Withings Move review: Respect the simplicity

Do you wear a watch? I'm not talking about a smartwatch but a regular ol' ticker, the type you can pick up for a few dollars on Amazon or (overpriced) at any mall or airport kiosk. While there are few modern studies breaking down the actual number of watch wearers out there, the influx of smart options, from Fitbits to Wear OS to, for the iPhone crowd, Apple Watch, has absolutely affected the sales of analog watches.

But it's also given rise to the hybrid, a curious mix of old and new. Withings, with its Activité line of hybrid watches, has been doing its thing since 2014, and the brand has persisted through a purchase by, and subsequent diversiture from, Nokia. Now it's back with a couple of low-cost options under the Withings Move brand, and there's a lot to like about this colorful, light and minimal $70 offering.

The good

  • Superb battery life even with tracking
  • Simple, attractive design with lots of color and style options
  • Water resistant
  • Step and sleep tracking is relatively accurate
  • Price is right

The bad

  • Plastic casing easily scuffs and scratches
  • No heart rate monitoring

Check your expectations

While you can get a classic Timex Weekender for about $30 on Amazon, the average hybrid watch — which promises the battery life of a traditional Timex or Fossil with the ongoing intelligence of a smart gadget — is still over $100. So at $70, Withings' colorful Move series, which was unveiled at CES in January, bucks the trend somewhat.

The Withings Move looks like a $50 watch but its seamless step and sleep tracking justify the added cost.

The low-key face has two dials, a larger one for time etched in Withings' distinctive sans-serif numerals, with a smaller one enmeshed inside with a scale from zero to 100%. That one lurches forward throughout the day as you amble (or run, depending on your predilections) towards your step goal, which is by default 10,000 but can be set to anything you like.

Move, unlike the more sophisticated Steel series, is colorful almost to a fault, and promises to become even more so with a web-based customization engine coming online later this year. For now there are five color options: Black, Blue, Coral, Mint/White (seen here), and Mint/Black. I liked the mint accent more in theory when I saw the demo units six months ago, but after wearing a watch with a very noticeable strap color I probably would have preferred something a bit more low-key. (The second the customization engine is open I'm designing a Mint/Black version with a black strap instead of mint.)

A single button on the right side begins manual workout tracking, for which there are more than two dozen options, but you can only choose specifics afterwards in the app — holding down the button merely starts tracking time, steps taken, and uses your phone's GPS to gauge location and distance. But you don't have to do any of that: the watch automatically tracks walks, runs, bike rides, and swims.

It's a pretty reliable system for something so anemic, but given the lack of a screen the paucity of on-watch data is understandable. And having the thing water resistant up to 50m means I don't have to worry about taking it off in the shower, when doing the dishes, or anything that involves water near my daughter (which almost always results in me getting soaked).

Connectivity is a cinch thanks to Bluetooth LE, which searches out the closest smartphone and syncs in the background every few hours. Sleep tracking is also available, parlayed in Fitbit-like charts in the accompanying iOS or Android app (though, without a heart-rate monitor, it lacks Fitbit's more granular metrics).

Automatic workout tracking is very reliable and the Withings app is surprisingly good.

The casing is plastic and scuffs easily, about as easily as the top glass scratches. My Move review unit has taken quite a beating over its two-month sojourn on my wrist — it's become my 10-month-old daughter's favorite thing to chew and throw — and it's held up extremely well. Despite numerous Amazon reviews accusing the band of tearing and the glass of cracking, I've no equivalent complaints.

Why I like the Withings Move so much

It's been really nice wearing a watch that tracks my steps and sleep that doesn't need charging. The battery lasts a purported 18 months, and the CR2430 cell is easily replaced. Other reviewers have accused the step tracking of being inaccurate, so I wore a Fitbit Charge 3 alongside the Move for a few days to test the veracity of those claims. Each day the Move was within 500 to 1000 steps of the Charge 3, but I've also heard accusations that Fitbit is overly generous with its counts so it's a wash.

I'm using this as a watch, not as a step tracker. That's why I like the step tracking so much.

I'm not usually so blasé about movement metrics in a review of a wearable, but here's the thing: I'm not wearing the Move as a serious exercise tracker but as a casual way to keep me informed of my approximate steps (I can usually tell when I was a total slacker on a particular day, but it's nice to know that those 7,000 steps I thought I took were actually more like 11,000, or vice versa) and relative sleep quality.

For those things, and for telling the time, it's entirely capable. It's also quite fetching, save for the mint-colored band (which is easily replaceable with another 18mm option) on my unit.

4 out of 5

I also appreciate the ambition with which Withings is approaching the Move lineup: it wants to have the brand completely customizable, from color and style variations in dial to case to activity hand to wristband. It's even promising that customers will be able to upload their own designs and have them printed on the face (tastefully, I hope, but I fear not). This is a lineup that hopes to appeal to young people but may snag those, like me, who just want a watch that does a little bit more, and can take a bit more of a beating in the process.

If you're looking for an actual smartwatch, or a proper fitness tracker, look elsewhere. I'll probably gravitate back to one of those in due time. But I'm really enjoying not having a screen on my wrist, and not worrying about having to charge the damn thing every day.

That peace of mind goes a long way.

Daniel Bader

Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central.