Withings WiFi Scale

withingsIf you have been following this blog for a while, you know that I track my weight. Ever since the days of the fat teenager, I wanted to keep it under control. I’ve had my ups and downs, but in the past 20 years, I have never moved more than 10 pounds from my standard weight of 174.

I wrote software to track my weight on a variety of platforms. It became the default thing for me to do with every new programming language and UI environment: create a widget that allows you to enter weight (and later bodyfat) data and display it in a meaningful way.

What I have always lacked is a scale that does more than display the results. I wanted a scale that transmits the information to some place. Couldn’t find anything interesting at a reasonable price, until I got the Withings WiFi scale.

Looks

If you are just looking for style, the WiFi Body Scale doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it’s the best-looking scale I’ve ever seen. I got the black version and it makes my bathroom look like a thousand bucks. 

Prior to it, I used a Tanita scale (which also monitors bodyfat). That one always looked intensely geeky – with its beige color, buttons sticking out, and cheap LCD display.

The Withings scale is sleek, minimalistic, and the materials used make it stand out in a good way. It is remarkable for being unremarkable. 

Even the LCD display is well-done – it turns on automatically when you step on the scale and is a pleasant white on black that makes the text appear on the body of the scale – as if there was no display at all, just a flat surface that magically has text appearing on it.

Installation

The package in which the scale arrives is surprisingly small. It barely holds the scale itself, a connection cable (mini USB), the usual quick start guide in four languages (thankfull on four different fliers) and that’s it.

For some reason, the scale came with batteries already installed, while the material claimed that you had to insert the batteries. That was slightly confusing, since I couldn’t find any batteries in the package. Also, it’s not clear from looking at the scale and the material that you open the battery compartment by sliding the cover first.

When I did, though, I saw the batteries (checked out that they were not wrapped in plastic, and they weren’t). Next to them is also the mini USB port for connectivity to your computer. 

The only setup required is to tell the scale the WiFi info needed. To do that, you connect the scale to your computer using the mini USB cable, download software from Withings.com, and quickly proceed. I have to admit I do not understand why the manufacturer chose this path instead of much simpler ones (like having the scale be a drive and the software used to set the values stored on it, or having the software be an automatic driver download), but all in all it’s not hard.

Once you have the scale configured to connect to your WiFi network, you need to set up an account with Withings.com. The site connects to a number of other sites for automatic update of your data (unfortunately not the one I actually use, myfitnesspal.com). It also gives you a slightly overwhelming display of your data.

Daily Use

One of the things that made the Tanita scale ugly was the number of push buttons on the front of the scale with which you’d tell it who was stepping on. Withings thinks it can automatically determine who stepped on it, presumably by a combination of weight and body fat. Which means your use of the scale is as simple as in the olden day.

Step on. Wait. Step off.

That’s it. And thanks to the wireless connectivity, you don’t even have to look. The moment of shame will be later, when you actually look at the data.

Interface

Like many user gadgets these days, the main interface to connect to your scale is the phone app. So far, I have only used the web interface, but the site offers both iPhone and Android apps. I suggest you try those out while I find the space necessary on the SD card of my trusted Motorola.

There are a few things that confuse me about the interface. For instance, someone else shows up in the accounts list on the left, someone whose name I don’t recognize, but whom I also cannot remove from the list. Is that a default test account? Someone else that bought the scale? I don’t know.

The graph that displays your weight and body fat is fixated on its idea of acceptable weight. In my case, apparently, I should be weighing between 121 and 174 pounds. I know this because the weights between those two appear in a different shade and the graph always shows the area. I am too muscular for the curve they have (as shown by the body fat percentage widget, which shows that I am way too far to the skinny side), and as a result my graph will pretty much always look like a flat line. 

Summary

Frankly, even without the WiFi connectivity, the scale is hands down the best-looking scale I’ve seen.

With the WiFi connectivity, it becomes a really useful gadget. I don’t know you, but I weigh myself first thing in the morning; taking away the need to watch and remember the values on the display is worth it for me alone.

The web interface could use some love. As it stands, it looks more slick than useful. Then again, you probably use your own service for health tracking, so that’s not a big deal. 

I didn’t test the Android interface, so you probably want to check that out. 

The scale offers some functionality, like import/export, that I had no current use for. Data openness, though, is pretty important when it comes to health-related information. Kudos to Withings.

That the scale connects to standard WIFi, that it uses regular AAA batteries, that it connects for installation using a standard mini USB cable – all things that tell you Withings understands how gadgets should be built.

Two thumbs up – even at $159.

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