The Apple Watch is fantastic because it lets you receive notifications, communicate with friends, access apps from your iPhone, and record a wealth of activity-related data, but it's also a device that requires a heavy amount of interaction.
It demands that you look at your wrist when you receive a notification, it taps you on the arm when you're not standing up every hour, and it often reminds you about your fitness goals. It needs to be charged every night and it has to be taken off with every shower, so in short, it's not a device you can slap on your wrist and forget about.
For that reason alone, not even taking cost into account, the Apple Watch is not a device that's suitable for everyone. There are many people who may prefer smart devices and activity trackers that require far less interaction and our Withings Activité Pop review is aimed at those people.
The Activité Pop is almost the exact opposite of the Apple Watch. Where the Apple Watch commands your attention, the Pop unobtrusively integrates itself into your life -- you don't need to charge it, it's waterproof so it can be worn at all times and never removed, and you only need to glance at it when you want to know the time or your progress towards your daily movement goal.
The Activité Pop has a gender neutral design that harkens back to the simple plastic analog Swatch watches that were popular in the 80s and 90s. It's a modern take on a classic watch with clean lines and colors that fit a range of tastes: Bright Azure, Shark Grey, and Wild Sand. The Pop is monochrome -- watch faces match watch bands.
With the blue watch, for example, the face and band are both blue, giving it an understated look that's not going to draw attention to your wrist. The available colors are benign enough to match most outfits, and the tasteful design doesn't stick out at the gym or at the office.
I have a small wrist (137mm or about 5.4 inches) and the Pop fit well (if a bit loose) on the second-to-last wrist band hole. The watch face did not look overly large on my wrist, nor did it look too small on someone with a larger wrist. I found it to be similar in size (33mm) to the 38mm Apple Watch, but slightly wider and shorter due to the round face.
The band is made from a supple silicone that's as pliable as the fluoroelastomer of the Apple Watch Sport, but not quite as soft. Inside, the silicone of the band is ridged, a design that seems to give it more stretch and flexibility. The watch casing is stainless steel with mineral glass covering the dial, and combined, the face and the band are light enough to be unnoticeable, even on a small wrist.
Compared to a standard watch, the watch face is thicker to accommodate both a regular watch battery and activity tracking components, but the thickness doesn't change the aesthetic and it isn't a hinderance on the wrist. Speaking of that battery, it will last for up to eight months. You never need to charge the Pop, a major benefit compared to many other activity trackers on the market that need regular charging.
After receiving the Pop, I put it on and I haven't taken it off since except to take pictures for the review. It's larger than competing activity tracking bands like the Jawbone UP or the Fitbit Flex, but it's comfortable enough to wear all the time, even when sleeping, showering, and exercising. I don't typically wear anything on my wrists, and the Activité Pop has been easy to adjust to.
I only experienced a slight amount of irritation to my wrist after sleeping on it with the Pop on, and after taking a shower when the band got somewhat damp underneath. The Pop is completely waterproof, so you can wear it swimming, in the shower, at the beach, or anywhere that it might get wet.
Wearing the Activité Pop on one wrist and the Apple Watch on another wrist for a week made me appreciate the unobtrusiveness of the Pop. While the Apple Watch sends me movement reminders on a regular basis and nags me to get up out of my chair on the hour, the Pop quietly tracks my movement during the day.
There's a small dial on the watch face that measures progress towards a daily activity goal (which is customizable), but aside from that, all activity information is conveyed through the iPhone. The Pop connects to the iPhone via Bluetooth (setting it up and connecting it is a super simple process) and sends information to the accompanying Withings Health Mate iOS app whenever the iPhone and the Pop are near one another.
I haven't minded opening up my iPhone to see detailed information on my movement and calories burned each day, but several of the available activity trackers on the market do offer displays that have the information right on the wrist, so the lack of a display is definitely a downside if you want to avoid having to check your iPhone on a regular basis.
At the top, front and center, the app displays steps taken each day and progress towards your movement goal. Tapping on that section of the app gives a more in-depth look, offering times you were active, distance traveled, calories burned, and a look at any exercise you did.
The Pop can automatically detect when you're active, determining your activity based on movement. If you go for a run, for example, it can tell you're moving faster and will record that movement as a run. This function isn't super sophisticated -- it doesn't know when you're doing yoga or cycling, but it's useful for walking and running. In a future update, it'll also be able to track swimming.
