Review of the Withings Pulse O2
Withings are a pure digital health company, focusing on consumer products for the whole family. They have activity trackers, connected scales, baby monitors and sleep and air quality monitors. The latest activity tracker is the Pulse O2.
The Pulse O2 builds on the original pulse activity tracker by including blood oxygen levels. In fact, the update is all firmware, so if you have an original Pulse, you get the new features too – which is awesome.
We take a look at the latest activity tracker from Withings and give our verdict below.
WHAT IS TRACKED?
The Pulse O2’s highlight feature is in its name, blood O2 levels. But of course, it has many of the standard features of any modern activity tracker. In particular, the device tracks steps, distance walked, elevation climbed, calories burned, sleeping cycles and heart rate and blood oxygen level.
Unfortunately though, the heart rate and blood oxygen tracking is a manual process, while the rest is automatic. This means if you want to track these, you must take them out of the wrist band – which can be tricky – and hold your finger on the sensor for a few seconds. Sure, it isn’t a big ask, but we all know how adherence is lost (and devices are even lost) when we are asked to do something manually.
The Pulse O2 is rather accurate. Meaning, it tracks the same steps that I counted for a short while and it also matched with the steps on my Samsung S5. But is this 100% correct? We can’t be sure. For ultimate accuracy we still think the Ki Fit has the edge, but when it comes to a consumer device such as the Pulse O2, perhaps just the steady measurement that provides the user a benchmark is good enough – that alone can help encourage people to be more active.
Withings have one of the more beautiful apps in the market, and it delivers a wholesome experience, connecting all of your Withings products together. Plus, with the API, Withings have been able to plug into many different services, such as TicTrac, Zenobase and IFTTT.com.
So you will be able to use the official Withings app, Health Mate, to track your steps, sleep, heart rate and blood oxygen, whilst also viewing it alongside your weight, blood pressure and other data points from your various Withings devices. It is great if you’ve bought all in to the Withings family.
And even if you have not bought all Withings devices, the API and services mentioned above mean your data will play nice with other devices you own, so no worries there.
The user experience is where the Pulse O2 starts to let down. Whilst wearing the device for this review, my Pulse O2 died thanks to a 5 minute shower. The device does not say it is waterproof, so we will let it off on that one. However, my original FitBit managed to survive 3 hour long sessions in the clothes washer, and in the maturing market of activity trackers (and with the upcoming competition of smartwatches) we’d really expect devices to be fully waterproof for swimming, let alone quick showers.
Wrist or clip
The Pulse O2 comes with two attachment choices. You can either slot the device into a clip, to be worn on your trouser belt or bra strap, much like the original FitBit, or you can use a wrist attachment to wear the device like a watch – and it tells the time too!
The down side is that to track your heart rate or blood oxygen levels, you must take the device out of the attachment, regardless of which one you have chosen. As we mentioned at the top of the review, we’d prefer these sort of features to be autonomous, or at least much less fiddly.
The display on the Pulse O2 is really quite nice. For starters, it has one – something that the likes of Jawbone are still missing. It also has a nice method of control, with swipes and taps, just like we are used to with smart phones.
The display will show you time, steps, elevation and calories, as well as the ability to tell it you’re about to go to sleep or want to track your blood oxygen and heart rate.
As with most devices coming out now, the syncing is through Bluetooth and happens automatically on quite a regular basis. If you open the app and it hasn’t synced, it will do so there and then, however most of the time it is already up to date. This we liked. And the battery didn’t seem to be affected either. Which brings us on to…
Unfortunately our review device died in the shower before it needed to be recharged. But in this case, that’s a good thing, since the device managed to last for 7 days without charge, and was still showing plenty more juice. Withings claim the battery will last 2 weeks, with a special mode for the last 24 hours of juice, to ensure you have plenty of time to get it charged up. From our limited experience, it looks like the 2 weeks may very well be legit.
At £100, the Pulse O2 is the standard cost you’d expect to be paying for a big brand activity tracker. It is cheaper than the Jawbone UP24, and more expensive than the FitBit Flex. Remember though, the Jawbone UP24 is waterproof, so may well be worth the extra. Both the Up24 and Pulse O2 give you your data to own. The cheaper FitBit Flex, which is most like the Pulse O2 in form factor, may be waterproof and cheaper, but you will be paying an extra £40 a year for the privilege of owning your data. So £100 for the Pulse O2 is a very reasonable price.
We really liked the Pulse O2 while it worked. It is part of the Withings family, which means you can trust it will be supported, has a great team behind it and will work nicely with all of their other great products.
However, the Pulse O2 is not really one of their great products. The attachments are very fiddly, as is tracking your blood oxygen and heart rate, and the fact that a 5 minute shower would kill it completely is quite a let down – my phone is more waterproof than that, and that has most of the same features of the Pulse O2.
Withings aren’t losing the activity tracker battle though. Their latest product, Activité, looks absolutely stunning, has a 1 year battery life and is swimproof. The Activité is a device we’re very excited about. But not the Pulse O2.