How to keep track of your life with an elegant smart watch — Nokia Steel HR

Dorien Herremans
Sep 23, 2019 · 5 min read

I’m into gadgets. Yet I never got a smart watch due to them looking overly big on my rather small wrist. Until I saw the Nokia Steel HR that is. I randomly noticed it while killing time in Heathrow airport, and fell in love. I bought it online as soon as my flight arrived in Singapore 13 hours later.

It’s been three weeks now since I’ve started wearing the Nokia Steel HR 36mm, and I must say I’m still impressed. Just like the hardware of my indestructible Nokia 3310, the steel is very nicely made. I feel like it’s giving me a new sort of control over and insight into my life in more ways than I had thought… (Keep on reading for my thoughts on sleep tracking, smart alarms, notifications, swim tracking (!), and more…)

Excellent / elegant looks

I’m not usually impressed by the design of smart watches of fit trackers, however, the Steel immediately caught my eye. Its very small (36mm) watch face looks like a normal watch, yet offers an impressive amount of features (even sleep tracking, which is still missing from the Apple Watch). For only $179.95 on Amazon, you get a smart looking smart watch with a ton of features.

The Nokia Steel HR is fully customisable. It comes with an easy clip-system to switch between bands. Useful for switching waterproof workout bands with leather bands for looking fancy.

Get your Nokia Steel HR on Amazon.

If you are up for a slightly bigger watch face (40mm), you can consider the Nokia Steel HR Sport, which offers a VO2 max function as well:
Nokia Steel HR Sport (40mm) — get on Amazon

Battery life — wow

The advertised battery life is 25 days in power reserve mode. Wow. My first battery cycle lasted about 10 days. This is a lot less, however, keep in mind that I had multiple exercise sessions (daily swims and climbing), during which heart rate is monitored constantly. The battery is said to last 5 days in continuous workout mode. Charging goes super quickly, that is, if you can remember where you put your charger after 10 days…

Swim tracker

I love swimming, so the fact that this elegant watch is waterproof up to 50m (5atm) and has a swim tracking / lap counting function is one of my favourite features. Activities are automatically detected within 10min, however, I like to click start so it tracks asap.

Sleep monitoring — a cool function I didn’t know I needed

Turns out I’m sleeping less than I thought! The Steel nicely keeps track of when I go to bed, and when I get up during the night. Cycles of deep versus light sleep are mapped based on movement and heart rate. So far, my impression is that the tracking is fairly accurate. My only comment is that when you walk more than 150 steps during the night, it’ll think you got up.

Smart alarm based on sleep tracking

This must be my favourite feature of the watch. Don’t you just hate it when the alarm jolts you awake during an exciting dream? No more… The Nokia Steel HR wakes you just before your alarm time (in a window you predefine) if it detects you are in a light sleep cycle. It’s been working very well for me. During mornings when I am awake before my alarm goes off, I notice the Steel buzzes at the beginning of the window. If I’m sound asleep, it’ll wait till the very last moment. I love this function!


I didn’t think I wanted to get interrupted all the time by my watch buzzing. But honestly, it’s been very useful to get WhatsApp messages on my watch. When you are in a performance and you can’t check your phone, it’s easy to read incoming messages on the watch discretely. At work, when I’m expecting a message from the misses, I don’t have to keep staring at my phone, my wrist will discretely buzz… If I don’t want to be disturbed, I’ll simply put my iPhone on do not disturb mode. The Steel has a very nice dashboard that lets you configure which apps can notify you.

A personal example of how this function is exciting to me: I’m expecting my wife to go into labour but I cannot constantly keep an eye on my phone while I am teaching. I setup my iPhone to allow FaceTime messages from one person only to reach you while in ‘do not disturb’ mode. My wrist will simply buzz when she calls me on FaceTime (which we only use for emergencies). I’ll keep you updated if I see her call!

Keeping active — goal reminders / step counting

This seems obvious… The implementation is pretty nice though. The bottom analog watch dial, will indicate the percentage of your daily step goal has been reached.

You can set goals for daily step counts and different workout frequency. In general, I found that Nokia undercounts the number of steps compared to the Health app. Withins says that this is due to their algorithm, which will omit dubious arm movements rather than counting steps that may not be steps. In sum, if a step is counted, you can be certain you made it… I appreciate that about the app.

My recommendation for a useful elegant hybrid smart watch: the Nokia Steel HR.

Adventures in Consumer Technology

No IT Dept: You're On Your Own

Dorien Herremans

Written by

Assistant Professor at Singapore University of Technology and Design, where she runs a lab on AI for music and audio.

Adventures in Consumer Technology

No IT Dept: You're On Your Own

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