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Withings Activité hands-on: The watch that’s slightly smarter

by Brandon Russell | February 19, 2015February 19, 2015 5:00 pm PST

I’m not yet convinced by the smartwatch craze. Yes, I see the merits in being able to see notifications on your wrist, and a lot of folks here use them regularly. Call me old school, but I prefer a regular watch to something like the Moto 360. I avoid spending time on my phone as it is, so I definitely don’t need something on my wrist constantly telling me I have email, messages, etc.

That’s what attracted me to the Withings Activité (pronounced, Activitay, not Activity). It’s more advanced than your average Timex without jumping head first into the smartwatch trend. It doesn’t feed you notifications, it doesn’t ping you with the weather, and you can’t talk into it. But it does track your activity, all the while looking beautiful in the process.

Let’s clear any confusion up right away: the Activité is first and foremost a watch, and a nice looking one at that. Designed in Paris, the watch is Swiss Made, which is a kind of honor badge stamp of approval only watch aficionados will understand. It’s very minimalistic, featuring dials for telling time and tracking your steps. There are two different models: a black pattern with an orange accent, and a white face with a blue accent. (I prefer the black, but the white doesn’t look half-bad.)

The watch is protected by a sapphire glass dome, and also features a 5ATM water-resistant case, though the swim-tracking features won’t be supported until this spring. Completing the package is a fine calf leather strap, which is very comfortable, even for someone like me who doesn’t wear watches very often. I wore it overnight this week (so it would wake me up in the morning), and it didn’t bother me at all.

In addition to merely looking slick, the Activité is capable of tracking steps, sleep and then syncing up with your smartphone for a complete log of what you’ve been doing. I just got it up and running, so mine isn’t really filled out just yet, but eventually I’ll be able to set step goals, track my sleep and more. You can also set a silent alarm, allowing the watch to wake you with gentle vibrations.

The best part is that the watch uses a traditional battery, and promises to get users about 8 months of battery. Battery life has been a huge thorn in the side of smartwatches, and the trade-off here is that you get incredible battery. Because you’re not constantly being fed notifications, the watch is simply able to act as a watch, albeit with some extra capabilities.

The real bummer here is that the Activité retails for $450, which is more expensive than the most expensive Android Wear watch. Blame the Swiss Made label. Still, for those who want a slightly smarter watch, this is definitely something to consider. If you’re uneasy about the price, Withings does have a cheaper model, called the Activité Pop, which is expected to hit next month for $149.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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