Nokia Health Steel HR Review

Nokia Health Steel HR Review

In February of 2017, Nokia announced that the Withings brand would be taken under the wing of the Nokia family and all products will be branded as Nokia and sold as one brand. Ever since this announcement, one of the prominent smart wears by Withings – the Steel HR, now the Nokia Health Steel HR, has enjoyed increased sales. But is the Nokia branding the only reason this hybrid watch has made exponential sales? Well, not quite. The Nokia Health Steel HR has a lot to offer its users.

The unit borrows all the great features from the Activite Range and adds to it better, and new features including a separate digital display for notifications and a heart rate monitor on its back side. It is these simple additions that have earned the device such popularity standards in such a short span.

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The Steel HR comes with the option of two face sizes; the 40mm and the 36mm. The 36mm face model is slightly more appealing on my rather small wrist than the 40mm model. But other than the size, the variants are almost indistinguishable. The shiny metallic surface and the curved glass on the face of the watch makes the watch feel more like a premium product and a stylish analog watch at the same time.

Given the low and affordable price tag on this unit, there is no sign of the sapphire glass, the kind that is present on the high-end Activite. The watch is lightweight which to many comes as a relief and gives it some bit of uniqueness with every other unit being considerably heavier.

The watch also comes with the option of silicone or leather watch straps. The choice of straps will depend on the model that you choose. The unit I got came with a black silicone strap and was surprisingly comfortable. The straps are supple and elastic and do not dig into the skin even when you have the watch wrapped tight on the skin during exercises. Also, unlike other silicone straps, it does not pick up fluff and lint.

The Nokia Health Steel HR comes with a standard analog watch dial and a secondary dial right below it. The secondary dial displays progress towards completing the daily steps goal. A complete revolution of the hand on this dial marks 100% completion of your daily target

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Steel HR Features and Digital Display

In comparison to older Withings hybrid watches, the Steel HR is slightly more interesting on the top. With the dynamic and digital display, the watch is to die for. The display provides information on the heart rate, a number of calories burnt as well as the number of calories taken. The Crown button on the watch is used to scroll through the options.

With the new Steel HR, receiving notifications from the synced smartphone is a breeze. The watch can receive notifications of messages, calls and scheduled calendar events. The display truly goes a long way to making it feel smarter than its predecessors.

But not all is rosy and perfect with this unit. The notifications that can come through to the watch are limited. For instance, no emails or notifications from third-party applications such as social media apps can go through to the hybrid watch. For people who have fully embraced social media and rarely make use of the traditional SMS messaging service, its limitation in this area is a major blow.

Adding to this, the notification display is quite small in size. It does not leave a lot of room to work with. One has to scroll through the notifications. Overall, the unit loses the ‘at a glance’ convenience, and you have to wait for a while before you can read the entire title of your calendar entry or caller ID.

It is rather comforting to note that the digital monochrome display is legible and is bright. As a matter of fact, the unit features auto brightness support meaning that it adjusts to the surrounding. As such, you will never have any problems making out the content on the screen during the day and at night, whether indoors or outdoors.

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Health Mate App

Unlike most fitness tracking apps, the Health Mate Companion app pairs the Health Steel HR to mobile devices running on both Android and iOS platforms. The pairing between the two devices is via Bluetooth. After pairing, the app takes you through some steps prompting you to adjust the target steps as well as the time.

The application is used by all other Withings (now Nokia Smart Health devices) and you can, therefore, have all your relevant health data available on one platform. The app has a timeline that breaks down the Steel HR recorded activities day by day. The app provides a general overview of the activities with the option of clicking on specific activities and getting more details. Through the app, you can also set the alarms to wake you up every morning.

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Exercise and Activity Tracking 

As mentioned before, the secondary dial is included to show you the progress of your daily activity goals. A full rotation denotes 100% completion of your goals. This is easier to decipher in comparison to the light combinations available on other fitness trackers and hybrid watches.

On the back side of the watch is a new addition to the watch a Photoplethysmography heart rate monitor. This hardware is designed to take continuous as well as resting heart rate readings. The monitor is not always taking readings though, but instead, it takes readings at intervals each a few minutes long. Once it detects engagement in physical activity, it kicks into continuous monitoring.

The Health Steel HR is designed to automatically detected ranges of basic activities including swimming, running and walking. Speaking of swimming, it is rather pleasing to know that the unit is water resistant up to 50 meters depth. When you take a dip though, the watch stops monitoring your heart rate. Being a swimmer, I found this to be pretty disappointing since this meant that I had to be more active in other ways.

Given that the Health Steel HR does not come equipped with a GPS and does not use the GPS of the phone it is connected to, the watch is forced to estimate distance using its accelerometer. While this is not expected to be as accurate as the GPS in providing distances, the recordings are off. I ran a test and compared the distance calculated by my Android smartphone with GPS abilities and the watch. For the same distance covered, my watch estimated about 14 km while my phone estimated about 10.5 km.

Given its faults in the distance measurement department, it is safe to assume that you are not a runner if you are considering purchasing the Nokia Health Steel HR. that said, the fact that the unit is consistent is the figures it provides is more important than its accuracy.

In a bid to get back in the game, the heart rate monitor’s performs is impressive. As a matter of fact, in comparison to the Jabra Sport Pulse monitoring abilities, the Steel HR was only 2 BPM higher than the maximum reading. These readings command massive respect for a heart rate monitor worn on the wrist.

The sleep tracking on this unit is also great. The app breaks down the sleep pattern into Deep, Light and Awake sleep phases. It also displays the average heart rate while you are asleep and the number of times you woke up while you were sleeping.

The heart rate provided while you sleep is particularly a great indicator of your sleeping patterns and health. It helps to pick out anomalies so that you can attend to them fast.

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Battery Life

If you were frowning upon the interval based heart rate reading, you will now get to appreciate it. It helps in prolonging the life of the battery. The Steel HR can last for about 25 days after which it kicks into low power mode and disables all notifications and HRM function. In this state, it can continue with its activity tracking and can last for an additional 20 days without shutting down.

When you finally do get some time to charge the unit (and you will), all you will need to do is stick it to the magnetic inductive charger. You, however, have to wait for the charging icon to be displayed on the screen otherwise you cannot be too sure the unit is charging since the magnetism on the charger provided is weak.

Should You buy the Nokia Steel HR?

Needless to say, the Nokia Health hybrid watch is stylish and sophisticated exuding the status of a premium class. The fact that it comes in two sizes increases its appeal. Additionally, the heart rate monitor and notification display incorporated in the unit are excellent and what is most impressive is that Nokia found a way to reduce their effect on the battery life.

If you are on the hunt for a stylish and discreet activity tracking devices, one that comes with an inbuilt heart rate monitor, the Steel HR is perfect. The easy to use companion app and its great stylish design can be considered as bonuses.

Review Conclusion

The Nokia Steel HR is a stylish wearable complemented by the heart rate monitor feature. Feel free to share your thoughts and comments on the review above adding or correcting facts going by your user experience.

If you have used the Nokia Health Steel HR and would love to add a thing or two on this review, tell us about it in the comment section.


8 Total Score

  • Design and Build Quality
  • HR Sensor
  • Battery Life
  • Water Resistance
  • Small Screen
  • Limited Notifications
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