This summer I decided to try out an alternative to the Apple Watch. I've long thought of the Withings Activité as a good looking and interesting take on the smartwatch and activity tracker market, so to see how it compares to the market dominant I strapped one on for my vacation trip to Sweden.
The Activité and Apple Watch are certainly different enough that I don't think they even compete for the same customers. There are pros and cons to both, and which one is the better fit comes down to which trade offs you are ready to make. The main difference is that the Activité is designed to be a regular analog watch with some smarts built in, as such it runs off a regular watch battery and doesn't have a pixel based screen. It's also significantly less chunky than Apple's effort.
The battery lasts for eight months on a charge, it's water resistant down to 5 ATM (50 m, 165 ft), and you can always read the time at a glance without having to wake a screen up. Oh, and the watch face is visible even in bright sunlight, which can not be said for the Apple Watch. Screen brightness was set to maximum for the photo above, and I bet you didn't even notice it's actually showing the time.
It's not all good news though, ironically the Activité watch face can't be read in the dark since the hands aren't illuminated, and I really missed getting notifications on my wrist. The only complication on the watch face is the activity meter gauge which tracks progress towards your step goal over the day. Although there's a newer version that can measure your heart rate, like the Apple Watch does, that feature was not available to me.
The Activité watch face has no date window, it can't show a second time zone, nor prevailing temperature information. In my view, watch face complications is an area where the Apple Watch really shines. I often found myself instinctively looking at the Activité and coming away without the information I was seeking.
When it comes to activity tracking I was very impressed with the companion app, Withings Health Mate, which uses the Activité to automatically track walks, runs, swimming, and sleeping. The data is presented in a very legible and friendly way. The app can also be used to set wake-up alarms which makes the Activité vibrate to wake you from your slumber. It even takes your sleep cycle into account to wake you when you're in light sleep.
Like the Apple Watch, Activité syncs to the time on your iPhone so there's no need to manually set your watch when traveling across time zones. However, in my tests I did have to launch the companion app before the time would sync.
For me, on vacation, the benefits of avoiding the daily charging session and being able to jump in the ocean without fiddling with my watch beforehand proved to be enough to stop me from switching back to my Apple Watch during the trip. My conclusion is that the Activité could be a very good choice for those who are looking for a combination watch and activity tracker rather than a pure smart watch.
[UPDATE] The day after I published this post Apple introduced the Apple Watch series 2, which added water resistance and a much brighter screen than the original Apple Watch I refer to above.