The Nokia Steel is the re-branded version of the Withings Activite Steel. Nokia bought the wearables champ in 2016, and has now given its fitness trackers the Nokia brand treatment.
If you don’t follow the wearables scene as closely as we do, though, that doesn’t matter. The fact the Nokia Steel is a very low-key, minimalist fitness tracker does matter.
Wearing one is just like wearing a watch, but it’s a watch that also tracks your steps and sleep.
Nokia Steel price and release date
- Originally $130/£120 but we’ve seen the price drop as low as $100 or £80
- Previously known as Withings Steel, now available under Nokia name
The Nokia Steel has an RRP of around $130/£120, making it a chunk cheaper than the smarter Nokia Steel HR that starts at $179.95/£169.95.
There’s also a slightly more expensive rose gold version of the Nokia Steel that costs £130/$149. We’ve seen the price of the normal Nokia Steel drop to around $100 or £80.
You can get fitness trackers with similar features for less money, but almost none will look quite as good as the Nokia Steel.
- Minimalistic design looks much more like a watch than a fitness tracker
- No screen, unlike the Nokia Steel HR
- Step counting dial to show you how far you’re from your goal
Effortless, stylish minimalism is a key appeal of the Nokia Steel. Just look at its face: a slim band of shiny steel borders a curved glass top and a delightfully plain black or white face.
Even among non-smart watches, the Nokia Steel is deliberately neutral. It looks just like the older Withings Activite Steel, but with a different name and altered fonts on the front.
Trust your own eyes on this one, but we think the Nokia Steel looks great.
It’s also very comfortable. The watch face is relatively small among smartwatches and the strap is soft, pliant silicone.
A few times during testing we’ve forgotten we were even wearing the Steel, and keeping it on at night for sleep tracking doesn’t feel like a trial.
You can also change the strap very easily. Nokia makes silicone straps in seven colors, leather ones and a few made of woven polyester.
As it is water resistant to 50M, you can wear the Steel in the swimming pool or bath. However, Nokia recommends getting the battery replaced by a jeweler rather than doing so yourself if you want to keep the water resistant in-tact.
- Limited fitness features but will suit step tracking or the odd jog/swim
- Doesn’t feature a heart rate tracker or GPS
Some hybrid fitness watches pull off clever tricks to pack smart features into what appears to be a normal watch. The Garmin Vivomove HR is a recent example, using a display that appears behind the watch face.
The Nokia Steel is a less ambitious wearable. It doesn’t offer notifications, heart rate readings or any sort of display. For that you’ll have to “upgrade” to the Nokia Steel HR, which has a smart little screen on its face.
This watch simply uses an accelerometer to count your steps and monitor sleep.
During setup you set your steps goal, and the smaller secondary dial on the face tracks your progress. Beat your goal? The little arm simply slips back to “0” and starts over again.
As activity tracking is based solely on a 3-axis accelerometer, the Nokia Steel isn’t a hardcore tracker for athletes. However, it does recognize a few activities.
Go on a long walk, or out for a run or swim and it’ll automatically log these in the app. There’s no way to manually start an activity, with no buttons or touchscreen on hand, but the algorithm does seem to pick up activity reliably enough.
For each you’ll see your distance, calories burned and a graph of activity intensity. However, without any metrics beyond basic motion, the Nokia Steel’s tracking is thin.
- Battery life of around eight months means you don’t have to worry about charging the Nokia Steel
- Works with traditional watch batteries
Long battery life is the main benefit of this approach. The Nokia Steel uses the same kind of coin-shaped battery as a normal watch, and it lasts for up to eight months.
This is, obviously, a very long time for a fitness tracker. Some last just a few days. However, as the battery is non-rechargeable you’ll have to prise open the back with a screwdriver and replace the CR2025 cell manually.
Nokia’s official line on doing so is “we strongly advise that you take it to your local jeweler or watchmaker and request that the battery be replaced. The replacement of the battery and the reassembly by a professional will ensure the watch will remain waterproof after the battery change.”
