If there’s one thing the Nokia Steel HR has over the Fitbit Versa, it’s elegance. While Fitbit has been working tirelessly to get the right combination of smart and watch in its wearables, it has yet to launch a model that rivals the Nokia Steel HR’s classic looks. The hybrid watch looks like a standard analog timepiece and blends seamlessly with whatever you’re wearing, while still offering fitness and heart-rate tracking information via a small, discreet digital screen right on its face. It’s a far cry from the chunky style of traditional fitness trackers.

The design so deftly blends aesthetics and data collection together that I’ve been tempted more than once to replace my Fitbit Charge 2. I won’t, though. While Nokia has made plenty of updates to this rebranded Withings Steel HR, the changes haven’t fixed the biggest issue with the original: inaccurate fitness tracking.

Performance that skirts the edge of “good enough”

A problematic margin of error is a real shame, since Nokia’s retooled watch retains the Withings Steel HR’s solid collection of features. Automatic tracking still headlines the set, with heart rate, steps, distance, calories, walking, running, swimming, and sleep all recorded. Nokia says it now uses a new algorithm for heart-rate tracking to provide more accurate readings, particularly during workouts. The company has also rebuilt the watch case, which seems to have addressed the complaints of condensation forming in the Withings Steel HR—if you trust anecdotal information on forums and Reddit.

You can manually track continuous heart rate data as well, which is started by long-pressing the crown on the side of the watch. The Steel HR will vibrate and then display the amount of time that’s passed while monitoring heart rate. This option is ostensibly for tracking workouts, but I found it most useful as a stopwatch of sorts.

Nokia Steel HR 40mm back view Adam Patrick Murray / IDG

Nokia’s rebuild of the Withings Steel HR’s case includes a sapphire-glass covering over the heart-rate sensor.

Between its number of tracked activities, water resistance (up to 50 meters), and price of $180, the Nokia Steel HR is very competitive—in fact, it’s even a little cheaper than similar hybrid watches. The quality of its data, however, keeps it from being a knock-out winner. I tested the watch for almost two months (about a month each for the 36mm and 40mm sizes), and by the end of the third week, I had stopped placing much stock in the readings.

I couldn’t figure out a predictable pattern in the exercise sessions it auto-detected and recorded, nor why. A run on an elliptical machine completely would miss the Steel HR’s notice, but standing at my desk once registered as five minutes of running. (I make hand gestures while talking, but nothing close to the movements made when actually running.) A few times, Nokia’s Health Mate app informed me that part of my daily shower counted as swimming.

For the data that did match the activity I’d done, the quantity was generally under- or over-reported—though with a fairly consistent pattern. For amount walked in a day, the Steel HR misgauged the distance by about twenty percent relative to the actual mapped route. Heart-rate tracking often put me at 20 beats per minute higher than my true rate while exercising, and on occasion during sedate activity or while at rest. As for sleep data, I often got credit for a full hour or more of “sleep” when lying in bed and reading quietly or using my phone.

Nokia Steel HR 36mm and 40mm on wrist side by side Adam Patrick Murray / IDG

The Nokia Steel HR comes in two sizes: 36mm and 40mm, with the option of either a white or black watch face. The case is available in silver or rose gold.

But while the discrepancy between the Nokia Steel HR’s data and my actual daily activity is disappointing, I can’t say it’s a fatal flaw. It wouldn’t be fair—no smartwatch or fitness tracker I’ve used captures data accurately. All of the other devices that I’ve used (Moto 360; Pebble Round; and Fitbit Flex, Zip, Alta, and now Charge 2) exhibit a margin of error.





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