And the winner is ...

by Volker Weber

<img src=

I tried a couple of solutions to track my steps this year. A Fitbit, a Jawbone UP24, a Withings Pulse Ox, a Lumia 930, a Pebble, and of course the iPhone. I really liked the UP24 until it broke and Jawbone took three weeks to replace it. I lost a few hundred thousand steps and re-started with a new band. Then they "upgraded" (read ruined) the software with a "Smart Coach". I had Withings Health Mate installed to track weight and blood pressure, so I let the iPhone track my steps and record them into Health Mate. Then I tried the Pulse Ox, which gave a few insights I did not have before. Ox level is always 98% and my resting pulse is between 60 and 70. Not much variation here. I also no longer needed to track my sleep, since I learned that I just have to go to bed early, after taking an evening walk, to maximize my sleep. I also tried tracking with the Lumia 930 and the Pebble but found them to be inaccurate. I wanted to try the Microsoft Band but that was not available for testing and is currently completely sold out.

Fitbit, Pulse and UP24 had the same weakness: syncing via Bluetooth LE is not as reliable as I expected. The software on the iPhone was never up-to-date. I tried syncing with a BlackBerry and was running down the battery really quickly through the Android runtime. The Pulse would let me check my data, but I had to push a button, even for looking at the time. This could be fixed in software: turn the display on when flicking your wrist.

The winning combination is now an iPhone as tracker and the Pebble as display. Max Bäumle wrote a watchface for me which displays the time and the current step count. It periodically updates from the iPhone or when I flick my wrist. The display is always on so I can check the time and the step count without pushing a button. And I don't have to fetch the iPhone. The Pebble also displays notifications from the iPhone, which is an added bonus.

The iPhone is now silent at all times. The Pebble vibrates on incoming calls. If I do not want to be disturbed I simply take off the watch. Battery life is excellent for a smartwatch. I recharge when the Pebble tells me it has reached 20%. I don't track the time but I am pretty sure it needs a recharge after five to six days. When I get the 20% warning, I still have more than a day left.

A Pebble is now less than a hundred Dollars. You get an additional $20 off through a promotion in Max's Smartwatch Pro. It's a companion app for the watchface and it also provides access to your calendar, reminders and to Twitter. Highly recommended if you have a Pebble.

Update: Discount not working in Germany. :-(


My final winner is the Withings Activité which I found to combine some imoressive features which are important to me.
I also owned an Up24 and like yours it broke after some minths of use. The new Up3 was/is still unavailable! Marketing seems to betoo fast for operations with Jawbone.

Then I settled for the new Withings Activité and was incredibly happy to getting one before they - once again - were sold out.

The advantages are:

- Comination of an analog watch with analog Step counting
- long lasting battery instead of frequent charging
- A properly working app (iOS only)
- Attractive design in only one wearable device
- Water proof construction
- Swimming activity tracking via (not yet issued but announced for end of year) Software update
- 2 tool-free x-changeable wristbands (One fine leather / one waterproof silicone)
- basic touch screen to show the (vibration) alarm time

The disadvantage us:
-The ambitious price of nearly 400 €!

But honestly: I love it from the 1st day of use

Uwe Papenfuss, 2014-12-26

Congratulations on scoring an Activité. It's really nice watch with lots of advantages. I would be missing the notifications and the step count beyond 10.000.

Don't hold your breath for the swimming activity tracking. I have seen others fail before. ;-) But that's not really the point anyway. It's a beautiful watch and helps you track your activity.

Volker Weber, 2014-12-26

Regaring step count: is WiThings "Health Mate" more accurate than Apples „Health“ when using the iPhone 5s without any external gadget?


Alex Martin, 2014-12-27

No idea. But you can try yourself. Walk a few hundred steps with each software, count the steps and compare.

Volker Weber, 2014-12-27

Since both apps just use the results provided by the M8 (or M7) both are equally accurate. I use 3 different apps which provide also step counting. The numbers have been always identical down to one step.

Frank Mueller, 2014-12-27

It's been a pleasure watching Pebble put the effort and software development revs in this year. They've taken a good smartwatch and incrementally grown it into a great one, adding fitness monitoring and a bagillion other tweaks along the way.

All the other vendors are far too eager to move onto the next hardware rev and don't pay attention to improving what they've already launched.

I hope Pebble can keep this focus.

Craig Wiseman, 2014-12-28

Thanks Frank, I tried it out yesterday and today and you are right. Both Apps show the same results regarding the step count. And the measured distance is pretty accurate too.


Alex Martin, 2014-12-29

@vowe: Vielen Dank für den Artikel. Ich bin jetzt erst auf die Pebble Smartwatch aufmerksam geworden und finde sie in Verbindung mit dem iPhone wirkkich genial.

Frank Köhler, 2014-12-31

Freut mich, dass Pebble bei Dir passt. Ich konnte sie mit Lumia nicht nutzen. Heute finde ich sie super.

Volker Weber, 2015-01-01

Old archive pages

I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.


Paypal vowe