Part of me bristles at the idea of wearing something on my wrist while I sleep, but the Activités mostly did a fine job of tallying up my restful (and restless) hours in bed. My sleep schedule has been all kinds of terrible lately: I'll sleep for three or four hours in the middle of the night, only to pass out again when I'm done working for the day. Still, it somehow never fully sunk in how terrible my sleep quality was. In fact, the app sometimes seems a little too pessimistic, which led to inevitable questions about accuracy -- some nights I could've sworn I got more sleep than what the app was reporting. (How restful it was is a different story). After a while, a sort of philosophical dilemma arose. Does it really matter if a device/app combo like this isn't accurate all the time? After all, broad strokes are more helpful than none at all, right? Your mileage might vary, but in my case, the app just reinforced what I already knew: Sleep more, idiot.
Before I start to sound too forgiving, know all is not well here. A couple of design decisions seem misguided. You earn badges for completing certain unseen challenges (like walking the equivalent of a marathon), but they only appear in your timeline -- not the profile page where you'd expect to see all your accomplishments laid out nice and neat. Fine, that's a minor one. Then there's the alarm clock. When you try to set an alarm for the watch, you do so by dragging a bar up and down the screen to select the time it'll go off. At first it's neat, but if you have to set an alarm for, say, eight hours from now, you have to carefully drag the slider to the edge of the screen and wait for it to cycle through the hours until it finally lands on the time you want it to. A text box wouldn't have been hard to implement, and it would've been so much easier. Withings may have made some lovely watches, but Jawbone and Fitbit still lead the pack when it comes to app design and stability. Bring on the updates, people -- you can do better.
Withings' two-pronged approach might seem savvy, but it's not the only one with a wearable for all-comers. Fitbit may be the biggest example, and it's nipping at Withings from all sides with devices like the Flex and the Surge. If you're the sort who just instinctively reaches for a phone when you need the time, the $100 Flex might be up your alley; it'll track your steps and sleep like the Activités will, but its more ho-hum design and lack of a meaningful display help keep its price fairly low. Meanwhile, Fitbit's new Charge HR (which will or won't give you a rash) packs a built-in heart rate monitor and caller ID into a sleek bracelet that costs just as much as the Pop. Willing to shell out a little more? We loved the $200 Basis Peak, which rocks a slightly more traditional watch form factor, displays smartphone notifications and can automatically tell when you're working out or have gone to sleep.
Then there's the Activité. For the price it commands, you could splurge on a fancy Android Wear device; the LG G Watch R and Moto 360 both cost less and do plenty more, including step count. They're both some of your more stylish options too; though, the former definitely has a more masculine feel than either the Activité or the 360. The thing is, Withings is still working on Android compatibility for both watches so it'll be a little while before those are viable alternatives. The get-up-and-go types reading this might prefer Adidas' miCoach Smart Run, but let's be real: It's hardly a looker. If anything, the Activité's closest rival just might be the base-level Apple Watch, which is slated to start at a lower price of $349 when it launches in April. Both wearables put a premium on design, though the Apple Watch's ability to do more makes it a potential Activité killer if ever there was one.
I love the Activité, but man is it a hard sell sometimes. If we take a moment to zoom out, it's exactly the sort of wearable I think people -- regular people -- would embrace. It's simple -- elegant, even. You can set it up through your phone and, in theory, never again touch the app (which could use some work, by the way). It adds just enough to a regular watch to be meaningful, without getting in your face about it. That said, the Activité isn't really meant for the average schlub. Watch nerds, aficionados, fetishists -- people who care deeply about what they put on their bodies and what it says about them -- might find its balance of quality and performance worth the $450 price. That's what makes the Activité Pop such a compelling option. It does everything its more expensive relative does and with a design that's (almost) as fetching, for a fraction of the price. It still might not do enough to satisfy people on the bleeding edge of tech, but it's a lovely place for the average person to start.