You can get weekly overviews of activity in the app, and it will give you sad faces or smiley faces when you miss movement goals or beat them, along with tips to add more movement to your day. Detailed longer term tracking is not included, which is a downside. For people aiming to lose weight, there's a section for adding weight measurements (it integrates with the Withings line of connected scales if you have one of those), but calorie counting and food logging isn't available.
Like most of the activity trackers on the market, the Pop includes an accelerometer to track steps taken and uses the information to estimate calories burned and time spent exercising. Accurate movement tracking is something most people want from an activity tracker and this is one area where I had a slight problem with the Pop I reviewed.
No wrist-worn activity tracker is going to estimate steps taken with 100 percent accuracy because we move our wrists on such a frequent basis even when immobile, but the Pop's movement estimates seemed on the low side, so I did some walk and run tests to compare it to other devices.
During a five minute walk test comparing the Pop to a Jawbone UP and the Apple Watch, the Pop measured 475 steps, the Jawbone measured 583, and the Apple Watch measured 571. All three trackers were worn on the same wrist.
In a five minute jog test, the Pop measured 903 steps, the Jawbone UP measured 997, and the Apple Watch measured 1,015. Results were similar in repeated activity tests, with the Pop measuring slightly fewer steps than the Apple Watch and the Jawbone UP.
In office simulations that measured activity while sitting at a desk and getting up a few times for various tasks, the Pop was more accurate. Over two hours, it measured 97 steps, while the Apple Watch counted 102 and the Jawbone UP counted 88.
Daily results between the Pop and the Apple Watch differed by a few hundred steps, but over the course of a day, the Pop's activity tracking capabilities are not so far off that it makes a huge difference when estimating daily activity level. If it's measuring 10,000 steps or whatever your daily movement goal is (you can customize this goal in the app), you're almost certainly hitting that amount of activity.
Along with activity tracking, sleep tracking is another major feature of the Activité Pop. If you wear the watch while sleeping, it will monitor how often you get up and your light and deep sleep cycles, based on movement. As I mentioned before, the Pop is comfortable enough to wear at night, though it can be uncomfortable if you're a side sleeper that lays on an arm as I am.
I monitored my sleep for several nights with the Activité Pop and a Jawbone UP to compare and contrast the two, and in my experience, the Pop's sleep tracking capabilities were inaccurate. The Pop was not very good at tracking the "falling asleep" phase, telling me that I fell asleep within two minutes every single night for three weeks straight, and while I wish I was such a solid sleeper, I'm not.
The Pop wasn't sensitive enough to be able to determine when I got into bed. So during the falling asleep process, where I was tossing and turning to get comfortable, the Pop thought that I was still up and awake and did not begin monitoring my sleep habits until I was completely still. It actually takes me between 10 and 30 minutes to fall asleep each night, and for comparison's sake, the Jawbone UP was much better at accurately determining when I got into bed and when I fell asleep each night.
The difference between the two? The UP has a physical button to switch between sleep/wake mode, so you tell it when you get into bed. The Pop detects sleep automatically and its ability to determine when you're sleeping and awake is inadequate.
It was also unable to tell when I woke up. I tend to wake up and transition to sitting at a desk to check email and messages in the mornings, leading the Pop to think I was still asleep.
The Pop did accurately track the times when I got up for water during the night, and its movement tracking while I was asleep was similar to the data I got from the Jawbone UP. It's hard to tell whether the deep/light sleep times provided are correct, because I didn't feel noticeably different between a night when it said I got a just over an hour of deep sleep and a night where it registered five hours of deep sleep.
Outside of a laboratory with sleep tracking equipment, there's no way to determine the accuracy of deep/light sleep data from any of the activity trackers. Even if the data provided by the Pop is correct, I'm not sure there's much I or anyone else could do with it. Knowing that I slept for 7 hours and potentially got 2:30 hours of deep sleep isn't information I can use in any way.
Along with tracking sleep and activity, the Pop has a few other notable features worth pointing out. Since it connects to your iPhone, the time updates on a regular basis to match the iPhone's time, so it's able to adjust between time zones automatically. It readjusts a few times per day so the time is always accurate.
