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The Real Withings Returns With a Smarter and Sportier Smartwatch

Illustration for article titled The Real Withings Returns With a Smarter and Sportier Smartwatchem/em
Photo: Withings

Withings’ history reads like a rollecoaster tour of early wearable development, because after the company launched its first product—a connected body scale—almost 10 years ago in 2009, Withings quickly followed up by expanding into things like smartwatches, blood pressure monitors, smart alarm clocks, and more.

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But then, the company’s growth nearly ground to a halt in 2016 when Withings was bought out by Nokia, whose push into digital health floundered mightily, and resulted in Nokia selling Withings back to one of its original founders just two years later.

So now, back under the leadership of Éric Carreel, Withings is embarking on the first phase of its post-Nokia development with the new Steel HR Sport. Available today, with just a casual glance, the $200 Steel HR Sport looks both fresh and familiar thanks to a traditional(ish) watch face with real hands, contrasted by a new, more robust body with sharper lines, and a selection of various silicone and leather bands befitting the watch’s enhanced fitness-focused nature.

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Illustration for article titled The Real Withings Returns With a Smarter and Sportier Smartwatchem/em
Photo: Withings

And like the Steel HR from back in 2016, Withings has retained important features like the watch’s 25 day battery life, which breaks down into five days of full-on health and fitness tracking, with another 20 days in reserve for when you just need the Steel HR Sport to do its main job of telling time.

But even more importantly, the Steel HR Sport’s tracking abilities have also seemed to improve thanks to added support for over 30 different sports (including hockey, skiing, and boxing), GPS connectivity to help map your runs or rides (a first for any Withings watch), the ability to assess a person’s fitness by calculating VO2 max, and improved sleep tracking that will tell you why you’re so tired in the morning, and what you can do to fix it.

Illustration for article titled The Real Withings Returns With a Smarter and Sportier Smartwatchem/em
Photo: Withings
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When it comes to typical smartwatch duties, Withings has also added much better notification support with compatibility for over 100 different apps, while the tiny dot matrix-looking OLED display embedded into the watch face helps you keeps tabs on your step count, heart rate, and more. Meanwhile, with durability that includes a stainless steel case rated up to five atmospheres of pressure, the Steel HR sport should be well equipped to handle activity tracking on both land and water.

That said, while we haven’t had a chance to test this thing our for real, the Steel HR Sport’s design and specs look the part, and that’s an important first step for a company entering the second phase of its independence. And with companies like Apple and Samsung leaning hard into the super techy side of smartwatches, it’s nice to see Withings release something that seemingly does a better job of bridging our analog past with our digital future.

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Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.

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DISCUSSION

sing-electric
sing.electric

Man, I really wanted to want this, but... there’s just enough caveats that I’m not sure.

Compared to Samsung’s Galaxy Watch, this thing is as thick (13mm) and nearly as heavy (49g vs 63g). Hybrid watches shouldn’t just have better battery life, they should actually be thinner, and my biggest issue with the smartwatches I’ve owned fashion-wise isn’t so much the screen, but rather, the thickness that makes it feel like I’m strapping a smartphone to my wrist.

That, plus some personal quirks with the design, like: why do I need a physical battery meter? You could just use the OLED for that, and instead use the bottom dial for say, a run timer, or do something crazy, like having 3 arms showing your lowest, highest and most recent HR in the past 24 hours, or make it do a user-specified function, or just omit it.

And if I do need a battery meter, why is it round? Unless the watch magically goes to 100% charged after it reaches 0, a round dial is the wrong shape.