on 8 September 2013
This could almost be my favourite activity tracker but a few issues keep it from the top slot.
I've tried the Jawbone UP, the Nike Fuelband and a couple of the Fitbit range. I finally settled on the Fitbit one, which I have been using since they were launched, and I rate it very highly. However I decided I wanted to unify my activity/weight tracking and as I already have a Withings Blood pressue monitor and the old Withings body scale the Pulse seemed like a natural switch.
Having used it for almost a week now I think it is a good product but I still prefer my Fitbit. Here's why:
- I suffer from very high blood pressure so I have to remain active as part of a system for treating it. I therefore walk a lot and use my activity tracker as a way of motivating myself to keep active. I usually manage 12000 or more steps a day. With the fitbit I can set my steps at any level (currently 13000) to motivate myself to achieve a higher goal than my average. The Pulse has a set level of 10,000 steps which cannot be altered. While it does count steps higher than this of course, it considers you have reached your goal when it gets to 10000. In my case not very motivational.
- I also don't sleep very much (I average about 6 hours a night) however this is usually enough for me as long as the sleep quality is good (i.e. most of it deep sleep). The Pulse has its own notion of how much sleep I need - it is set at 8 to 9 hours and anything less is considered to be not achieving your goal. The Fitbit allows me to set my goal and is thus much more flexible.
- The fitbit also allows you much more flexibility when it comes to editing. So, for example, if I go to sleep and forget to start my tracking I can go into my records later and add a sleep record. Because I am always wearing the tracker I can still see the quality of my sleep which is what i am ultimately interested in. With the Pulse if you forget to manually start sleep mode thats ir you are left with a blank sleep record. Disappointing.
- I think Fitbit's concept of counting 'floors' rather than absolute height makes more sense for me since I am office-bound and thus actually climb floors rather than hills or mountains (but that's specific to my type of usage)
- Finally the iOS app is a mess - the interface is cluttered to say the least. Someone should look at making it much simpler to get information at a glance. For example the 'heat map' on the website gives a great overview of your weekly habits - this should be incorporated into the app (it could appear when you turn your device into landscape for example).
So what do I like about it?
- Pulse tracking is nice (and seems accurate enough - possibly not medical grade but certainly good enough for home use)
- Small and light
- Easy to set up
- Nice to be able to see some historical data right on the device
- Syncing is easy and seems reliable so far
- Battery life is good (although, to be fair, the Fitbit is better)
- No special charging cable is needed, pretty much any micro-USB cable will work - this is a big plus as a lot of other trackers including the fitbit use some kind of proprietary charging connector.
So all in all a good device but to take the top spot from the Fitbit one (and thus be a great device) I think it needs the following:
1 - More flexibility on the device and in the app
- allow us to set our own targets for sleep and steps
- allow us to edit our sleep records
2 - Add the 'heat map' to the app
2 - Make the UI on the app simpler/less cluttered
Regarding my rating I would give the Fitbit one 4.5 out of 5 and the Pulse 3.5 our of 5 but as Amazon don't do half points I've rounded up to,a slightly-generous, 4.
I was initially a little skeptical about the Withings Pulse, but after using it for several days I am sold. To use the Withings Pulse you need to have an iPhone or android smartphone: there is no option to transfer and store your data on a website, only a phone app. Transfer is via Bluetooth and occasionally it fails to sync, which can be more than a little frustrating. The instructions could also be improved as they are somewhat vague at times.
The device is tiny, weighs next to nothing, and is easy to carry around in a pocket. It is also very stylish and well-built. At first, I was reasonably underwhelmed. The device counts the number of steps you take, but I already have a cheap pedometer which can do that. It does however also work out if you go up and down hills or stairs, which is nice additional information. And the ability to take a pulse rate reading at any time is great. This is not always accurate though. The first reading I took said 167 beats per minute! (I was not and had not recently been exercising.). I took another reading 15 seconds later and it said 67 beats per minute which is more likely to be correct. It also gave me one reading of 47 beats per minute which seems dubious (my resting heart rate is around 55 - 57 beats per minute). This is a nice feature, but I still wasn't sure it justified the price especially given the wide variation in readings.
