Withings: ‘Smartwatches today give wearables a bad name’

Withings CEO Cédric Hutchins has criticised the current state of the smartwatch market, suggesting it’s giving the wider wearables space ‘a bad name’.

Speaking exclusively with TrustedReviews at CES 2015, the man behind the newly unveiled Withings Activité Pop suggested that gaudy, overly complicated and battery-sapping smartwatches from the likes of Samsung, LG and Motorola are hurting the reputation of the overall wearables industry.

I want to be careful, but smartwatches today, they are giving wearables a bad name,” he told us.

Suggesting that poor user experiences from daily charges and clunky interfaces are deterring consumers from experiencing the wider range of wearable gadgets, he added: “Samsung and other phone companies are subsidising their equipment and we are seeing a lot of products drop.”

Although Withings offers its own ‘smart’ watch-based wearables, the French manufacturer has taken a radically different approach to the market.

Overlooking touchscreen displays, heart-rate sensors, call notifications and Google’s Android Wear OS, the company has instead focused on classic watch styling and simple fitness and wellbeing tracking.

Capable of recording your step count, calorie burn, sleep patterns and even swim strokes, the Activité and the more affordable Activité Pop display only your 0-100% progress toward a preset goal. This is shown through a secondary dial on the watch face.

Further, more detailed metrics can be viewed via the accompanying Bluetooth Low Energy connected app.

Looking to Withings’ own, more refined watch-themed fitness tracker, Hutchins added: “I think we have quite a unique approach, to make a genuine, true watch that has all these sensors but appeals to people who are looking for a watch.

Related: Withings Pulse O2 review

Despite criticising the growing smartwatch space, Hutchins has ceded that these over-the-top, smartphone-on-your-wrist devices do serve a purpose – namely grabbing attention.

“A very important point to make is that when you have a new technology disruption or innovation, there is always a need at the very beginning to have something that is highly identifiable,” he said. “The alien technologies appeal for the early adopters.

“However, in the next phase you need another disruption. It is not just about getting a larger audience with the same offer; each time you go more mass market, it puts more of a challenge on a tech company like us because it needs to be more elegant and a smoother transition.

“It becomes harder and harder to change as the product category goes mass market.”

With the Withings Activité Pop having been officially unveiled earlier this week, the manufacturer has confirmed the device will be available in the UK later this month.

Set to be offered through Currys and PC World towards the end of January, the Activité Pop has been handed a wallet-friendly sub-£120 price tag.

Unlike other sites, we thoroughly review everything we recommend, using industry standard tests to evaluate products. We’ll always tell you what we find. We may get a commission if you buy via our price links. Tell us what you think – email the Editor