The Withings Steel HR is a "Smart Watch", Not a "Smartwatch" - And That's Okay

By Aatif Sulleyman on at

Live from IFA2016.

A year and a half after the Activité and Activité Pop got us all squabbling over the differences between "smartwatches" and "smart watches" in smarmy, know-it-all tones, Withings has unleashed the Steel HR, another in-betweener that you won’t be ashamed of wearing in public.

First and foremost, the HR refers to your heart rate, not something dodgy you did at the office last week. That’s right, Withings has finally embraced heart rate tracking, a feature we’re delighted to see.

Where the Steel HR really stands out, however, is in the looks department. Forget your Apple Watch and Samsung Gear S3, this is the fairest of them all.

The beauty of the Steel HR lies in its subtlety. It’s designed to look like a regular watch, which is exactly what most consumers want. Just how the majority of tech companies haven’t managed to grasp that yet is beyond me.

It’s not quite as clean-looking as its predecessors, but the HR’s raft of new features makes the compromise a worthy one. In addition to that familiar miniature activity dial, it features a small monochrome screen that displays information about incoming calls, emails, text messages, and calendar reminders.

Nothing new there, you might say. But wait for this… the Steel HR’s battery lasts longer than a couple of days! I’m not even kidding. This thing can go for 45 days -- 25 with heart rate monitoring on, an additional 20 with basic activity tracking -- between charges. That’s impressive.

The watch will automatically get down to tracking as soon as you begin your workout, whether that’s walking, running or even swimming (oh yeah, it’s water-resistant to 5ATM). Sleep tracking is automatic too, if you’re into that, so there’s no need to worry about tapping a button before drifting off.

You can check out your progress through the Withings Health Mate app, which also provides advice and allows you to share your data with your mates.

What I like most of all though, is the price. The Steel HR will be available at the beginning of October, and will come in 36mm and 40mm models. The smaller version will cost £169.95, with the big one up for £179.95.

You won’t be able to send lame emojis to your mates or answer calls directly through the Steel HR, as you can on a number of smartwatches, but that’s a strength rather than a weakness. The Steel HR’s limits allow it to do its primary tasks really well, while nudging you towards your phone whenever it needs to. In other words, it doesn't try too hard. That's smart.