A large amount of people now want to wear a fitness tracker to keep an eye on their steps and exercise regime, but not everyone wants a plastic, eye-catching device like the Fitbit Charge 2 or Under Armor Band sat on their wrist.
Fitness trackers aren’t inherently attractive looking wrist wear, with many looking strange on the end of your arm – but what if all those tracking features were built into a watch?
The Withings Steel HR is trying to push the boundary of what we’ve seen inside a hybrid watch, combining a classic design with fitness tracking features.
But is there enough packed into the Withings Steel HR, or would you need to combine this with another product to keep track of your health? Read on below to find out.
Withings Steel HR price and release date
- Out now in the US and UK - no word on Australia
- Cheapest model is $179.95/£169.95 (about AU$300)
The Withings Steel HR is out now in the US and UK, while there’s no word on whether it will be coming to Australia. There are two versions of the wearable that you can choose from though.
The 36mm Steel HR costs $179.95/£169.95 (about AU$300), while the 40mm model is a little more at $199.95/£179.95 (about AU$315). That's quite a bit more expensive than a lot of other Withings products, so price-wise you can consider this a fairly high-end device.
- Classic watch-like design means no-one will know this is a fitness tracker
- One button to interact with the tracker, disguised as a crown
- May be a little too small for some traditional watch lovers
The Steel HR is the most watch-like fitness tracker we've seen. It looks much like a classic watch you’d wear on your wrist and is actually a bit slimmer than models from most of the big name watch brands.
We used the 40mm Steel HR, but you can also get a 36mm version of the watch if you have slimmer wrists. The 40mm version is still rather small though and we've heard some complaints that it's actually a little too small on the wrist.
For us though, this is the perfect size. It's slightly thicker than other Withings devices, which was presumably necessary to put a heart rate tracker inside the thing, but it’s still not much thicker than your average watch.
Compared to smartwatches available on the market, the smaller size and slimmer design makes this much more comfortable to wear.
The strap choices for the Steel HR are durable and feel comfortable on your wrist. We used a silicon one, which won’t get dirty when you’re out and about and is easy enough to clean off when you've got it all sweaty during a workout.
Some devices have had complaints about their silicon straps - such as some of the early Fitbit products - but this strap shouldn't cause you any skin irritation.
We had a black version of the strap, but you can also pick up white, yellow, blue and red versions. You can also buy those directly from Withings, if you want extra options.
The silicon options start at $30 (£25, about AU$40) while the leather versions, which come in either brown or black, are far more expensive at $80 (£70, around AU$110).
The leather options look far more formal and may suit a business environment more, but that's quite a lot of money to spend on a replacement strap.
On the right hand side of the watch display you'll find the only button. It looks like a crown, but won’t spin and just works as a button to cycle through the menus on your wearable to see each of your stats.
When first using this device we did find it quite strange to not be able to turn this button, but once you get used to tapping it you'll find it a simple way to see your results throughout the day.
Pressing it once will wake the small screen at the top of the watch face to show the time and with each subsequent press it will show heart rate, steps, distance, alarms and battery life, in that order.
This can get irritating when you want to just see the battery life, as you need to press the button at least six times, but it doesn’t take too long to cycle through.
Just above the six o’clock on the watch face sits the percentage calculator. This will go up the more steps you take in a day. If you set your target to 12,000 steps, it will show 50% done when you’ve reached 6,000.
This is a simple to use interface and you can switch your target within the app with ease, so you’re not restricted to just one goal.
Despite having both a digital screen and a percentage monitor, the time is easy to read on the Withings Steel HR. There's no second hand here, but you have a minute and hour hand to keep track of the time and that's one of the most important things for most people buying a hybrid smartwatch.
Specs, performance and fitness
- Limited fitness features compared to some other fitness trackers
- Capable of tracking walks, runs and swimming
- Heart rate tracker allows for more accurate fitness data than other Withings products
The Withings Steel HR won’t be able to do as much fitness tracking as a lot of other trackers on the market, but it will be able to keep a count of your daily steps and limited exercise routines.
We tried to use the Steel HR for a muscle building workout, for example, and it didn't monitor any of the results apart from the steps we took.
If you go for a walk or a run, though, it's more useful, as it will automatically begin tracking your steps. We found the step tracking to be accurate and it gave us very similar results to what we’ve seen from other devices over similar distances.
The big highlight of the Steel HR is the heart rate tracker on the back of the device. This sits against your wrist and will supply you with average results of your heart rate by taking it every half an hour.
It’ll also continuously monitor your heart rate when you're working out to identify how well you’re doing – all of that information is then available in the app.
If you’re finding yourself with a particularly fast pulse you can also press the button on the side of the watch twice to be able to see your current heart rate.
We used this tech alongside other trackers and had very similar results, but you should never take this information as 100% accurate.
For the average run or long walk, this quality of heart rate tracking is good to have, but if you’re looking to workout a lot or professionally you may want to grab a proper dedicated heart rate tracker.
The Steel HR can also be taken in the pool, and it will automatically track your swimming and give you a result of the lengths you've done within the app. We haven’t had the chance to try out this feature, but we’ll be sure to update this review when we’ve had a go in the pool.
There's also sleep tracking within the Steel HR, and the battery life on the watch allows you to wear it to bed without having to charge it each evening.
