Review: Withings Pulse

There are a wealth of choices on the market right now for life-trackers. The Withings Pulse is, along with the Basis B1 and Fitbit Flex, one of the three best out there. It’s a solid choice, and it has many strengths. Having said that, it’s not my current favorite, due entirely to the fact that it is an attachable device, not a wearable device. That is, you attach it to your clothing or drop it in your bag, but you don’t wear it, day in and day out, 24×7. Even though this makes it (to my mind) imperfect, the Pulse is still worth a look. It boasts a solid feature set, it integrates well with other Withings products, and it has exemplary software.

The Withings Pulse has one of the best sensor packages I’ve seen yet. It will track your steps taken, distance traveled, elevation climbed, and even provide estimates of calories burned. On demand, it will take your pulse (hence the name) and track your sleep at night. Data about all this stuff is displayed on the device itself, along with a subset of your history for each activity. You can also see the data within an app for your smartphone or on the web.

The coolest of these metrics is the pulse tracking. Hold the Pulse against your finger and it shines an LED light into your skin to measure your heart rate. Your resting heart rate is one of the best measures of overall fitness. Check it first thing in the morning, every day, and you’ve got a solid indicator as to whether or not you are getting fitter or floppier. You can also use the pulse tracking to see where you are during or after exercise, for example, or how you are handling stress. It’s very handy. (Sorry! Couldn’t resist.)

But this was my main beef with the Pulse: You have to remember it. As I stated at the outset, it’s attachable, not wearable. The best activity trackers simply melt into your life. They become a seamless part of your day that you only notice when you have to give them more energy to charge up. They are comfortable, always-on companions.

The Withings is loaded with great features, and has undeniably great software. But during the two weeks I tested the Pulse, I forgot to track my sleep more often than I remembered. I left it at home multiple times. I narrowly averted putting it in the washing machine. Perhaps you are a more meticulous person than I am, or have a better memory that I do, and this will not be a problem for you. But given that devices from Basis, Jawbone and Fitbit have already made this jump, from something you carry to something you wear, despite its fantastically advanced technology, the Pulse feels a little bit last year.

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