I got more impressed when I used it with the well made and exceptionally comfortable wrist strap to monitor my sleep patterns. It can correctly tell how long it takes me to get to sleep, how much time I spend awake (I woke up one night for an hour when using it and it has this correctly recorded) and how much time I spend in light sleep and deep sleep, showing my sleep cycles. This seems much more accurate than the cheap iPhone app I had previously tried using, and in my mind justifies the additional cost over a pedometer and cheap heart rate monitor.
I have a few quibbles with the app more than the device, as it is pretty inflexible. It won't let me choose my own goals for hours of sleep or activity level. It doesn't record my Cross Fit sessions and won't let me enter them, and if I wear it when cycling it assumes I am just walking slowly so doesn't really count that properly either. So it demands I walk or run for 150 minutes a week, without taking into account my other activities. The app also does not allow you to enter weight or body fat readings directly: to use this and the weight goal feature you must purchase the Withings scales. These are expensive, and as I already have Tanita body fat scales I see no need to replace them. A little more flexibility in the app, and the ability to sync more fully with myFitnessPal so you can work out exactly what you should be eating given your basal metabolic rate, and activity for that day, would make this perfect.
At present, I am happy to recommend the Withings Pulse and plan to continue using it. It would just be nice if I could integrate it with data from my heart rate monitor and body fat scales for a more complete picture of my general health.
on 24 August 2013
This is my first activity tracker. I considered the Fitbit One & Flex and Jawbone Up. I didn't want a unit that goes on your wrist as that seems inherently inaccurate, so that was the Up and Flex out. I was about ready to buy the Fitbit One and then the Pulse appeared, which seemed to do a bit more than the others and was a European company to boot, so I bought one. And overall, I'm pretty pleased with it. I've had it for a week now.
The unit itself is surprisingly small and light, yet seems to be well made. It has a slightly silicon-rubber type feel to the surface which I like, but which I was a bit dubious of at first as it didn't seem like it would be robust. No signs of wear so far, though.
It's very simple to use, having only a single button and a touch screen. Press the button once to wake it up & switch between functions. Hold the button for three seconds to make it sync data with your phone. I've had no problems with responsiveness of the touch screen which others have mentioned. The display is nice, though unreadable in bright outdoor light, but that's not a problem for me.
It seems quite accurate - I checked it and over the course of 1200 steps, it was only 4 out which seems acceptable to me. It will count bogus steps when you're in the car (and I would guess that all activity trackers will do this, due to the movement of the car) but not enough that it makes a real difference to your daily total. It would be nice to have a 'pause' function though to stop it counting (although there's always the risk that you'd forget to unpause it again). I have a separate blood pressure monitor and the pulse measurement from that and the Pulse have always been in close agreement. The sleep tracking is interesting but, of course, is based on your movement, so if you lie in bed completely still it will think you're asleep. Having said that, it seems to pretty accurately track my nightly activities. I'm surprised to find that I sleep more than I thought I do each night.
The app for iPhone is quite nice and syncing between the two devices has been very reliable (once the firmware had updated on installation). Integration with other apps (I use Runkeeper and MyFitnessPal) works well too. It's nice that the Withings app gives you one place to look at everything, although the ability to overlay some of the data would be nice.
The supplied belt clip seems a bit flimsy at first but is actually quite robust. It has a silicon rubber finish as well which does attract dust but seems pretty easy to clean. The Pulse feels secure when it's in the clip. The wrist strap for wearing at night has a pleasantly soft feel but could be more robust. It's made of layers of a neoprene-like substance and after only a single use, the layers started to separate at either side of the pouch where the Pulse sits allowing the Pulse to slip out. I've effected a temporary repair with double-sided tape but it's a bit unsatisfactory. I contacted Withings support about the problem but a week later I've had no response. I could take it back to the retailer (not Amazon - they were mucking around with the release date) but have been waiting for stocks to be more reliable.
* Nicely made, accurate activity tracker
* Attractive iPhone app
* Reliable wireless data syncing
* Good integration with other apps
* Useful set of functions
* Sleep strap could be more robust
* Maker's support function isn't responsive
I would give this five stars, but it loses one star for the faulty wrist strap and another for the support function not responding. Overall, though, I'd recommend it.