This will monitor how well you've slept by taking your heart rate and knowing how much you've moved around in your sleep. It's not the most comfortable device to wear at night, but it seemed accurate in monitoring how well we'd slept.
App and compatibility
- Easy to use app that will provide you with most stats you'll want to see
- Works with a variety of iPhone and Android devices - check below to see if it works with your phone
The Withings app is one of the most useful on the market if you’re looking for something easy to use and a simple interface to read all of your stats from.
This isn’t designed for anyone who wants lots of fitness features, but it displays your steps, sleep and heart rate details in a beautiful interface that’s easy to navigate around.
Each time you open the app, you’ll be greeted with the Timeline section that kicks off with the steps you’ve taken, how close you are to your goal for the day and where you sit in the leaderboard.
The leaderboard is a competition you can set up with others who use Withings as a fitness app, but you won’t find much use for it unless you have some friends who also have Withings devices.
It’ll then follow with your key stats from the last few days on different cards. If you press on these, it’ll take you to another menu to view a few other stats and full information on each one.
If you’ve been on a particularly long and strenuous walk, it will appear here as a card so you can see your activity at a glance.
Under heart rate, your stats are taken every half an hour by default, so it will give you a useful graph to see where your beats were highest and whether there’s any particular part of the day that’s particularly intense.
If you have an iOS or Android phone released in the last two years, you should be able to pair the Withings Steel HR with your device.
If it’s an iPhone, you’ll need it to be running iOS 8 software or higher, while Android devices are a little more limited, with only devices running Android 6 Marshmallow or Android 7 Nougat compatible with the wearable - but again, that should cover most handsets from the last couple of years.
There’s no support for Windows Phone devices or anything from BlackBerry.
- Lasts for over a month on a single charge
- Not as great battery life as the Withings Go or Activité Pop
- Quick to recharge and no need to buy watch batteries
Only powering a small digital screen and watch hands is a very useful feature of the Withings Steel HR, as it means it can offer great battery life compared to some other wearables.
During our week long test of the Steel HR we saw the battery life drop from around 75% to 55%, so you may see a slightly longer watch life than what Withings predicts.
If you sit that next to the Fitbit Charge 2, which lasts for just three or four days, you will be quite impressed, but it doesn’t match the six month plus results of other Withings products we’ve seen.
It’s much easier to recharge the Steel HR compared to other Withings watches, as it doesn’t run off a traditional watch battery. Instead there’s a charging pad in the box of the Steel HR, so you can just plug it in.
The charging pad in the box can be quite irritating though, as the watch is prone to slipping off during a recharge, so you will need to keep an eye on it.
In terms of recharging time, you’ll find the Steel HR will go from zero to 100% in a little over an hour or so. It’s really quick considering that charge will get you through more or less a full month.
Hybrid smartwatches are becoming commonplace for those who want a fitness tracker which doesn't look like a piece of tech, and Withings is one of the best at providing great trackers disguised as watches.
Some of the other hybrid options on the market are far more expensive, and while the Steel HR does have a higher price than most Fitbit products this is still a good option if you put design above everything else.
The fitness tracking features offered here are limited though and if you're looking for a device to get you up off the sofa, this may not be it.
Who is this for?
The Withings Steel HR isn't for every fitness fanatic out there. This is a device built for those who don't like the standard fitness tracker design and want something with a little more style, like a traditional watch.
But the fact that it looks like a normal watch will make you more inclined to wear it at all times and get a more accurate picture of your activity.
The design of the Steel HR is great, but it also offers OK battery life and the heart rate tracking tech is appreciated if you're regularly working out while wearing this device.
It's a shame Withings hasn't packed in other workout types into the Steel HR, but if your exercise routine is limited to walking, running and swimming you will get along well with this tracker.
Should you buy it?
If you're looking for a device that will encourage you to go on the odd jog or walk around more, the Withings Steel HR will be a great option for you.
The disguised design of the Steel HR is its highlight. You can wear this into a business meeting and no-one will be any the wiser that it's monitoring your heart rate and taking a note of your steps to the watercooler.
If you need something for more complex fitness workouts such as biking or home cardio routines, we'd recommend taking a look at our full best fitness tracker list for another option with more features built in.
First reviewed: February 2017
Not ready to buy the Withings Steel HR? Be sure to check out some of the rest of the competition out there, such as these tracking options.
Withings Activité Pop
After a fitness tracker that looks like a watch but doesn’t cost as much as the Steel HR? The Activité Pop from a couple of years ago – another device made by Withings – may be a good choice for you to grab instead of this version.
It’s a touch cheaper than the Steel HR at $129.95 (£99.99, about AU$160) and has a longer lasting battery, but won’t come with the heart rate tracking tech you may need to have on your new wearable. It’s arguably not as attractive as the Steel HR either.
Fitbit Charge 2
Want the best fitness tracker in the world right now? This option from Fitbit - the Charge 2 - is the greatest combination of fitness features and a lower price than most other options.
It's lower priced than the Withings Steel HR, but it doesn’t look anywhere near as classy, so you may not want this if you don’t want a tracker that looks a little plasticky.
That said, it comes with a lot of great fitness features you won’t get on the Withings Steel HR, so it may be worth your while taking a look at our review before you make your choice.
- Read our full Fitbit Charge 2 review