Reviews

Feel The Withings Pulse (Updated 25th June 2014)

December 15, 2013

Withings Pulse is an activity tracker from French company Withings. Some of you might be aware of the blood pressure monitors and the wireless Aria weighing scales. Yes this is that company. I’ve had the good fortune getting myself a unit and using it for a while. As of April 2014, a new update will update the original Pulse to Pulse O2.

Mint Fresh.

Mint Fresh.

From L to R: Wrist band, silicon clip, Pulse unit, Charging cable.

From L to R: Wrist band, silicon clip, Pulse unit, Charging cable.

Silicon clip with protrusion to indicate placement of the Pulse unit.

Silicon clip with protrusion to indicate placement of the Pulse unit.

ACCURACY

track steps

This ranks up there with the Fitbit One and Fitbit Zip. Withings Pulse automatically kicks in to track your run duration once it detects running of a certain intensity. Walking at 5km/hr doesn’t activate the tracking but my run at 12km/hr was recorded  You need not long press any button to start tracking. Just go for a run and you’d be pleasantly surprised. Distance and calories aside, the duration of run is about right. So this is a nice function over the Jawbone UP and Fitbit trackers.

HOW’S IT LOOK?

Think Bat Mobile black. It’s black with white digits emanating from the display panel.

combined

Various displays. Clockwise from top left: Steps count. Step count from previous day. Altimeter count. Recorded heart rate. Screen to activate heart rate tracking or sleep tracking. Automatic exercise tracker.

Pulse O2 HR

An update on April 2014 gave the Withings Pulse to track an additional health indicator, the blood oxygen level.

Pulse O2 blood

The original green beam is replaced by the red beam.

A singe button at the side toggles through the menu.Scrolling using the touch screen allows you access additional functions and information. For example, scrolling right on the “Steps” screen will show you the exercise screen. Scrolling to the left will display your stats for the previous days. The screen has a bit of response lag but user interface is simple enough.

ACCESSIBILITY OF DATA

The Withings Healthmate app is available on both the App  Store and Play Store. The Healthmate app was just updated recently and a friends function has been added. This will allow you to challenge your friends who are Pulse users. (challenge option currently available on iOS only) Syncing of data is by Bluetooth 4.0 though Withings has stated that the Pulse is compatible with Bluetooth 2.0 or higher. Syncing is supposed to be automatic once every 6 hours as long as the Healthmate app is kept running in the background.

Readers might recall our Jawbone UP review where all the information is presented in the mobile apps and not the website. Like Fitbit, the mobile app provides nuggets of information; enough but not excessive. The web dashboard provides more information for the health statistician in you. Knock yourself out.

Two main items caught my attention when i access the Healthmate web dashboard; the customisable tiles and the activity pattern chart. I have to make special mention of the sleep and activity pattern chart. I thought it was informative at a glance. I noticed during this period, my high activity levels generally occur after 6pm and my deep sleep occurs mainly during the later half of my rest. This is similar in presentation to the Basis Band health tracker web interface.

Activity and sleep pattern summary. Not available in the app.

Activity and sleep pattern summary. Not available in the app.

The Healthmate activity chart is another trove of treasure. And i especially like the gray-ed out bars which is the level i was at the previous week so there’s no need to scroll back and forth.

Weekly activity records from mobile app.

Weekly activity records from mobile app.

Activity records for the day with auto-tracked running duration.

Activity records for the day with auto-tracked running duration.

Recently, recognition badges were added to the Healthmate app. Hit 10k steps, get a badge, hit 15k, get another and so on. You know the drill. There’s a bit of history behind each badge that provides that extra bit of education. 

badges withings pulse

Badges galore. I’ve managed to complete all the distance badges.

You can also download or print your own tracked stats in png format, set reminders to measure your BP, weigh in, exercise or just sleep well. There’s a thin bar at the base of the chart (web version) that compares the current day’s or week’s  tracked stats to the previous day’s or week’s. Plenty of room for customisation on both the app and the web account.

