Now as mentioned before, you do need to download and use the free Withings Health Mate App to connect to the watch and adjust the various functions such as aligning the watch hands, setting alarm time and the various parameters you would like to monitor on the watch’s digital screen. Bluetooth needs to be enabled on the phone. My watch was detected by the App which then prompted me to complete the various actions needed to pair it with my iPhone.
As part of the setup process the App will check for and update the firmware of the Withings watch, before completing the rest of the setup. It took a few minutes for that to take place.
Then you will be prompted to choose the various notifications you would like to enable on the watch. But this can also be turned off if you do not wish to be disturbed by notifications. I have all notifications enabled, as I may not have my phone with me at all times; sadly the notification only works with iMessage and does not work with Apps like Whatsapp (similar to my wife’s Fitbit Surge).
During the setup, the App will run through a tutorial of the various functions of the watch and how to activate them. For example, to tell Steel HR to turn on the Workout mode where the heart rate is monitored continuously, simply press and hold the watch button until it vibrates. When the Workout is complete, simply repeat the same procedure to end the continuous heart rate tracking.
The feature I was particularly interested in monitoring was my sleep. And the fact it also gives the option of having the alarm gently wake you in the morning at the best point of your sleep cycle, to allow for better sleep (rather than disrupt it) is an added bonus.
Over the last week or so, I have been analysing my sleep pattern, and looking at ways to improve it. I found that if I managed to get about 2 hours of deep sleep, it meant I felt more refreshed in the morning compared to when I did not. And if it was only slightly more than an hour of deep sleep I’ve managed the night before, I would feel rather tired and sleepy, as if I had been on-call in hospital.
From the analysis below, I deduced that I had managed over 8 hours of sleep that night. I could also deduce that even after waking up in the early hours of the morning (tall yellow line), I was still able to get back to sleep again. And more importantly, I did manage some deep sleep during that short period of time, which brought my total deep sleep to over 3 hours. And I did feel refreshed in the morning.
The monitoring of the average heart rate during sleep is also useful as an indicator of overall health. The fact my resting heart rate was 60 bpm overnight and consistently around that level most nights is good. The App does make suggestions on how to improve this as well, for those where this may not be as good.
What I like about the Steel HR?
- Very reasonable price compared to other devices such as the Apple watch or the very expensive Tag Heuer Connected Smart watch, which is the only other option that looks like a watch.
- Looks more like a watch than most other activity trackers. And I do like its look.
- Water resistant to 50m, which means it is possible to wear this watch into the showers or during swimming to track the heart rate.
- Long battery life means it does not need to be charged too frequently, although I do tend to take it off and charge it when I have my evening shower anyway. So theoretically my watch will remain fairly well charged throughout.
- The strap is long enough to be able to wear this on my ankle when I am working in the hospital – we have to be bare below the elbows when having patient contact. So it continues to track my heart rate and steps even while I work.
- It is actually reasonably comfortable to wear even during sleep – it has not disturbed my sleep, which was one of the worries I had before.
- The sleep tracking feature is probably the feature I like most about this watch – very useful information to have, and told me many things about my sleep I never knew before. Also monitors heart rate.
What could be improved?
- It would be nice if the metal rim surrounding the watch actually protects the glass face of the watch; this is not the case as the glass actually protrudes out by about 2 mm from the metal rim.
- It does not display the seconds as it lacks a second hand and there is no option to show this – this would be particularly useful if you were to want to count the frequency of an event such as heart rate of a patient. I have fedback to Withings to request for this feature, so hopefully it can be an option added on in future updates.
- The charging connector is a little fiddly and the magnetic coupling to the watch is a little weak. I have had to adjust it a few times in order for it to charge at times. But it does work in the end.
There are many things to like about the Withings Steel HR, but also a few areas which could be improved. But overall I do have to say that it has been a great device that I use every single day and now that I have got used to it, I can’t see myself without it. The sleep tracking and of my heart rate are probably the most useful features.
And the fact it looks like a watch, rather than some plastic-looking device, meant that it was the only option I would have considered for an activity tracker (others options which were ruled out: the Apple watch – short battery life, and Tag Heuer Smart watch – too expensive and short battery life). The only real reservation I have of the Steel HR is whether the glass face of the watch will stand up to normal daily activity and be scratch resistant – only time will tell.
But I would still recommend the Steel HR for those who would like an activity tracker which looks like a watch, is water-resistant and hence usable during swimming, has long battery life and does not cost the earth. Recommended.
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