Hands on: Withings Activité Pop review

Looks smart, is smart, smartly priced to boot

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

It's arguably not aimed at TechRadar readers so much as your mums, dads and less techy pals, but it's still a great little product.

For

  • Smart, modern, non-techy look
  • Reliable step counting and basic exercise tracking
  • Excellent app
  • Reasonable price

Against

  • Short feature list
  • Not exactly "cheap"

Tuesday's CES smartwatch contender the Alcatel OneTouch is very much your standard-issue wearable, aimed at proper techies. The Withings Activité Pop, however, is a more mass-market kind of deal, priced at $149/£119. Judging from our experience, it deserves to succeed.

Perhaps the primary triumph of the Pop is that it looks like a watch, and an attractive one at that. It doesn't have the luxe feel of Withings previous Activité, but it's substantially cheaper, and the removal of those high-end visual trappings arguably makes for a more attractive piece, reminiscent of the more muted end of the Swatch range.

It certainly doesn't feel look or feel like it came out of a Christmas cracker, and though the stretchy rubber strap is initially rather off-putting, it's actually comfortable to wear. Colour choices are "bright azure", "wild sand" and "shark grey", with more likely to follow if it proves a hit.

Tech-wise, it's more of a fitness band than a smartwatch really, with the inset dial you see here displaying your progress towards your daily step goal. The goal is set at 10,000 by default but you can change it to whatever you want and step counting accuracy is consistent. Apologies for the hairiness of our hand model, there.

The piece also gives you a vibrating wake-up alarm and… Well, that's it for the watch, apart from telling the time. Conceivably vibro-alerts when you get messages or calls could be added to the Pop at some future point, but for now it seems Withings is keeping the feature set deliberately simple, which makes sense if you're going for sales beyond the tech-head community.

The real cleverness of the Pop resides in its HealthMate app for Android and iOS, which also shows info from Withings' other health gear, like the Aura sleep monitor, and is HealthKit compatible. All you have to do to pair is depress the button at the top of the back with a tool, fire up the app and wait while it syncs the time and updates software.

The app also reveals that the feature set is not as limited as it first appears. Once you connect via Bluetooth, you can see more than just steps, because the Pop is also recording more intense bursts of, ahem, "activité" in the form of running and swimming (though it's described as water resistant rather than waterproof).

It makes a decent fist of this too, detecting that I'd used the hotel treadmill for 20 minutes, although as usual with fitness wearables, its calories burned estimate seemed wildly optimistic. And it also seemed to think I'd gone for a bit of a run in the afternoon, which I most certainly hadn't, so perhaps it's not quite foolproof.

The Pop also tracks sleep although the accuracy and usefulness of this is hard to gauge. All your stepping and sleeping is depicted in graph form, and you can also set the app to gently suggest that you get off your fat ass and go for a walk if you feel you're being lazy, or need motivation to push on past your step goal.

The quoted battery life is, get this, eight months – that's not a phrase you read often in a gadget review, is it? You will need to replace rather than recharge it at the end of that period, however. It takes a standard watch battery, and you can flip the back off with the same tool you use to press the pairing button.

Early verdict

There's not much to say about the Activité Pop. It does what it does well enough, from our use of it so far, and looks good while doing so. It's not for really keen athletes and would-be iron men – the run tracking isn't accurate enough and there's no heart rate monitoring.

But that's not the point of the Pop. It's a wearable with truly broad appeal in terms of price, functionality and aesthetics, and the folks at CES couldn't get enough of it – Withings' display was a roadblock and weary booth staffers noted they'd had a few attempted thefts, which is a compliment of sorts.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.

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