Download in png format or print using the web dashboard.

Download in png format or print using the web dashboard.

If you also own the blood pressure monitor or the weighing scales, you can sync all these to your Healthmate account.Subscribers of Runkeeper, MyFitnessPal (MFP) or BodyMedia can also connect it to the Healthmate app. In terms of accessibility of data, Withings has done a pretty good job.

FUNCTIONS

The list of stats tracked is similar to most high end fitness tracking devices on the market.

  • Steps
  • Elevation
  • Distance travelled
  • Calories burned (Pulse displays active calories, not total calories. Total calories will show in the app widget)
  • Instant Heart rate
  • Sleep tracking with automatic detection of wake up.
  • Automatic running duration tracking

This is probably the only hip-worn fitness tracker available now that incorporates an optoelectric sensor for measuring heart rate. Before you jump for excitement, the HR is not taken 24/7, only when you want to. When you take your heart rate with the Withings Pulse, the results are time stamped, stored and uploaded when you sync. So you get a good idea what your heart rate is at a particular time of the day. Over time, assuming you engage in cardiovascular activity, it is assumed your resting heart rate should fall as an indication of your improving cardiovascular fitness. 

HR records on days i remembered to take mine.

HR records on days i remembered to take mine.

Graphical summary of HR records indicating number of measurements, highest, average and lowest HR.

Graphical summary of HR records indicating number of measurements, highest, average and lowest HR.

Like the Fitbit One, the Withings Pulse device must be removed from the silicon holder and placed in a wrist band to be worn during sleep. If you like, you can also purchase the bracelet released in 2014 that allows the Withings Pulse to be worn 24/7. 

There’s no food log in the Healthmate app. However you can link a MFP account which will enable an extra widget in your app to track your food intake.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Pulse O2 time

Watch face enabled in new update.

You can also decide what kind of watch face you would like; Horizontal or vertical. Worn on the hips, pockets or strapped on a bracelet on the wrist.

The Withings Pulse works up to two weeks on a single charge. Less if you keep measuring your HR and syncing to your smartphones. The charging cable is non-proprietary. *Clap Clap Clap*.

Withings Pulse is not waterproof, nor is it supposed to be worn during shower. It is however weatherproof and should resist normal usage. Presently there’s no function to calibrate your steps, set goals or manually add your activity in the Healthmate app. So if you forget to bring your Withings Pulse with you for the day, there’s no way to record that.

There’s no vibration hardware so there’s no idle alert or silent alarm for waking up. Withings has added coloured silicon clips for the Pulse which you can buy in bundle of three but the Pulse unit is still black.

Coloured clips sold seperately.

Coloured clips sold seperately.

IN A NUTSHELL

Pros:

  • Accurate for walking, jogging and running (more than 95% accuracy on test unit)
  • Good battery life (Claim to last 14 days on a single charge)
  • Challenge friends.
  • Weatherproof
  • Syncs wirelessly via bluetooth 4.0 on select smartphones,
  • Instant Heart rate.
  • Weekly summary and recognition badges.
  • Great app and web interface.
  • Downloadable and printable data.
  • Auto wake detection from sleep tracking
  • Blood oxygen level tracking
  • Horizontal or vertical watch face
  • Android and iOS support

Cons:

  • Not water-proof
  • Lack of vibration functions.
  • Display can’t be seen in bright daylight

In my opinion, the Withings Pulse edged out other hip worn activity trackers with the inclusion of the instant heart-rate function and the intuitiveness of the app and web interface. Functions like badges and challenge with friends were only after the activity tracker was launched, so it is good to know the people at Withings are constantly taking feedback and implementing improvements in the product. Water resistance, vibration mode and the option of manually adding step count give Withings Pulse an edge over other fitness trackers you were previously thinking of getting.

Listed price: $119.95 for the Withings Pulse with bracelet.

You can still get the Withings Pulse without the bracelet from select retailers.

Coloured clips at $14.95 for a bundle of three clips (Orange, Green, Blue)

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