Wearing the Activité

Yes, I’ve got an Activité.

The tl;dr here is that I like it very much for what it does and how it does it. If you just want a pedometer and sleep tracker, this is a great option. Way better, for me, than a FitBit and a watch. If you’re not a watch person, don’t get it. If you are a watch person, you may like it a lot. I do.

First Impression

Good quality. The box is nice and solid, with a soft microfiber padding that holds the watch. It has a good … I want to say umami. It feels good. I feel there’s a good reason to monitor the quality of the packaging, as it usually (not always) means the product itself will feel nice.

The box, opened

Very nice and simple. It was a little annoying to get the rubber off the buckle end. That’s pretty minor.

The watch itself is also nice to the touch. The leather band isn’t too stiff or soft, but it right away felt comfortable on my wrist. Major points there. I’ve been wearing watches with the metal clasp bands for the last 15 years. It’s a massive shift for me to be wearing a leather band. I do own a Swatch (London Olympics Memorial edition) that I still wear, and up until the Withings, it was my only buckle-band watch.

Using It

Upgrading My Watch via my Phone I’m officially living in the future, I’ve upgraded my watch’s firmware with my phone. Seriously that was weird. No, that was creepy. The day after I got it, there was a firmware update and it’s still creepy to have your phone update the firmware on your watch.

Once it synced, you were able to calibrate it, which was … interesting. The calibration really is using a GUI dial on your phone to line up the hands to 12-noon. That was easy. Setting the alarm was not. It was insanely hard to slide the time up and down to get freaking six in the damn morning. Yes. That’s my alarm. And you only get to pick one alarm, not special ones for special days. Boo.

The extra dial is for your steps, and I had assumed it would automagically sync with my steps from the day. I was at a couple thousand and expected to see it zip around to the right percent, but apparently it only shows what it records. Which makes sense I guess. I would like to see it get smarter and update when it syncs.

It’s surprisingly comfortable to wear to sleep. Since it does sleep tracking, I wanted to give it a try, and apparently I can fall asleep in one minute. Besides the iOS app, you can also go to https://healthmate.withings.com/ and look at your personal ‘stats.’ I’m not as phone compulsive as some, and since the Activité only syncs my data when it’s app is open, I have to make an effort to remember every morning. Brush teeth, take meds, open Activité app on phone… it works.

'Where were you when you learned you'd won?' 'I was actually asleep; I woke up when I refreshed the website and saw the news.'
Compulsive Phone Checking (via XKCD)

The Withings iOS app also tracks weight and heart rate and that’s kind of neat.

What I Like

It’s a good watch. It tells time accurately, it doesn’t look like a computer. The dial is large, and I’m not used to that. It’s half-again the face-size of my other watches, which tells you how small I tend to go. This is easy to use and read at a glance. Oh look, it’s 10! I don’t mind not having numbers on the face of the watch. Also I can see, at a glance, that I need to walk more. That’s a nice reminder now that I don’t walk to the train every day.

The band is lovely. Soft and supple. I wore the leather for a week and then swapped to the waterproof rubber. I prefer the leather in general, and it’s not as easy to change as they claim, but it’s nice. Also you can use any of the Pop bands, so I can be sassy if I want.

The App is easy to use and can track the elliptical and treadmill very accurately. Twice now I’ve had glitches where it lost all my recorded data for a day. In both cases, it was when I hadn’t synced in 25 hours and done a lot of exercising. Right now I’ve decided that their ‘sync 36 hours’ is not that accurate and you really should sync every 16. Once I started doing that, I’ve not had any issues.

What I Miss

There are aspects to my previous watch (a Rolex Oyster Perpetual) that I actually miss a lot. Like I miss seeing the date. My previous watch has the date on the right and I was very used to seeing it. My wife asked me for the date and I actually looked there first. I hated having to manually update the date on months with less than 31 days, and this is a perfect place for the Activité to flaunt it’s syncability.

I also miss having a second hand. It’s really just creepy to watch the minute hand move around like that without a second hand. Oh and it doesn’t tick. That’s super crazy. My Rolex ticks! Jokes about ‘for $5000 a secondhand better act like a second HAND’ aside, there really was something comforting to watching that secondhand glide. And yes, I did use it to measure things like my heartbeat. Instead it ticks once every minute (makes sense, that’s the gear ratcheting).

And finally I do miss my clasp band. I just really liked it. Who knew.

What I Look Forward To

Right now, to sync my activity with my phone, I have to open my iPhone and the app. It’s annoying. And there is no option to manually sync, you have to leave it open and wait. But…

Automatic background syncs will be possible in an upcoming firmware version.

So I’d like that. Especially since you have to sync at least every 38 hours. (Really? 38? Who the hell…) Also that’s wrong. If I don’t sync every 20 hours, I run a risk of losing all my step data. Not my sleep (yet), and I think what’s happening is that my sleep data is filling up the memory before it can by transferred. I have a ticket open with Withings about this.

I’m also hoping we get things like push alerts. The watch already knows my alarm, so I could see them adding in software to push alerts when your phone rings. Maybe only your favorites. And that better be opt in! Speaking of, the default ‘reminders’ aren’t great. They have ‘go for a run’ or ‘walk while on the phone’ which is cool, but I also want “Hey, you’ve been sitting for 45 minutes. Get up.”


This is now my every-day watch. What more can I say?

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