You’ll also likely see less than eight months’ longevity if you make use of one of the Nokia Steel’s few extra features, the “silent alarm”. There’s a vibration motor inside the Steel, letting you use it to wake up, or as a basic reminder.
However, the vibration is not particularly strong so may not pull everyone out of a deep sleep. It switches off after a few buzzes, and there’s no clever snoozing either: it’s a basic feature, if a welcome one. It may not wake all people up. We wouldn’t rely on it to get to work on time.
Interface and app
- Easy to use Nokia Health Mate app that clearly displays your stats
- Limited compared to some of the other apps available, but connects with lots of third-party services.
All the data recorded by the Nokia Steel ends up in the Health Mate app. For the most part this is a way to look back at your activity levels over, say, the past week. A timeline page lets you flick back through the days, checking out your step totals and auto-logged activities.
It can track other metrics too, and you can manually input stats like your weight and blood pressure. However, to get the most from the app you’d need something like the Nokia Body+, a smart scale that uses electrical pulses to estimate your body fat composition. And it’ll weigh you, of course.
There’s not the stat depth of the Garmin Connect platform or quite the fun of Fitbit here, but there are a few extra motivation-boosting parts. You earn “badges” by travelling a certain number of km, total, or by reaching a daily steps goal. And you can invite friends to take part in step challenges. These are lighter and flimsier than the best, but it’s better than nothing.
Linking to third-party apps is perhaps the most useful extra in Health Mate. You can connect with Google Fit, MyFitnessPal, Runkeeper, Nike+ and Nest. Most of these involve simple stat-sharing, but Nest uses your sleeping habits to automate your central heating.
As with the achievements part, other wearables let you connect to more apps than the Nokia Steel, but as this is such a low-key tracker band, it doesn’t strike us as a huge problem.
The appeal of the Nokia Steel relies on its pretty design, great comfort and long battery life. Its tech cred is limited, with minimal features beyond auto-tracking of a few different kinds of exercise.
However, it is perfect for those who primarily want a good-looking watch. And like the idea of trying out all-day step tracking.
It may not offer any new features over the old Withings model, but we’re not convinced a watch like this really needs them.
Who’s this for?
The Nokia Steel is for those who want a low-key fitness tracker that looks like a watch. But the main question to as yourself is: do you like how it looks? You’re buying a watch as much as a fitness tracker here.
Should you buy it?
Ask yourself: are you going to be happy with little more than step counting? If the answer is yes, the Steel is one of your better-looking, most comfortable options.
However, it’s not particularly good for athletes in training, harvesting just the thinnest slice of metrics.
Below you can see the products we think you may want to pick up if you’re not convinced by the Nokia Steel.
The Garmin Vivomove concept is similar to the Nokia Steel, but has a slightly more masculine design. Your steps are displayed as a white progress bar on the right, and the Vivomove has an extra red bar to the right of the clock arms. This is a “move” bar. When it fills up, it’s time to get off your backside and start moving.
It doesn’t have an alarm, as there’s no vibrate feature, but battery life of up to one year is impressive.
Skagen’s latest hybrid watch gets rid of the classic step-counter dial. However, it does more than the Nokia Steel. There are three buttons on the side, and a press of one will make the watch dial head to the upper left of the face, which features discreet numbers telling you how close you are to your steps goal.
Little coloured pips do the same for notifications — you program the watch arm to head to specific pips for specific apps. It’s not the full notification experience, but is a solid way to stop you getting phone from pocket with every message you receive.
Nokia Steel HR
The Nokia Steel HR is the Steel’s more advanced brother. It has a heart rate sensor and a display, capable of displaying basic SMS and call notifications. But not those from apps.
Nokia has managed to add a screen without ruining the design too, although the look is obviously more “techy”. The extra features also affect the battery style. Instead of using a replaceable coin battery, the Steel HR has a rechargeable lithium-ion unit that lasts for four days with constant HR tracking, or around three weeks in basic watch mode.
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