Great for my Personal Needs, but Avoid the Black Steel and Steel HR Sport
Reviewed in the United States on 5 December 2018
A lot of my friends have smartwatches, but I just did not have a desire to own one, as I liked how traditional watches looked, and I did not need all the bells and whistles an Apple Watch offered. I also was turned off by the need to charge my phone every 1-2 days.
Frankly, I wanted something that looked like a normal watch, but that could give me very basic notifications - calls, texts, work e-mails, and alarms. I didn't need Facebook, Twitter or third party notifications; steps, heart rate, sleep tracking, etc., were great, but, again, they were not must-haves for me. My phone is often on silent/vibrate, and, when the phone is in my pocket, I often don't feel the phone vibrate. Given my office job, I also don't like having my ringer set too high and causing a disruption.
For a year or so, I wore a traditional time piece on my left wrist, while wearing a Xiaomi Mi Band 2 on my right wrist, as the Mi Band worked well for notifications and alarms. However, I finally decided I'd prefer to just wear one device - preferably something resembling a watch - so I started looking into products that would address my very specific preferences.
At first, I was interested in the Chronos and Trivoly, two companies that made smart disks that attached to the bottom of your analog watch, and which would provide vibrating notifications. However, the reviews for both products looked terrible, and it appears both companies are dead in the water. I also looked at smart watch straps, but those companies also failed to bring their products to market.
After doing some research, I zeroed in on hybrid smartwatches. At first, I tried out two Skagen hybrids - the Jorn and the the Hagen (my local TJ Maxx had them for less than $75). I liked that they looked like normal, analog watches, and they were powered by a battery that needed to be replaced every 4-6 months. While some reviews complained the watches did not give you any indication what the notification was for, I felt like this was a reasonable tradeoff - I'd have a watch that was a watch first, but which provided notifications, even though I would not initially know what that notification was, i.e., I'd still have to pull my phone out of my pocket.
However, while they are made by the same company and ran the same software, the Jorn did not have an alarm feature. More importantly, I felt like the vibration motor on both Skagens was so weak that, unless I was expecting a call, text or email, I would miss the notification altogether. This defeated the purpose of buying a hybrid smartwatch. I also considered other hybrids made by Fossil, but preferred a more conservative and cleaner watch face.
I also considered the Garmin Vivomove HR, along with hybrid smartwatches by Martian, but I was turned off by the reviews, and I was not a fan of the designs. I also considered a company called Kronaby, but I did not feel comfortable spending $350+ for a piece of technology from a company I had never heard of.
Enter Withings/Nokia. I loved the way they looked, but I had disregarded it in the past because their original product, the Steel, did not have notifications. This changed with the Steel HR and the Steel HR Sport. First, I preferred a 40mm face, which eliminated 2 of the 3 versions of the Steel HR that have 36mm faces. The 40mm version of the Steel HR only came with a black face, while both versions of the Steel HR Sport had 40mm faces, and came in both black and white. What's also great is that the Steel HR and Steel HR sport have this discrete screen that show notifications.
At first, I thought the black-faced watch would look better, and it would conceal the notification screen better. However, while the black Steel HR and Steel HR Sport do conceal the notification screen, I found the hour and minute markings to be too light, and the hour and minute hands to be too thin. This really became a problem if I was trying to read the time in anything but direct light. Basically, with the black-faced watches, they were unreadable in anything but direct light. As a lot of the reviews have stated, this is due to how reflective that mineral glass is. In addition, I felt like the minute and hour markers on the Steel HR (the straight lines) were so light that it was hard to tell time. Though I might be wrong, I suspected it would be hard to tell time even with the white-faced 36mm Steel HR.
I thought that the white-faced Steel HR Sport would not look as good as the black one, but my presumption turned out to be wrong. I've only had the white Steel HR sport for about two weeks, but I am loving it. It looks like a classic watch, and I get call, text, work e-mail notifications, and alarms. Unlike the black-faced Steel HR and Steel HR Sport, the time is easy to read. It's still hard to read the time in darkness, as there's no lume on the hands, but the readability of the white-faced watch is significantly better than that of the black-faced watch.
In addition, the product's battery is supposed to last up to 25 days. Two weeks after fully charging the watch, the app tells me the battery is at 61%. Not bad, though I also have not yet used the watch for workouts of any kind.
As an added bonus, this watch uses a standard (and very common) 20mm watch band, so I replaced the perforated silicone sport band w/ a brown leather band, which goes well with my typical business casual work attire.
A number of reviews complained about how easily scratched the mineral glass is. Since I've only owned the watch approximately two weeks, I have not noticed any scratches. However, I also bought a screen protector to prevent future scratches (IQ Shield brand).
Time will tell how durable the Steel HR Sport is. While I tend to be very cautious with anything I buy, I am not going to be terribly upset if the watch lasts a year or two, as I paid $150 after tax (through Amazon Warehouse).
So, in summation, I recommend the Steel HR Sport, but only in white.
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