Withings Activite Steel Review: Bye-Bye Fitbit

If looks could kill, the Withings Activite Steel just killed all Fitbits. Several months ago I reviewed the Withings Activite Pop but today I’m going to throw that review out the window and start over from scratch: just as if I’d never seen another Withings Activite watch before in my life.

The Withings Activite Steel looks amazing, keeps things simple, can literally be worn anywhere, is my sleep tracker of choice and fits perfectly into the larger Withings HealthMate ecosystem.

If looks matter to you — if you’re obsessed with or even just care even slightly about fashion or style — then there is no better fitness/activity tracker than the Activite Steel. The stainless steel from which the watch derives it’s name frames and compliments a black watch face and band and the overall effect is, in a word, dapper.

To be frank I dislike the look of Fitbit products. I don’t dislike the functionality of Fitbits — they are great products — but they don’t look as great as they work. In the Withings Activite Steel, however, is a worthy competitor that officially puts all other fitness trackers on notice: it’s time to up your style game.

What I like most about the Activite Steel is that you can wear it anywhere. You can wear it to a black tie event just as easily as you can wear it to the gym. You can wear it in the shower, in bed, to work; you can wear it all day long. It’s classic, debonair looks allow for it to fit into any part of your life; a more formal look always looks good. But the reverse can’t be said: ultra-casual, or gym attire, doesn’t go everywhere (and still look good). You wouldn’t wear your gym shorts to the office — why would you wear a Fitbit there?

On the surface the Activite Steel has two functions: telling time and tracking your daily fitness goal. That’s all you’ll get from the face of this watch. It’s minimal to the core (or focused, one could say). But when you look below the surface you’ll find a device that is highly capable and does quite a bit more than act as a watch for fitness tracker.

The Activite Steel works with Withings HealthMate app and ecosystem which means I can (and do) use it together with my Withings smart scale for a more complete (and easier) picture of my health.

One place where the Activite Steel really shines is sleep tracking. I am a big Apple Watch fan, but there’s no way I’m wearing that to bed. The Activite, on the other hand, is much better suited for sleeping. It’s very nice to know not just how long I’ve slept but what the quality of sleep was like.

On the activity tracking front, though, the Activite Steel is a bit hard to please. In comparison to other fitness tracking devices — including the Apple Watch — the Activite series seems to track less of my daily activity. There have been several days when my Apple Watch will tell me I’ve reached my goal of 10,000 steps but the Activite Steel (and Pop) show that I haven’t come even very close. Now I’m not sure which device or system is “right” and which is “wrong.” So I will simply leave it at that: the Activite Steel is harder to please.

Setting up the Activite Steel is easy and a bit fun. Download the app, tap on my devices, tap Activite series and then calibrate. The app will ask you to line up the hands on the watch and goal tracker using a circle on the screen. Moving your finger on that circle causes the dials on the Activite to move accordingly. When you’re all done you’ll see a quick spin of the dials and see that the time is set exactly right. It’s ruined setting the time on other “smart” watches for me that still make me do it manually.

Once the time is set it stays properly set indefinitely. That means that if you hop on a plane in LA and fly to NYC, as soon as you get off that plane you’re Activite will show the correct time. Perfect for frequent, style-conscious travelers.

In terms of size, the Activite Steel is actually very similar in width to the Apple Watch though you wouldn’t think so to see them side-by-side. It’s also very light and the strap that comes with it looks nice (and is definitely sporty) though you might mistake it for a pricier, more premium material if you judged it from afar (based on the spectacular watch itself).

The final triumph of the Activite Steel is the battery life. It’s long. Unlike smartwatches which need daily recharging, the Activite Steel runs off a watch battery which means months of life and no recharging.

The final verdict is this: if you want an activity tracker that doesn’t look like it belongs in the gym (but feels perfectly comfortable there nonetheless) then the Activite Steel Pro is for you. Heck, even if you just want a nice minimalistic watch the Activite Steel is for you. If you’re looking for a full-fledged smartwatch, though, you’ll need to look elsewhere. At the end of the day, I tend to fall more into the smartwatch user camp, but I see the Activite Steel next to my other watches and I find myself wanting to wear it the most — it just looks that good.