Earlier this month, our esteemed editor Theunis van Rensburg reviewed Withing’s flagship ActivitÃ© Pop fitness tracker. Designed around the premise of looking like a watch and working as a fitness tracker – an aspect we praised in our fitness tracker smackdown in episodes 6 and 7 of Bandwidth Blog On Air – the ActivitÃ© Pop impressed us greatly
Throwing a wrench in works, then, is the Pulse Ox; the sequel to Withing’s Pulse O2 wristband. Designed around the premise of working like a fitness tracker – and, undoubtedly, looking like a fitness tracker – the Pulse Ox is positioned as Withing’s core take on the pedometer market; aimed squarely at the likes of Jawbone’s UP2 and UP3.
The Pulse Ox brings to the table several things Jawbone hasn’t with the UP2 and UP3; the Pulse Ox can be worn on the wrist or the collar or waist through a wristband and clip-on accessory respectively. Further, as its name might imply, the Pulse Ox can measure blood-oxygen levels in addition to tracking steps taken, sleep and heartbeats per minute.
Putting the Pulse on the wrist is an unfortunately austere experience; Withings supply a wristband with no frills and feels cheap to the touch. The metal clip-on component is sturdy, and sliding the central unit in is a reassuring experience. Something which particularly annoyed me was the propensity the device had to pull the hairs on my arm under the sleeves of a jacket.
Withings does offer coloured bands, and for consumers interested in wearing the device daily, I’d call the purchase of a coloured band a reasonable investment; the black unit Withings supplies gives the device the look of a schoolboy’s wristwatch; far from the flashy likes of the Huawei TalkBand B2.
The clip-on unit is constructed out of simple plastic, and is usable, despite not appearing wholly attractive. The Pulse Ox’s display, however, is a frustrating endeavour that pales in direct sunlight and is best used in darker environments. The Pulse Ox’s display makes use of smaller fonts which appear indistinct through the screen’s matte surface.
While the Pulse Ox can be used without an accessory – a wristband or clip – through simply depositing it into one’s pocket, I found that this wasn’t an ideal way to use the device, as all too easily the small central unit would fall out of my pocket. For a product that retails around the R2000 ZAR mark, I found that I was far more comfortable using the device with the included strap.
The display itself only stays active for approximately 3 seconds without interaction; to put that into perspective, the Pulse Ox’s screen would turn off before my camera flash could even fire while I attempted to photograph the unit. Activating the screen is as frustrating, as the side button rests nearly level with the Pulse Ox’s bezels and is difficult to find at first. While interacting, longer swipes move the screen in-between tracking modes.
In use, the Pulse Ox offers a decent set of features at its price point that competes well against similar offerings. The Withings app, which unfortunately doesn’t stack up well when compared to Jawbone’s, offers simple and efficient fitness tracking at the expense of connectivity. The Pulse Ox is a fantastic pedometer that’s accurate down to the last step; on longer walks, the Pulse is a great companion that offers easy step-tracking. Tracking a run, the Pulse becomes an even greater tool when combined with blood oxygen level tracking and heartbeat monitoring.
Unfortunately, despite the Pulse Ox’s name bearing a visible connotation to such features, neither represent a core part of the device’s functionality. Tracking blood oxygen levels or heart-rates involves removing the Pulse Ox from either the wrist band or waist-clip on, triggering the command from the touch screen, and placing one’s hand on the rear sensor for (in most cases) up to a minute. While this is a useful feature, it’s one that doesn’t feel as streamlined as the rest of the product and can only be used properly once sedentary.
Speaking of being sedentary, sleep-tracking is generally accurate and is useful tool for tracking hours slept, yet not sleep quality. In addition to other feature – including altitude, calories burnt and steps taken, the Pulse Ox covers a multitude of bases, which stands out well at this price point.
The Withings companion app is decidedly useful, though it falls far short of Jawbone’s app and connectivity offerings. Withings naturally offer a variety of connected products, and connectivity is clearly based around the Withings ecosystem that includes products such as smart scales.
Overrall, the Withings Pulse Ox is a product that stands well on its own. For consumers looking for a simple fitness tracker that covers a broad variety of bases and can be worn in a multitude of ways, the Pulse Ox is a great choice. However, users seeking to better connect themselves to a variety of fitness tracking services should rather look to the likes of Jawbone, while consumers aching for a more stylish wearable should rather consult the likes of Withing’s ActivitÃ© Pop.