The Withings.com website nicely sums up its own product, the Pulse Ox: “During the day it captures steps, distance walked, elevation climbed and calories burned. At night, it monitors your sleep cycles. And when asked, it measures your heart rate and blood oxygen level.”
If only every company could be so clear it would make everyone’s job of researching and buying products easier!
Now of course companies will then go on to tell you how wonderful their products are and, I guess, that’s my job too for this post – at adding a dash of independence.
Some reviewers will compare a certain product to the best on the market or the best in that segment. That’s fine, I suppose. But normally there is a reason why products are different. Different in features; different in price. I try to find out what sort of person the product is best for (there usually is someone, somewhere) and try to also look at bit more at WHY and HOW it might be useful for athletes or sporty people in general.
So, the Pulse Ox looks interesting. It is marketed to analyse sleep cycles and to measure blood oxygen levels.
For an athlete; you train. That training is a stimulus to change/physical improvement. The change HAPPENS when you are not training and, most probably, when you are sleeping. To recover from a hard training session is not always easy; forget all the fancy food stuffs, quality sleep is the single best way to recover.
And, of course, if you are an athlete then blood oxygen levels are obviously of quite some importance.
OK. Here’s what I’m NOT going to review: steps, distances, elevation gained and calories. Pretty much every vaguely similar product does all of those. Sure the steps will vary from one product to the next but that’s not so important, you just want to track what you do in a consistent fashion over time with one product.
Firstly is this the WINTHINGS O2 or the Ox – I wasn’t so sure at first! It was the O2 and now it’s the Ox.
UNPACKING, AESTHETICS & SETTING UP
The packaging looks nice, the unit looks nice. Better than many. It has the options of wrist wearing and clip-to-the-belt wearing.
The sensor unit itself is designed to be regularly removed from either the wrist or belt mounting option. When removed, you can take blood oxygen (SPO2) or HR measurements as a one-off.
Here are some Withings images depicting ‘typical’ usage. (Nice pictures)
It comes with a short micro-USB cable and it assume syou will charge it from your PC. Equally the same cable (or another longer ones) can readily be used to link and charge to a USB based plug socket from your mains supply.
Quickly looking at the sensor on the rear the image below also shows the USB cable to give an idea of size. The single sensor takes both readings. When the device is placed back in the cradle the sensor will point to the cradle and will not be in contact with the skin and hence it can ONLY work when removed from the cradle to take HR readings.
To setup, I created an online account and downloaded an Android app. iOS is good too.
Navigation through the device’s menus is simple. Pressing the only button toggles through the menus/display screens. The touchscreen allows some further selections to be made or additional displays to be shown that are in some way linked to the initial screen by sliding them into view.
It’s pretty much ‘clip and go’. You wear it and it tracks what you do. No interaction as such is usually required. If you go for a run then it automatically tracks that heightened level of activity.
When, however, you go to sleep/bed you need to enter sleep mode. In the morning automatic detection of ‘waking up’ can be enabled/disabled. For a variety of reasons that I won’t go though again, that is a reasonable approach to adopt. It is not properly possible for smart devices to REALLY detect sleep, despite claims to the contrary by some vendors I’ve yet to see a product that correctly tracks the entire sleep duration for me. so it makes sense to tell a device that ‘I’m trying to go to sleep now’.
Similarly when you want to take a HR/SPO2 reading you have to specifically tell the device to do that. Again that’s reasonable.
There is no continuous monitoring of HR when running.
The device is not waterproof and you should avoid submerging it in water.
I took some photos of the various screens and displays but I will use those from Withings to give you a flavour – as they are better than mine ! The O2/ Ox has all the usual step/altitude/distance/calories/time information that you will probably need.
Having played with the device for a few days my usage scenario (ideal for me) kept coming back to this
- Use it as a sleep tracker
- Use it to take waking HR
- Use it to take waking SPO2
- Review trends of waking SPO2/HR on smartphone
- Review sleep quality trends on smartphone
- Use throughout the day uninterrupted as a pedometer
- Review steps data in the evening before turning on SLEEP mode.
Here is a flavour of the rather good data on the app or web interface.
So. In terms of integrating with my sports activity. It didn’t. I used my sports watch alongside the Withiings. The Pulse O2 / Ox is really a general fitness tool rather than a sports training tool.
If you are a Withings person with the weight scale and other home devices (air quality/weight/fat) then the Pule O2 / Ox augments your daily lifestyle tracking very nicely indeed. The O2 / Ox perhaps lacks a fair way behind some other activity trackers (well those that are smart bands) but it more than makes up for that in the quality of the online data/lifestyle platform. In the end, a step is a step – regardless of how you measure it!
Understanding WAKING HR and SPO2
When rested my waking HR will be less than 50bpm and my SPO2 was >98%. Anything below 70bpm or above 95% is fine. More info on interpretation is (here).
SUMMARY: Who is it suited For?
It’s most suited for someone who wants to record their daily steps/activity and general wellness indicators (waking HR/resting HR) and perhaps also someone who wants that as part of a more integrated home environment with other household sensors.
Someone more athletic might be interested, as I was, in the sleep/recovery/SPO2/waking HR metrics. Whilst there are other products that do those metrics equally as well there are FEW that will produce SPO2 data. Athletes should probably consider waking HRV and HR rather than waking HR alone – as such they would benefit from another tool.
But what draws me back to Withings is that the whole experience is good. It all works. It might be limited in a few respects but you plug it in. It’s pretty obvious what you have to do. It takes as little time to play with as you want and so does not interfere with your life…it just works and does a good job.
At less than GBP50.00 (below) it’s easily good value-for-money. A great present for yourself, a kid or your parents. I would say more than that; it is a great gateway product to get you into activity monitoring cheaply. Use it for a year and then see if you REALLY need to spend more than GBP200.00. Bearing in mind also that >GBP200.00 in a year’s tie will probably buy a lot more than it does now.
|Black Friday 2015||Amazon Price|
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