UPDATE: a few days after I wrote the above, Withings responded to my support request apologising for the slow response (they've had a lot of requests, apparently). They said they would ship me a replacement wrist strap. So I'm restoring the star they lost for slow support. If I could give the Pulse 4 and a half stars, I would.
UPDATE 2: Withings did indeed ship a replacement strap - it came within a week of their email. The second strap is fine - I've been wearing it every night for the last month plus without problems. The first strap must have been a duff one. Withings continue to update the firmware on the Pulse and the iOS app to add new features, the latest being a summary graph of calorie intake/output data from MyFitnessPal. I continue to be a happy user.
UPDATE 3: My Pulse unfortunately died when I forgot to remove it from my pocket and my jeans went in the washer. Withings don't advertise the Pulse as waterproof and this was entirely my fault, but it's made me hesitant to buy another tracker which isn't at least water resistant. I now have a Fitbit Charge HR - see my review on that.
on 17 September 2013
Having doing loads of research I was convinced this device was exactly what I was looking for for. Unfortunatley there are some fundamental flaw with it that make it almost useless for me.
Firstly the rubber holster is incredibly insecure. The belt clip side is fine and very secure but I have almost lost the device on a number of occasions where it has simply been knock out of the rubber housing. Just sheer luck that I have noticed it missing and retraced my steps to find it on the floor.
Secondly the pulse readings are dreadful. I have been surprised how good some reviews have suggested they are as I would often get consecutive readings varying for 60 to 140 or simply fail! So unreliable and inaccurate as to be almost completely useless. At first I thought it might be because of how I was hoiding it but no matter I hard I tried, I could not get consistent readings.
Finally the sleep monitoring is very annoying that it is on the same page as the pulse measure page as I would often accidently his the start sleep session and not notice polluting my records for which there is no way to correct.
Overall very disappointing.
on 25 August 2014
I researched before I brought this product - alas it ended up as a waste of money so much for my research!!
I chose this product specifically because I could read the information without having to sync to anything and it also logged distances climbed - to motivate me using the stairs
To begin with the device wouldn't let me recharge it but the helpdesk came up with the old solution of turning it off and turning it back on again which worked.
The device worked sufficiently well for the next couple of months or so and really motivated me to get moving. The tracker did exaggerate my run distances but that is probably because I have a small stride pattern but I know how far I was running so I wasn't relying on that information.
Then the activity seized up on the sleep mode, again I contacted the helpdesk and I had to wait for the unit to fully discharge to turn itself off before I could reset it, as the unit was fully charged I waited for well over a week before I could use it again - at least it lives up to it's expectations in regards to holding it's charge but I then had a gap in my activity information.
The wristband started to come off at night, not sure if I move about too much but I would end up having to search for it each morning and that also meant my sleep tracking information was incomplete.
It worked for another month and then I noticed the display setting had lines going through it and wasn't very clear. Later that week on a run it popped out of the holder and was never seen again....
on 29 June 2014
First of all, I generally love Withings products and have been using their scales without a hitch for years. The Pulse, however, was a disappointment. I used it for five days and not a single day's activities were fully and completely recorded. At least once a day I would pull the Pulse out of my pocket, press the button, see that nothing was happening, press the button again (it is not at all difficult to fail to press it hard enough the first time around) and see the dreaded "Hello!" on the screen, followed by a daily step count reset to 0 and time set to 3.00am. Sometimes I got lucky and the Pulse had uploaded the data to the app in a scheduled upload cycle before crashing, but most often it had not. It was particularly frustrating to wake up in the morning and press the button to switch the sleep mode off, only to be greeted with "Hello!" and no overnight data whatsoever.
When the data was present, it was accurate and interesting, particularly the sleep analysis. I currently get up several times a night due to a small baby, and this had been accurately recorded. However, the reliability of the device was far too poor to even consider continuing its use. Withings customer service has been unresponsive about this issue, so I gave up and got a refund instead.
on 22 August 2014
Excellent piece of technology, let down by a hopelessly inadequate belt clip. I used the pulse for 8 days and thought it was fantastic. On day nine, it escaped from the flimsy rubber belt clip it was supplied with, to be lost forever. Net cost of £10 per day to use a pedometer doesn't strike me as good value. I do however have a second hand rubber belt clip to sell, barely used, if anyone's interested?
