Withings WS-50 Smart Body Analyzer review
I’ve said it plenty of times before, but I like gadgets and tech, and often use them to provide motivation as far as fitness and training is concerned. Be it a GPS enabled watch such as my Garmin 910XT, Virtual Power turbo training such as TrainerRoad or technical socks, I fall for them all and use them all the time – pretty much daily for all of the above.
My main problem at the moment though is shedding the excess weight put on whilst riding from John O-Groats to Lands End last year and then added to over Christmas. So, I decided to treat myself and get a pair of Withings Smart Body Analyser WS-50 scales… Quite why we still call them a ‘pair’ of scales I don’t know, but old habits die hard…. I did only buy one ‘set’ really, not a pair of them!
We already have a ‘set’ of bio-electrical impedance scales that seem to work quite well. To be honest they almost seem to work too well and I’ve been convinced that they simply weigh you like any other set of scales and then spit out a body fat percentage calculated via an algorithm based your height, age and gender (that you input when setting them up). That said they don’t work if you have socks on, so maybe they are doing something but they were so cheap that I’ve never been convinced.
Despite this I thought that a set of new scales that were more expensive and had a few extra feature would be a good incentive to get me back down towards racing weight and racing body composition. Enter the Withings Smart Body Analyser WS-50 Scale.
Withings Smart Body Analyser WS-50 Scales
Now, these look like a the scales of a proper gadget hound!
- Ultra precise weight and body fat measurement with Position Control
- Heart rate measurement by stepping on the scale
- Continuous indoor air quality tracking
- Automatic upload of your measurements in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- Health Mate app to visualize trends and improvements (iOS and Android)
- Four weight sensors
- Weighing range: 0 -> 180 kg (0 -> 396 lb)
- 100g (0.2 lb) graduation
- Units: kg, lb, st lb
- Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis
- Athlete and non-athlete mode
- Unit: body fat %
- Patent-pending heart rate measurement technology
- Unit: bpm (beats per minute)
- Unit: C°/ F° for temperature
- Unit: ppm (parts per million) for carbon dioxide
- Large graphical display (2.4″ x 1.6″)
- 128×64 pixels and backlighting
- Withings Health Mate app for iOS or Android
- 60+ compatibles apps and services
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, WEP/WPA/WPA2-personal security compatible
- Bluetooth connectivity (Bluetooth Smart Ready) compatible with iOS and Android devices
- iPhone (3GS or later), iPad (all versions) or iPod touch (3rd generation or later), with iOS 5.0 or later and Internet access (mobile data or Wi-Fi)
- Bluetooth-enabled Android smartphone or tablet with Android 2.3.3 or later, Internet access (mobile data or Wi-Fi).
- Wi-Fi Home Network (optional)
Yep, you read that right, these are Wi-Fi and bluetooth enabled bathroom scales so they can even Tweet your weight or post it to Facebook should you so wish!
The full specs are shown in the column to the left.
At just over £100 you’d be expecting a decent piece of kit and unpacking didn’t disappoint. Packaging was minimalist and very ‘Apple-esque’ and the scales themselves are very well built. They are larger than your average bathroom scales, but the shiny glass-topped surface fits in well to a modern, tech-lovers house. I certainly like the styling and with both a black or white version available they should suit most peoples taste or decor. I went for the shiny black version which certainly looks good. It is a bit of a dust-magnet though so my OCD nature has me constant polishing it to keep it shiny and gorgeous looking.
The top surface is one big slab of glass which make the whole unit feel heavy and solid. There is a 2.4″ x 1.6″ window under the glass surface which has a house a backlit single colour LCD. There is also a stainless steel circle in the middle that can be touched to show you air temperature and air quality.
Underneath there is very little other than four feet (it comes with extra feet should you be using it on a carpet), two small touch buttons used to set it up and a battery compartment that holds the 4 AAA batteries that power the scales. It came with batteries included and the should last for many months.
Once unpacked it was just a matter of removing the little tab that covered the batteries and the scales powered up. It was now time to set them up. They connect to a phone via bluetooth and connecting the two was easy. Simply press the ‘connect’ button on the bottom of the scales for two seconds and a ‘pairing message’ appears on the screen. Time to get your bluetooth enabled phone (a iPhone 4 in my case) and turn on bluetooth and check the pairing. It soon finds the scales and a message appears on the scales saying ‘Start Withings App’.
At this stage you need to download the Withings App from the App Store and start it up. Once you start it up it shows you that the WS-50 scales are paired with you phone and walks you through setting up a Withings account. You enter a few details here – you can add extra users if you wish and then it moves on to connecting your scales to a W-Fi Network.
