The humble bathroom scale hasn't seen too many quantum leaps in its long lifespan, but with the addition of a WiFi module, body fat analyzer and a BMI calculator, Withings' original connected scale set the bar for others to follow. Between its 2009 launch and the present, the market has been saturated with several other companies trying their luck in the space at lower price points. As such, this is the WS-30, a pared-down version of the original model which knocks $60 off the flagship model's price in order to take on its rivals in the $100 zone. If you're pondering a lifestyle change and would like to know if this is the model for you, then join us after the break.
Unlike the first model, which required you to hook the scale to your computer with a micro-USB cable and set it from there, this version can be set up from a smartphone. Simply pair it over Bluetooth by holding down a button on the underside of the body and the app will do the rest. You'll then need to send a software update to the scales, which took a forgivable two minutes.
After embarking on a gadget-fueled quest to shed poundage, your humble narrator has been using the connected body scale for the last few months, so when it came time to upgrade, we just needed to put in our Withings account details. You can also set up an account online and, if you're keen enough to record your historical measurements, can enter these in and build up a comprehensive store of your vital statistics.
You can either set it up to sync with your smartphone or to send the data directly to Withings' cloud via WiFi. As our internet was down, we paired it straight to the phone, but it required a little fiddling to get it working first time out -- that was until we'd given it one more sync with the phone to prod it back into life. If you forget to sync it with your phone once every while, don't worry -- it'll be able to remember a few measurements on its own.
Bye Bye, Body Fat... Monitor
The flagship scale, with visible body fat analyzer
The most notable difference change in the hardware, aside from the WS-30's snazzy white body, is the lack of a body fat analyzer. We asked the company what was the thinking here, and it confirmed that it's all about pushing the device down to a lower price point -- interested in digital weight tracking, but without the extra $60 required to snap up the flagship. It's a notable omission, but for the budget crowd, it has been replaced with:
Replacing the body fat meter is a new system called position control, which directs you to stand straight to ensure a fair reading. If you've ever stood on a WiiFit balance board, then the principle's the same -- encouraging you to keep your weight balanced evenly across your center of gravity. Four arrows, one in each corner of the display point you in the direction of where you need to be leaning, and once you're balanced, it'll take your weight. There is, however, a slightly indelicate problem that we need to talk about.
You see, for most people who are overweight, there's going to be something between their natural eye-line and the display. In fact, it's the thing they're trying to get rid of -- but in order to see the screen, you're going to need to lean forward, rather ruining the point of a posture sensor unless, you know, you've got a mirror handy.
Alongside the new scales is Withings' Health Companion app, which, depending on your ecosystem choices, serves as a one-stop shop for your fitness data. In addition to tracking your weight and pushing you towards setting fitness goals, it'll share data with Zeo, Bodymedia and RunKeeper. Its UI is in the shape of a butterfly, each wing representing your weight, activity, sleep and heart rate -- like a slightly awkward Captain Planet tribute act.
Rather than being four separate groups of data, they interact with each other. In our tests, we were holding a camera while taking a weight measurement -- which meant we were weighing heavier than we usually do. When the data had uploaded, it began imploring us to add in RunKeeper data so that it could see what had gone wrong. Once you've achieved your goals, or enjoy being humiliated in public, you can share your successes and failures on Facebook and Twitter.
Let's be frank: there are plenty of people who think that blowing $100, let alone $160, on an internet-connected weighing scale is a ridiculous proposition. For us, however, having instantly documented vital statistics is a hugely attractive proposition, and should be for anyone taking part in a weight-loss regimen. We'd be lying if we said we preferred this to the flagship, and would suggest anyone who can afford it kicks in the extra $60, but if you can't stretch that far, then the WS-30 is a great compromise. It's got clean, attractive hardware, an easy-to-read screen and it'll give you depressingly accurate score that you can share with the world in seconds. But heck, the consequences of our over-consumption can be dealt with in January, right? For now, it's eggnog time!