For a long time, I resisted the urge to buy a smartwatch. Most of them look like you’ve strapped a cellphone to your wrist, they need to be recharged nightly, they require a button press or a wrist flick just to see the time, many aren’t waterproof, and most of the features aren’t appealing to me due to the small screen. I tried wearing a fitness band and a regular watch, but wearing two things bugged me.
To the rescue comes the Withings Steel HR, a hybrid of an analog watch, a smart watch, and a fitness band in a nice looking package that is slightly smaller than my old watch. I’ve been wearing it for several weeks now and I really like it.
The winning features include:
- Small and light, no bigger than a normal watch
- Professional appearance
- Analog hands show time at a glance
- Fitness dial shows steps at a glance
- Heartrate monitoring
- Bluetooth link to decent smartphone app
- 3 week battery life for smart features, longer for watch and steps.
- Full charge takes about an hour
- OLED display covers the rest with a single button: date, steps, miles, calories, etc.
- OLED and gentle vibration also alert you to incoming calls (displays caller) and text messages (displays from whom) and calendar events (displays event title), allowing you to decide whether you need to fish your phone out of your pocket.
- Note: my eyes and I are over 50 so I was concerned about the size of the text on the small OLED display, but it turned out to be OK.
The watch comes in two sizes, I prefer the smaller (36mm) variant; it includes a black silicone band that is very comfortable and secure, but I am used to a stainless band; fortunately, this watch takes any standard 18mm band so I bought a nice looking replacement on eBay for $10 and it fit perfectly.
It’s not yet officially available in the US, but it will be soon, you can read more about it here.
I still don’t understand why we don’t see old-fashioned LCD or modern eInk smart watches that show the time continuously and run for years on a coin cell, but for whatever reason, we don’t and for now, this is the best solution I’ve found. Other features I’d like to see in the future:
- blood pressure monitoring
- display text of messages (not just who they are from)
- saphire crystal and/or better protection for the crystal like a standard dive watch
10/24/2017 – A new contender is the Amazfit BiP or the snazzier Amazfit Pace. The BiP has very long battery life (45 days) and the Pace has much less (~5 days) but looks better, both are waterproof, have fitness monitor, GPS, smarter watch features, low price, and always on display. The only down-sides I can see are appearance/size: both are large and considerably less attractive than the Steel HR (the Pace looks better, but the battery life is too short). You can see a video review of the BiP here. When they make one that looks like the Pace but has the battery life of the BiP, I’ll buy one.