Tanita scale

After more than eight years of service, my old Tanita scale, which I bought in Japan, stopped working properly. I used to use various applications to track my weight, so having the scale send the data to my mobile phone was a tempting idea, so I bought a Withings WS-50 body analyser.

The hardware specifications are pretty impressive: the scale supports Bluetooth and Wifi, can measure weight, body fat, heart-rate, but also the room temperature and the oxygen level (again in the room). I don’t really see the point of the two later measurements, but I suppose the sensors were cheap, so why not.


The official Withings app support Apple’s new Healthkit API, so everything should be fine. The app has some graphical concept with a butterfly, where each wing is one aspect of your health, clearly Withing’s programmers are artists: their app is useless.

Despite the fact that the scale has wifi access and sends data to the cloud each time I weight myself, any synchronisation between the iOS app and the device requires to flip the scale, push a button, reopen the Bluetooth connection. Can the scale pair with multiple phones? It’s a mystery.

Withings App – Profile view

The app’s structure was clearly selected under the influence of drugs: there is a timeline view, with more irrelevant data than a Facebook feed when all your friends are playing stupid games, there is a dashboard, where 30% of my screen estate is used to display the stupid butterfly and my name (for when I forget, I suppose). There is a leaderboard, for when I want to challenge my friends (which I don’t) and with which I can’t seem to be able to share the scale. Then, there is the profile view, which contains the largest screen estate waste I have seen in an App, with around 10% of screen showing useful data. Of course the App asks for a lot of information when it is set up, including the weight, which is pretty stupid for an App that comes with a scale, it also means I ended up with a wrong measurement with the default weight.

view of the Withings Web application, with language problems

Of course, there is also a web interface, which is somehow convinced that I want Japanese as my primary language, I think it inferred this because my mobile phone app is set to display dates in Japanese format, or something. So to use the interface in English, I needed to select another language and then switch back to English. I suspect I’ll need to do this each time I log in. Of course the web interface does not use the butterfly metaphor and has a completely different structure, consistency was clearly not a priority, if you need more confusion don’t worry, there are two web interfaces the new and the old, and you sometimes get switched to the old one. The old one got stuck in the generating curve for the whole time it took me to write this blog entry. There is also a menu entry advertising their new web interface, which is just a gallery of screenshots (tilted for better effect).

Clearly a few Withings product managers need to be taken out and shot, twice. Thankfully, the App exports the data to Healthkit, so you can just ignore all the Withings applications and use Apple’s interface, which is much more reasonable.

7 thoughts on “Scales…”

  1. Weird experience you’ve been having with Withings
    I have been using them for quite a few years without any mentioned issue -_-
    Mybe i was lucky or you are unlucky… :P

  2. Good hardware spoiled by shit software is so common that open specs for hardware/open APIs should be mandatory. So anybody with enough skills could create the adequate software. And the hardware maker would include the best free app.

    In this precise case, I don’t see the point in an dedicated app. The paper trail is still the most simple, most effective and cheapest way to trak so few datapoints. And any spreadsheet is good enough. (I would not say that for tracking your heartbeat all day long.) Or any « independant » app.

  3. Given how close these devices are to the medical world, I fear having an open specification would just be a disaster. And I understand that these companies try to distinguish themselves on the software level, if they don’t hardware competition will drive their margins to the bottom, people are cheap… At any rate, Apple offers an API which while not open-source by far, is at least common.

    In my case, I wanted an automated system, I want to weight myself in the morning, and the «I’ll open the laptop and copy the numbers into a spreadsheet» is science fiction and running a spreadsheet on a phone is a (very sad) joke. So having an app makes sense for me. We will see how useful this becomes as more health data is added to Healthkit.

  4. Opening a laptop each morning, of course not, but to scribble a line each day and copy the data every week or month… Yeah, that’s low tech.

    BTW, as a principle, I don’t want anything about my health going into the cloud. One day an insurance could BUY this data and tell me ” you’re too fat, that will be a +10% increase “.

  5. I fully agree with the ‘health data in the cloud’ issue, but for me bit of paper which I will transcribe later to the computer usually ends with a pile of small papers that go into the trash. Transcribing data is just not working for me.

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