuracy or benefit of this particular function. If I choose to revisit this, I will be sure to update the article.
Finally – the Steel HR relies on the unified Health Mate app by Withings. Because Withings has marketed their devices towards the health market first (more than smart watches, etc) – the app is very geared towards health programs and integration of the other Withings devices like their scale, blood pressure monitors, sleep monitors, etc.
Compared to Apple Watch
There is no doubt that the Apple Watch has become the 500 pound gorilla of smart watches. However, the Apple Watch is also overkill for many consumers just looking for insight to their activity levels and other health related metrics. What Withings gets right with the Steel HR is simplicity and elegance that puts to shame most other hybrid smart devices. For example with the Apple Watch, I don’t constantly need to be reminded to breath or stand up. While I understand that is one approach to being healthy (Apple’s approach) – the distractions throughout the day are just too much sometimes. So having the ability to track fitness and get notifications that are important in a sleek simple package makes for a remarkably appealing product.
In the end, it’s hard to compare the Withings Steel HR with other fitness trackers and smart watches so it stands alone in a crowded field of devices. I think standing out with elegance and simplicity is a daring move that will bring customers into the brand that otherwise refused to buy into wearable technology for a variety of reasons.
If you're looking for a smart watch or hybrid smart watch that has fitness tracking and a few other nice features but still looks like a traditional time piece, the Withings Steel HR is worth a close look!
- Build Quality
- Battery Life
- Ease of Use
- Limited wristband / strap options
- Phone app requires frequent restarts