Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Withings Pulse Activity Monitor



I feel myself drifting inexorably towards the Quantified Self movement   (where you start to record all your daily exercises and calorie metrics) because I have just spent a week with my first activity monitor

The Withings Pulse




Whilst Agata has for months carried around her Fitbit One activity tracker, Marcus the dinosaur has been holding out for an alternative.

Since a SmartWatch that monitors these metrics has not yet surfaced I have taken the plunge with the Withings Pulse

Here is my one page summary review






  • The pulse is a sub 10 gram, rechargeable gizmo that monitors your body movement via its accelerometer over the day or during your sleep, figuring out via your movements if you are running, walking, or sleeping.  And during that time how many calories you burnt
  • During the day you typically put it into a soft rubber clip that enables you to wear it on your trousers/shirt etc.  Alternatively just put in your pocket.
  • With moderate exercise you should be able to hit the target 10,000 steps and for sleeping the 8 hour target
  • You upload your data from Pulse to your Android or iOS smartphone.  Best daily but the pulse has capacity to store the results for days.  Once on the Smartphone, the phone application uploads this data to the Withings website.
  • Not only walking and running distinguished but also elevation travelled
  • Almost impossible to see display in sunlight.  Advantage Fitbit One which has a crystal clear display even in daylight.
  • There is a strapless heart rate monitor. Select heart rate with the single multi function button and put your finger on the sensor on the back.  Alternatively at night if you are wearing the wrist strap a hole in the back of the strap allows heart rate capture onto your wrist automatically.
  • If enclosed in the rubbery clip its quite water resistant and the clip hides the only hole  (USB mini power)
  • Charges from the standard USB mini adapter, and lasts for over 1 week per  charge.
  • Cost in Switzerland is about 130 CHF (< 100 GBP)


  • Results are visible on the smartphone or via the website.

And Now all the wrinkles!

  1. The first unit I bought had a very blurred display.  I reported to withing who responded after 7 days
  2. Once Bluetooth paired with a smartphone if you then attach Pulse to another phone then the first phone can't see it any-more.  (Perhaps the Pulse can only talk to a single phone?)
  3. It's not waterproof and so can't be used for swimming
  4. It does not know about cycling
  5. Blurred display:I went back to the Swiss retailer who surprisingly offered to swap the unit for a new one.  This replacement is improved and only fractionally blurry!
  6. Can't seem to get any of its data e.g. heart rate sent to my Runkeeper.  Other Withings products e.g. Scale manage to send data fine.  So don't understand.
  7. Meanwhile Withings (USA) said they could replace the original unit.  I told them I lived in Switzerland and 6 days later no message!

Agata comments
As a activity monitor noob I look to Agata's fitbit experience. She told me that her fitbit allows for:


  • Tuning of daily step allowance  (Withings is fixed at 10,000 per day)
  • Tuning of distance travelled and calories burnt if you determine that they are wrong
  • Fitbit has a vibration alarm so it can wake you up in the morning
  • A variety of hello and goodbye motivational messages
Withings Pulse has none of these essential facilities


SUMMARY
Now I have a replacement, only slightly blurry display version.   So much happier.

Withings customer support ... slow!

It's the only activity tracker that measures heart rate.

It's high function and transfers the data nicely to your smartphone and its metrics integrate into a single Web or Smartphone app with the data from the  Withings Scale and Withings Blood Pressure Monitor