Photo by Phillip Tracy

Hands on: Nokia’s elegant new fitness tracker with huge battery life

A more true evolution of the analog watch.


Posted on Jan 9, 2017   Updated on May 25, 2021, 5:59 am CDT

Choosing a fitness tracker is a balancing act—of course, you want good battery life, but that usually means compromising on the large color display you’ve been eyeing. And if you must have all the latest features, well, good luck hauling the brick strapped to your wrist.

Then there are the folks who prefer the elegance of a traditional watch to the sporty, unnatural look of the current selection of activity wearables.

If you fall into that category, Withings, now owned by Nokia, may just have the device for you. The Steel HR gives you many of the features you’d expect from a fitness tracker, in the sleek frame of a traditional analog watch.

Withings brought its device to the show floor of CES, where we got a hands-on preview. 

Phillip Tracy

The Steel HR is the most office-friendly fitness tracker we have seen since its predecessor, the Activité. In fact, it would be difficult to point out the sensor-filled device when placed next to a traditional watch, the only visual difference being the tracker’s hidden circular LED display.

While it may not look it at first glance, the Steel HR can do just about everything the popular Fitbit Charge 2 is capable of. It is the first of its kind to have a built-in heart rate sensor, it can automatically track activities, monitor sleep patterns, and even give notification alerts for calls, texts, and events.

The watch has a steel frame, silicon band, and chrome hands. It is only a tad thicker than your typical timepiece and feels very light on the wrist, coming in at an impressive 1.72 ounces. The Steel HR is water resistant (5ATM) up to 50 meters deep, which means you can wear it in the shower.

Phillip Tracy

When they aren’t showing the time, the watch dials give you the percentage of your activity goal achieved, while the LED display shows heart rate, steps, estimated calories burned, distance traveled, the date, time, all of which can be modified via the Withings app and accessed with a press of a button on the bezel of the device.

The fitness tracker’s killer feature is its battery life, which is rated at 25 days, and an additional 20 days when in “power saver” mode.

We left impressed by the watch’s sleek design, long-lasting battery life, and solid feature set. We were not able to test its accuracy at CES, but Withings has a solid record backing it up. Still, you should probably do a bit more research as you get closer to making your decision.

Phillip Tracy

If you are looking for a casual fitness tracker with long battery life and a truly elegant appearance, the Withings Steel HR should unquestionably be on your shortlist.

The fitness tracker will come in two sizes: 36mm (white and black) and 40mm (black only). It will be released at the end of this month for $180 and $200, respectively.

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*First Published: Jan 9, 2017, 1:19 pm CST