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September 1, 2016

Withings Activité Steel HR preview: Stylish heart rate monitoring

by John_A

Withings has announced a new addition to its activity tracking devices at consumer electronics show IFA in the form of the Activité Steel HR. 

The new device is the first to come from the company since it was taken over by Nokia. It joins a plethora of beautifully-designed and well-built devices from the original Swiss-Made Activité to the more recent Activité Steel that debuted in January this year.

The Withings Activité Steel HR borrows from its predecessor in that it is a stylish analog watch, made from premium materials offering a stainless steel casing, chrome hands and a interchangeable silicone strap. It still offers the secondary dial we’ve come to know and love from the Activité family, displaying the percentage of the user’s step goal but it is positioned in the centre rather than to the right on the face. There are a few other changes too though, as you may have guessed from its name.


The new device has a circular digital display that sits at the top of the analog face, directly in line with the secondary dial. This display shows smartphone notifications for emails, calls, texts and calendar reminders, along with health data. Users are able to flick through various metrics using the button on the side of the watch, from calories burned and steps taken to distance travelled and floors climbed. The display is black and therefore blends in well with the black watch face. It stands out a little more on the white face, but we are still big fans.

That’s not all that’s new however. As its name suggests, the Activité Steel HR offers heart rate monitoring and Withings claims it is the first analog activity tracker to do so. The company also claims the new device offers the best battery life for a heart-rate monitoring tracker. Apparently it has a 25-day life for heart rate monitoring but it will switch into a power-saving mode after this period and continue to track basic activity including steps taken and swimming data for another 20 days. 

We weren’t able to test this during our time with it of course but if true, that would be roughly four times that of the Fitbit Charge HR if based on the heart rate monitoring life.


The Activité Steel HR uses a technology called photoplethysmography (PPG) to monitor your heart rate. Green LED lights situated on the underside of the casing are used to detect variation in the level of blood in the wrist in order to provide a reading. The Activité Steel HR will automatically measure continuous heart rate during workouts, like the Fitbit Charge HR, as well as deliver an average heart rate during the day, measuring every 10 minutes, and a resting heart rate while you’re sleeping.

Continuous heart rate can be read using the multifunctional button we mentioned previously, but the Activité Steel HR will automatically display heart rate while running. Following a workout, users will be able to see their maximum heart rate, calories burned and a time-in-zone graph in the Withings Health Mate app, much like Fitbit offers. 

In terms of other features, the Withings Activité Steel HR is waterproof up to 5ATM and it will automatically recognise when you are taking a dip, offering calories burned and time spent swimming at the end. It will also measure steps taken, distance travelled and calories burned for other activities, along with sleep, like its predecessors, again displaying past and present information within the Health Mate app.


The Heath Mate app is available for iOS and Android users and on top of activity data, it offers challenge leaderboards, personalised advice and compatibility with MyFitnessPal for food logging capabilities. It’s easy to use and navigate, offering plenty of data in a simple layout.

The Withings Steel HR will be available in two sizes of 36mm and 40mm, which isn’t something the company has done before. The standard 36mm case, which is the same size as the other Activité devices, will come with an 18mm strap and it will be offered in black and white. The new 40mm model features a 20mm strap and will only be available in black. The larger device has a slightly more masculine look, with numbers etched into the bezel around the face. Both models are lovely, offering a fabulous design.

The two devices will be available exclusively through at the beginning of October, with retailers following at the end of October. The 36mm model will retail for £169.95 and the 40mm for £179.95. Retail availability for both versions will follow at the end of October. Based on what we’ve seen, this is one activity tracker we are very excited to try out properly.

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