It's also able to update through the iPhone, so Withings can deliver firmware updates on a regular basis to improve the function of the Pop.
Through the app, it's possible to set an alarm on the Pop to wake you up in the mornings. When the alarm goes off, the Pop will vibrate 12 times, and unfortunately, there's no way to snooze or to turn it off. I don't need much help getting up in the mornings, so the inability to shut it off was frustrating. On the plus side, setting the alarm made the sleep tracking more accurate, as it knows you're awake once the alarm goes off. There's also a neat feature related to the alarm -- if you tap on the watch face, the hands will circle around to let you know what time it's set for. One other downside to be aware of: you can only set one alarm.
The app also has an option to connect with friends for a "weekly step challenge" to motivate yourself to walk more. Connecting with friends adds a leaderboard that ranks who walks the most and it lets you sent messages to cheer friends on or taunt them. Not everyone will find this feature useful, but for those who are motivated by their social circle, it's nice to have.
The best feature in the app may be an surprisingly accurate tool for measuring heart rate through the iPhone's camera. Tapping the "+" button lets you enter weight, heart rate, or blood pressure, and if you choose heart rate, the app will instruct you to place your finger over the camera.
Holding a finger over both the camera and the flash (which turns on automatically) lets the flash illuminate your finger so the iPhone camera can see blood flow, measuring heart rate. In comparison to both a Polar heart rate monitor and the Apple Watch, the app's measurements were almost always spot on, or close to it, as long as my finger was in the right position.
It's also worth noting that there's an Apple Watch app that accompanies the Health Mate app for the iPhone, though people are unlikely to be wearing both an Apple Watch and a Pop. It displays steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, and sleep. A Glance view also displays activity.
Battery and Maintenance
The Pop uses a standard CR2025 cell battery so it doesn't ever need to be charged, and in a world where we regularly have to charge several devices on a nightly basis, a watch that doesn't need recharging is refreshing. A single battery lasts for approximately eight months, at which point you'll need to replace it.
A CR2025 battery costs $5 on Amazon for a pack of 5, so the additional price of replacing the battery is negligible. You'll know to change the battery when the Pop no longer vibrates when the reset button is pressed or when the hands stop moving. Replacing it requires a small tool that ships with the watch, so you'll want to put that in a safe place.
Since it's waterproof, you can clean the Pop with soap and water if it gets dirty, and if you want to replace the band, Withings sells additional bands. The come in a range of colors like Orange, Plum, and Teal for $39.99.
The Activité Pop is one of the most attractive activity trackers available on the market, setting itself apart from the average band with a classic watch face and a simple design that transitions easily from gym to office.
In my testing, the Pop didn't seem to be as accurate as the Apple Watch and the Jawbone UP when measuring steps taken and distance traveled, but when it comes to activity tracking, most of us are aiming for an overall picture of health rather than a dead accurate step/sleep count, and the Pop delivers on that front.
Wearing the Activité Pop, you're going to get an overall idea of how much movement you're getting, how often you're exercising, whether you're losing weight, and whether you're getting enough sleep, which makes it just as useful as any other tracker on the market. Basic step tracking, sleep tracking, and exercise tracking is all most of us need to be motivated to add more movement to our lives.
As a caveat, if you need accurate sleep tracking capabilities rather than an overall idea of how long you've slept, the Pop is not the band to buy. It was inaccurate for me and a quick Internet search suggests other people also found it to be inaccurate.
The Pop is not going to fit the needs of serious athletes who need heart rate monitoring, GPS, and other premium features, but for casual use, the Pop is one of the better choices you can make because you don't need to charge it, it requires no interaction, it's waterproof, and it has an app that's attractive and easy to use. It's more expensive than some competing products, but if it fits your aesthetic, it may be worth the extra money.
Though it looks like a watch, the Activité Pop is not a smartwatch. It's an activity tracker that tells the time, and that's okay, because there are many people out there who simply don't need the complex interactions and notifications that devices like the Apple Watch deliver.
- 8 month battery life
- Simple, stylish design
- Accurate heart rate monitoring through app
- Comfortable strap
- No display for quick info
- Basic tracking only
- Sleep tracking is inaccurate
- Underestimates steps taken/distance traveled at times
- Pricier than competing products
- No snooze for alarm
How to Buy
The Activité Pop can be purchased from the Withings website for $149.