Things get quite clever here as it will simply use the same Wi-Fi Network as the one your phone is connected to so you don’t need to enter the details. You can choose not to connect to a Wi-Fi network if you wish and only sync your data from the scales to the Withings account via bluetooth. I tried this for a while as I was having issues keeping the scales connected to the Wi-Fi network, but the bluetooth syncing seems a little hit and miss to me.
In the end I moved the scales from the beach-room to the bathroom which was closer to the Wi-Fi router and so far they have stayed connected fairly well. We often have issues with things connecting to our Wi-Fi router though and whenever any new Wi-Fi device enters the house and joins the network it seems as though something else gets disconnected, so this may have been an issue with our network rather than the scales. That said they do seem better now that they are in the bathroom and following the initial problems have been connecting well and syncing without any issues for the past few weeks.
The second button on the bottom of the scales allows you to change the readout on the display between lbs and kgs, ºF or ºC etc, but these can also be changed from within the Withings account online.
Now that everything is set up you can start using the scales. Simply step on them and the fun begins. First the scales will display your weight. If you aren’t positioned correctly on the scales it’ll indicate this with little arows, but that doesn’t ever happen for me. The scales will then display your weight for a couple of seconds.
At this point, if you have more than one user set up to use the scales it’ll display your name as well. It does this based on your weight, so if two users are of a similar weight it’ll display both names and you can select one by leaning to the side that your name is displaying on.
The scales will then measure your body fat. This takes a couple of seconds and body fat is then displayed on the screen either as a weight or a percentage of total body weight.
After your body fat is displayed, we often get a little umbrella displayed on the screen showing us that it is forecast to rain today – we do live in Wales, so see this most days!
Next up is another progress bar while the scales record you heart rate. This is then displayed on the screen, followed by a final screen which shows you the temperature in the room and the air quality based on CO2 levels in the room.
The whole process take 10-15 seconds and the data is then automatically uploaded via Wi-Fi to your Withings account where you can review it online or on your phone app.
Your Withings Account and App.
The online withings account and the associated phone app are both quite nice. We have the scale set up with one account for the household and then 3 different profiles within that account. One for me, one for Anna and one for Morgan. This means that we can each see each others data, but if you’d prefer such things to be private the scales can be set up to upload data to separate accounts too.
The app and website show you plenty of little charts tracking your progress in the various parameters, weight, body composition, the air temperature and quality and heart rate. The app also has a step tracking facility which is displayed within your profile too, and both the app and online account will gather data from other Withings products too such as the Withings Pulse (activity tracker) or the Withings Aura (sleep tracker).
It all seems to work well, shows the data you need at your fingertips and of course encourages you to buy more Withing proudcts. You can adjust various setting within the app or online and these will be transmitted to the scales for easy set up adjustments.
You can also connect you withings account with other services such as MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper and plenty of other online training and fitness tracking tools. My training diary software Rubitrack will even sync with my Withings account too so I can keep track of my weight etc in many places without having to input it manually anymore.
And now onto the all important accuracy. Weight-wise the scales seem spot on so no complaints there. They seem OK as far as body-fat percentage is concerned too. They read a little higher than the old scales we have so aren’t quite so flattering from that point of view, and they do sometimes come up with odd readings. For instance sometimes I can stand on them once and get a reading of 13.6% then immediately measure again and get a reading of 14.6%. Not a huge difference I know, but it does make you wonder.
As far as actually accuracy goes then I’ve recently had a full blown body scan in a DXA scanner and this showed me to actually have a body fat percentage of 19.5% a fair bit higher than the usual 13-15% the Withings Scales have been reading. Whilst the actual precise figures are nice to know, I guess the main thing is that the figures you get are repeatable. It doesn’t matter if it reads low, if it consistently reads low as that way you can at least track changes. I’m hoping to lose some body fat over the next few months as race season approaches and have another DXA scan booked in too, so it’ll be interesting to see how the scales track any changes here compared to changes measured precisely on the DXA scanner.
To conclude, these are a well built set of scales that do everything they claim to do. Set up was a little frustrating to start with but that may just have been our Wi-Fi network. They ability to set them up for several different users is well thought out and works well. From an accuracy standpoint I’m still not completely convinced but they do seem to be tracking changes in my weight and body composition well. The Heart Rate feature works well for me too, although quite how useful this is I don’t know as by the time you’ve stood on the scales, you aren’t measuring reating heart rate or any other useful heart rate metric. The same is true of the Co2 measurements. It’s interesting but I’m not really sure what I can do with the information it gives me in this respect.
Overall, they don’t do a huge amount more than a much cheaper set of scales, other than the fact that they wirelessly sync your data to various accounts. If you like that sort of thing or like me keep track of it in many different places then they are the scales for you. If not, then they are probably far too expensive for what they do. If however they motivate me to get myself back in shape and back to race weight and composition then they are indeed worth twice the price!