Factor reviews: Withings Pulse O2

Fitness and health trackers often claim to be able to help you improve your life, but many fail to provide adequate tools to allow you to make changes.

The Withings Pulse O2 – from here on known just as Pulse – is not one of these fitness trackers.

It collects so much data about your life that it is possible to see what you are doing down to each half an hour of the day and night.

The Pulse isn’t just an activity tracker that records your steps and sleep. It also keeps note of elevation, distance, calories, your pulse and blood oxygen saturation.

And thanks to the screen on the front, you’re easily able to see your progress and how you are doing whenever you want.

The added bonus of the screen is the clock that is included. Just by looking at the time on the Pulse you see how many steps you have completed each day and how close you are to your goal.

Checking the time also subconsciously makes you think about your stats and your health, ensuring you don’t forget about the tracker.

To wear on the wrist the Pulse, which retails at €119.95, is comfortable and has 10 options for size.

The belt clip, which comes with the Pulse, is strong and will not fall off your waist even if you are running. You don’t have to tell it you are going for a run as it will recognise you are moving more intensely.

When it is worn on the wrist it is probably the closet device that doesn’t show notifications to a smart watch.

withingsinline

The Pulse is a fantastic piece of wearable technology for those who are very health conscious, or want to be.

The range of tracking options it provides is well above many of its competitors, and they are all displayed in easy-to-interpret graphs on the mobile app or the web.

The web version has a fantastic view of your activity, broken down by each half hour of the day and night. It allows you to see the times you are most active and also when you sleep the deepest.

This view lets the user see how many steps they have taken at every point of the day and it is easy to pick up the times when you aren’t moving around enough.

It also excels in the level of detail you are given. When you have been in bed you are told how long it took you to get to sleep. When you have been active it is possible to learn not only how long you were active for but whether the activity was soft, moderate or intense.

For those who are concerned about their general health, the ability to take your heart rate gives a great insight into what times of the day are your most and least active.

The mobile app also can send you reminders about when to go to bed, weigh yourself, not to skip breakfast and many more.

The reminders are meant to help you improve aspects of your life by creating new habits – much like other purpose-built apps such as Lift.

withingschart

One thing that I would like to improve about the Pulse is its water resistance. While being able to operate fine when caught in the rain it cannot be worn in the shower or swimming – which means it is easy to forget to put on again.

Surprisingly, the battery life of the Pulse is better than some of the other fitness trackers that don’t have screens.

On one charge the Pulse lasted almost an entire seven days before it started to warn that it had fewer than 20% of its battery remaining.

In terms of aesthetics, some people have recoiled when they’ve seen the Pulse on my wrist and others think it is an impressive device, which blends in as a watch.

When combined with other products from Withings, such as smart scales and blood pressure monitors, the Pulse will become an even more powerful tool for you to keep track of your health.

For those who really want to make themselves healthier using technology as an aid, the Withings Pulse 02 holds the key to obtaining data about yourself.

Factor’s verdict:

factor-rating-5

5/5: MUST-HAVE PURCHASE


Images courtesy of Withings


Factor Reviews: Fitbit Flex

Despite the Fitbit Force being recalled due to some users experiencing irritation and rashes the company is still one of the most respected wearable manufacturers out there – and the Flex is a testament to this.

The Fitbit Flex wants to help you monitor your health and improve it by challenging you to set yourself daily goals.

The band, which retails for £80 in the UK, is capable of counting steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, very active minutes, sleep time and quality. However the stand-out feature is the silent wake alarm that vibrates you into consciousness.

A series of lights on the wristband’s display shows you how close you are to achieving the day’s goals – whether it is the number of steps completed or amount of calories burned.

The device comes in a range of colours and, as far as wearable wristbands go, is sleek looking and doesn’t stand out as a gadget that you have forked out for.

fitbit-flex-1

Set-up

Setting up the Flex was incredibly easy as it connects to smartphones via the low-power Bluetooth 4.0 – it also syncs data via a wireless USB dongle for those who don’t own smartphones.

The time from un-boxing to connecting the Flex to a mobile phone and using it was a matter of minutes, and reflects the overall ease of use.

Once charged, the Flex does not need charging for up to five days, which feels like an age in today’s era of daily charging.

I did find, however, that without reading the instructions it was sometimes difficult to tell what you need to press or when you need to tap the Flex to understand what it’s doing.

All the information that is tracked by the Flex is available to see real-time on the mobile app or online (as long as you have Bluetooth turned on or are close to the wireless USB connection), which was a nice plus.

fitbit-flex-2

Comfort

Fitbit’s Flex is a comfortable wear. Even the larger side of the wristband – where the sensor is held – was not obtrusive to movement or any daily activities such as typing.

The clasp of the wristband is quite fiddly, and I found this quite frustrating when putting it on for the first time, but it was something that I got used to quickly.

As someone who doesn’t wear a watch I thought having a band around my wrist for more than a few minutes would become highly irritating. But in reality the Flex was hardly noticeable during the entire week I wore it for.

I tried out both sizes of wristbrand, and even switching to the looser version, giving the wristband the ability to slide up and down the forearm, did not make a difference to how much I noticed it, which was a pleasing detail.

fitbit-flex-3

Health Tracking

As with all wearables, the reliability of the number of steps taken and distance travelled is the biggest question mark I found. The Flex appeared to be rather generous in the number of steps it logged with short trips appearing to be more than their actual step-count.

However, over longer distances, the Flex performed more accurately and favourably compared to distances measured via GPS and mapping software.

Tracking food intake is no easier than on any other device. With the process requiring manual input of all foods eaten – these are found from a drop-down within the mobile app – I found it time consuming and a little frustrating with the large number of options.

All the variables that the device lets your track are easily viewable on a compatible smartphone or via the web-app, which was easy to use.

The one feature that stands head and shoulders above the rest, however, is the ‘silent’ vibrating alarm.

The alarm doesn’t wake the wearer suddenly. The vibrations wake the wearer without a startle and unless the user taps the wristband they will start again nine minutes later.

While wearing the Flex I managed to wake up with an alarm that was set earlier than my usual – this is testament to how comfortable it is to wake-up with the vibrating alarm. This would also be great for co-habiters; it means that a partner is not woken up at the same time by a noisy radio or infuriating bleeping sound.

fitbit-flex-4

Overall

The Flex is an un-intrusive wearable wristband that is so comfortable and light that you can forget you are wearing it. However when you do notice that you’re wearing the band it acts as a reminder that you should be watching how many steps you are taking, what you are eating and how much water you are drinking.

It is easy to set up, easy to understand and about as reliable in terms of data collection as any other wearable out there at the moment.

As with any device, the Flex could be improved upon but if you want to start monitoring your health and activity in a way that is going to remind and motivate you, Fitbit’s product more than does the job.

Factor’s verdict

factor-rating-4

4/5: Solid choice


Images courtesy of Fitbit.
Matt tested the Fitbit Flex in Black, which is available for £79.99/$99.95 from Fitbit.