French company Withings used to make a line of fitness trackers and health-related devices, before dipping its toes in the smartwatch space with a line of wristwatches that had activity-tracking features and support for displaying smartphone notifications.
Then Withings was acquired by Nokia… which didn’t really do all that much with the company’s assets.
Earlier this year Withings co-founder Eric Carreel announced he had bought the business back from Nokia, and now the new/old Withings is back with the launch of a $200 hybrid watch called the Steel HR Sport.
At first glance. the Withings Steel HR Sport looks like an analog watch thanks to its physical minute, hour, and second hands that move across a fixed watch face. But there’s a small OLED screen at the top of the watch face that can be used to display information about phone calls, text messages, appointments, or other notifications coming from your smartphone.
The watch features sensors for tracking walks, runs, or swims, along with other activities (including sleeping). There’s a heart-rate monitor and GPS receiver, along with a vibration alarm for alerts or “smart wake up” support.
Withings says you should be able to get up to 45 days of battery life if you just use the Steel HR Sport to track activities and tell time. But even with smartphone notifications enabled, it should last for up to 25 days on a charge.
Recharging the watch doesn’t take long either: a one hour charge should get you to 80 percent, while it takes two hours to get a full charge.
The Withings Steel HR Sport pairs with your smartphone over Bluetooth and it’s fully compatible with any device running iOS 8 or later or Android 6 or higher… although you can use it with Andorid 4.3 and up if you don’t care about the smartphone notifications.
Prices start at $200 for a black or white watch with a gray silicone band. But you can pay extra for a leather wrist strap or use any third-party 20mm watch strap.
Withings calls the Steel HR Sport a hybrid smartwatch thanks to its support for smartphone notifications. But the watch does not support third-party apps the way an Apple Watch, Samsung Gear device, or watches running Google’s Wear OS do.
So there’s a bit of a trade-off here: you get long battery life, an attractive design, and the ability to tell the time at a glance without any difficulty. But you don’t get swappable or custumizeable watch faces, maps, music players, contactless payments, or some of the other features available on competing devices.
Overall I tend to think of Withing’s watches more as fitness-tracking wristwatches than true “smartwatches,” but that’s not necessarily a bad thing And the support for smartphone notifications is certainly a nice addition to a device that gets weeks-long battery life.