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It’s light but surprisingly rugged.
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s something of a health craze going on in technology. Ever since Nike married fitness and fashion in its stylish, LED-studded FuelBand, geeks everywhere want to be seen wearing gadgets that blink, flash, and measure their activity. They look great on our wrists, but clunky interfaces and faulty synching often spoil the experience, leaving us with little more than an expensive piece of high-tech jewelry.
But if we really want to transform from couch potatoes into health nuts, we need to develop intimate, long-term relationships with our wearable fitness pals. We can definitely see that happening with the Pulse. It may be a latecomer to a crowded market, but much like their other health-oriented products, Withings took the time to get Pulse right.
Pulse might not have the slick industrial design of the Smart Body Analyzer or Smart Baby Monitor, but it’s every bit as stunning. Measuring just a bit over an inch and a half, the minuscule rectangle is encased in a rubberized material that feels rugged without adding a bit of bulk. At eight grams, it’s impossibly light and small enough to keep in your pocket all day, but Withings also includes a silicone clip and neoprene wristband if you insist in wearing it.
But the Pulse isn’t meant to be a fashion accessory. There’s no flashy screen to speak of, and at first glance it appears to be limited to transmitting like the Jawbone UP or Fitbit Flex bands. But pressing the sole button springs its touchscreen to life, where you can see all of the activities that are being monitored, including steps, sleep, elevation, distance, and calories burned. No matter how we carried the Pulse, it followed our movements with impeccable accuracy, even differentiating between walking, running, and climbing stairs.
Pulse stores the last 10 days of activity inside its tiny case, and you can swipe through your history right on the device. But once you sync with the Health Mate app, all those monochromatic numbers get a visual makeover with rich, detailed charts that help target any areas that need improvement. There are motivational tips throughout, and the interface is centered around a cute winged character that sets goals for weight, activity, sleep, and heart rate, turning our daily exercise into something of a game. And since Pulse pulls data from all of our Withings devices, we got a far more complete picture of health than with its competitors.
Pulse’s unique feature is its ability to check your heart rate using a dedicated sensor on the back. It’s a nice touch, but Pulse didn’t need any bells or whistles to win us over; the whole package is impeccably designed and incredibly well-executed. We happily incorporated it into our admittedly less-than-active lifestyles.
The rechargeable battery lasted a tad less than the two-week claim, and with virtually all-day tracking, we inevitably had to sacrifice some monitoring to charge it. Also, we had a bit of trouble with automatic Bluetooth syncing, but a long-press of the button quickly resolved it each time.
The bottom line. Pulse won’t be setting any fashion trends, but the longer you use it, the better you’ll look.
iOS device with iOS 5 or higher.
Light, unobtrusive design. Data accessible through built-in touchscreen. Great companion app.
Some syncing issues. Battery life doesn’t quite live up to claims. Charging leaves gaps in tracking.