I've had the scale and blood pressure tester from Withings and found they are well made and do the job they are designed for. Had been looking for an activity tracker and the Pulse seemed to be as good as other makers plus it meant I could have the info from the scale and BP tester on one app.
The device was easy to charge (lasts about a week) and pair with my phone. You get all the usual stuff like steps, distance, calories and height that you have used or moved. You can also test your heart rate by placing your finger on the back of the device (after selecting that from the menu).
Compared to a pedometer and apps on my phone the tracking seems to be pretty accurate. I've not counted my steps to see exactly how accurate it is but I think it is close enough.
The sleep function works pretty well too. Again this is selected from the menu on the device and "measures" your sleep showing you how many times you woke, the length of time you were in light and deep sleep. This is more subjective but I have found it useful to see what affects my sleep. Drinking coffee just before bed doesn't seem to make any difference!
I would have given it five stars except for a couple of things. First the supplied belt clip has started to fall apart after a coupe of weeks use and the replace price seems to be a little steep. Secondly, the band used to hold the device on your wrist when you sleep also feels a bit cheap and awkward.
The touch screen can be a bit reluctant to respond but as it could be in your pocket or rubbing against your clothes when on the clip that is maybe the way it was designed.
Overall I'm happy with the way it works and the information it provides.
on 21 March 2014
In principle this is a clever, feature-rich, activity-tracker. In practice, it has enough problems to limit its usefulness.
The display is useful and gives instant feedback without getting out a phone, firing up an app and synchronizing. This is a big benefit for those of us not glued to our phones.
The step-counter seems accurate, but is difficult to check (I get bored counting steps beyond 100). The distance calibration seems to over-estimate by about 20% (still need to double check against a GPS). The pulse measurement feature is accurate when it works, but is extremely difficult to get it to actually take a reading - much quicker to place fingers on wrist and count for 30 seconds. The sleep measurement seems to be generally close to reality - but this is very hard to double check. Synchronization is a bit iffy, sometimes it works seamlessly other times it needs to be prompted a few times. The app is not particularly intuitive and currently doesn't get used much it's almost easier to copy the readings off the display and pop them into a spreadsheet. Battery life (or charging) also is very variable; sometimes only get a couple of days out of a charge, sometimes nearly a week. I suspect this is a charging problem, but it's unclear how accurate the charging indicator is.
The form-factor isn't bad, if you prefer that style over a wristband style; although the soft plastic, clip housing doesn't feel as if it will last very long - it's getting loose after only 3 months.
I am hopeful that many of these problems can be fixed by firmware upgrades, although I think that the clip housing needs a redesign.
In the current state, I find it hard to recommend this; but haven't tried any of the alternatives to see how they compare.
I have had several Fitbit devices over the past few years and so was keen to try this new rival from Withings, a company with a proven track record of producing high quality health monitoring devices.
I was somewhat disappointed in what I found.
The good news is that the build quality is good and the screen of the device will display the key results clearly and can easily be read even outdoors. The unit uses the new Bluetooth 4 technology to communicate with your phone to upload data to the Withings website where it can be read on your personal webpage. I like too the way the device and webpage interact with other Withings devices such as their scales and Blood Pressure monitors. All this works well and seems as good to me as the various rival devices including those from Fitbit. The build quality is nice and this comes across as being a quality piece of kit.
The unique aspect of this device and from which it derives it's name is the ability to monitor heart rate pulse. This is not a continuous monitoring in the way it does for activities but instead the user inserts a finger into the unit which measures pulse by means of two LEDs which detect the light reflected from Capillary blood vessels just below the surface of the skin. There are some other heart rate monitors, such as the iPhone Pulse Monitor RHYTHM which work along similar lines. As with the Withings unit under test here I have not found them to be either accurate or reliable.
This is a good unit, a rival to the Fitbit One Wireless Activity and Sleep Tracker, but the pulse monitor does not really work too well and frankly is not really needed.