Withings Pulse hands-on

Just how many activity trackers can this emerging, but admittedly niche market support? We have no idea, but Withings is hoping that there's room for at least one more. The company will be releasing the Pulse tomorrow for $99, and taking on veterans of the scene like Fitbit and relative newcomers like Jawbone. The tiny device counts steps, monitors your sleep patterns and can even measure your heart rate. Unfortunately, it can't do the latter constantly and in real time, though, that might be a slightly unrealistic expectation of any tracker. Like some of Fitbit's products it can also monitor your altitude, which is great for people who want to know how many steps they've climbed. The Pulse itself is quite small, about the size of standard issue pedometer and almost as light. The casing is made of a nice soft touch plastic that feels down right lovely in the hand, which is good since you'll be manhandling the Pulse more than most other trackers. It's a far cry from the glossy piano black finish it sported at CES.

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Withings Pulse hands-on

On the top is a singe button that wakes the display and cycles through the various screens of stats, including the number of steps taken, calories burned and total distance traveled. The display is one of the more helpful we've seen on such a device. It's hardly a high-res LCD, but the monochrome panel is dense enough to spit out usable data with a quick glance. It also happens to be touch sensitive. A firmware update coming tomorrow will allow you to swipe through up to 14 days of activity, but the prototype we handled only had a one day history. The screen was relatively responsive to our input, though it struggled a bit when we tried to swipe down to initiate the heart rate monitor from the menu. Once you do get it to launch, you'll need to press your finger firmly against the sensors on the back. We had mixed success getting the Pulse to actually monitor our beating heart, however. It worked just fine for one of our editors, while the other is apparently the waking dead.

Withings is nice enough to include both a rubbery clip and a soft cloth band in the package. While you could theoretically wear it in the band all day, it's meant primarily to be worn while sleeping. Obviously it's going to be hard to pass judgement on the Pulse after just a few short minutes handling it, but it definitely shows promise. Check back for our full review in the coming weeks.

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New Withings Pulse, Activity Tracking Device, Helps Users Achieve Personal Health & Fitness Goals

Withings Pulse

PARIS– June 27, 2013– The Withings Pulse, available now, is a powerful and pocket-sized activity tracking tool designed to help users achieve personal health and fitness goals. For the first time ever seen on an activity tracker, the Pulse adds heart rate measurement and automatic run detection to the tracking of steps taken, distance covered, elevation, calories burned, and quality of sleep. The device syncs via Bluetooth Smart with the free Withings Health Mate App where all the data is collected and displayed in real time.

Weighing just 8 grams and measuring 1.69 inches, the Withings Pulse is designed to be unobtrusive. It can be inserted into a pocket, bag, or used with the included clip on a belt, shirt or bra. The front of the device features a fully functioning OLED touch surface that will allow users to navigate through the screens and browse a 14-day history of collected data. The back houses the on-board heart rate sensor where users simply place their finger to take their readings.

By adding heart rate measurement to the Pulse, Withings has been able to give users a way to see the larger picture of their total health. By monitoring resting heart rates and heart rates after physical activity, a user can see how the improvement in heart rate correlates to physical activity. The better a user's physical fitness becomes, the lower their resting heart rate.

The Withings Pulse will also appeal to the 50 million+ American runner/ joggers*. It is designed to automatically detect when a user is running or jogging. To access the duration and distance travelled during a run, a user simply presses the top button on the device to instantly view their stats without the need to fumble through any screens to view it.

The Withings Pulse also has you covered when it's time for bed. Sleep is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, so with the Pulse, users can launch sleep cycle analysis where they can track their movements throughout the night by simply inserting the device into the included wrist band. The next morning the information is sent to the Health Mate App where users can precisely assess their sleep patterns and actually see how physical activity, or even or lack of it, affects sleep.

Losing any bit of information can be devastating, so Withings has given the Pulse a 2 week battery life between charges. Charging can be done via the provided standard micro USB cable plugged into a computer USB port or power supply unit. There's even a Power Save mode where the Withings Pulse runs on reserve power to give users 24 hours of extra battery life even though the screen is not on, so users will never miss a beat between charges.

Cédric Hutchings, CEO and co-founder of Withings says: "Understanding and analyzing your fitness is the first step to improving it! Heart health is at the center of your overall health, so that is why we felt it was extremely important to add heart rate tracking to the Withings Pulse. The quality of the technology that we've packed into this tiny, easy to use activity tracker will take us further into a new dimension of connected health and well-being."

Withings Pulse joins the growing Withings ecosystem, which consists of various health devices and partnering third-party applications. MyFitnessPal, a free calorie counter and food logging application with over 40 million users, will now send logged food items to the Withings Health Mate application. This addition means that now users of Withings Pulse, Smart Body Analyzer, and Blood Pressure Monitor can track their calories in, calories out and the effect that makes on their weight, blood pressure and resting heart rate. The Withings devices use the internet, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as a means to connect to native apps and allow users to share data with family, friends, social networking sites, physicians, caretakers, coaches over 100 third-party applications.

The Withings Pulse is compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad, iPod touch 4th gen, iPod touch 5th gen and Android devices 2.3.3 or higher. For more information on the Pulse, visit www.withings.com/pulse.