Withings ScanWatch Review – Smart health tracking in a traditional watch design

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Withings ScanWatch Review Rating

Summary

The Withings ScanWatch is a superb and attractive health focussed smartwatch.

Overall
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  • Overall - 80%
    80%

Pros

  • Analogue watch style is far more stylish and subtle than most smartwatches
  •  Clinically validated ECG and SpO2
  • Outstanding battery life

Cons

  • Limited functionality compared to watches with a full AMOLED display

It is has been four years since I reviewed the Withings Steel HR, which was then the Nokia Steel HR.

The Withings ScanWatch was officially announced a couple of years ago and introduced several new clinically validated health-specific features, including ECG and blood oxygen readings.

It retains the classic analogue style of the Steel HR, and I think this gives it a lot of niche appeal that is perhaps well suited for slightly older generations.

Specification & Features

  • Irregular beat detection
  • Breathing disturbances detection
  • On-demand ECG
  • Medical grade oxygen saturation (manual measurement)
  • Heart rate tracking (sampled every 10 minutes)
  • Advanced sleep tracking
  • 24/7 Activity tracking
  • B&W PMOLED display for basic notifications
  • 30 day battery life

Design

I was sent the 38mm rose gold model, it is geared to a slimmer wrist, and the design option is a bit more feminine than others. I think it could look great on anyone depending on your style, but in this scenario, I have saved you from my hairy wrists and used my partner's wrists for the photos, while I wore it for all the testing. I have quite slim wrists myself so 38mm didn't look daft, but 42mm would probably look better.

As well as the two sizes, there are multiple colourways to choose from. You have a white face silver case in 38mm and 42mm. Black face and silver case in both sizes then the white and rose gold in 38mm and blue and rose gold also in 38mm.

You also have the option for additional wrist bands. Most of the watches come with a generic black band so it will be tempting to get one of the additional options. These come in a  wide range of colours and materials. In my opinion, they all have a premium price for what you are getting. Premium materials such as leather or metal Milanese will set you back £50, and the cheapest silicone is £25.

As for the watch, if you like the traditional analogue look, it looks amazing. Apart from the tiny display that occasionally lights up, I doubt anyone could tell you are wearing a smartwatch. For me, this is the main reason why I would recommend the watch.

The crown is functional and the only way to physically interact with the watch, it is easy to use and perhaps preferable to touchscreens.

Build quality is also excellent, you have a stainless steel (316L) case then sapphire glass, which is far more scratch-resistant than most smartwatches

App

I currently use the Withings Body Cardio and Withings Sleep Analyzer, I even have the blood pressure monitor somewhere. So I have a lot of health data in the Healthmate app and I think it is one of the better apps for wearables. I like the amount of data you get, I find it easy to navigate and well presented.  

I also like the fact that you can access your data via the web. I find a big screen makes it much easier to process and understand data.

Health and Fitness Tracking

ECG

The ECG functionality of this watch is one of its main selling points. The watch was announced back in 2020 and was the first clinically validated hybrid smartwatch that can assist in detecting arrhythmia (AFib) and sleep apnea.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disturbance, affecting around 1.4 million people in the UK. It can affect adults of any age, but it's more common in older people.

Unfortunately for US users, they were not able to buy the watch after launch due to the requirements for FDA clearance. This only came through at the end of 2021.

In the meantime, several other watches launched with ECG, including the FitBit Sense and Samsung Galaxy Watch 4. The Fitbit Sense has been validated in a clinical study to provide accurate results. However, the Samsung is a bit more vague about what you can use the ECG for. They specifically state users should not interpret or take clinical action based on the device output without consultation of a qualified healthcare professional.

You have to be quite proactive with taking readings, it is not like your heart rate, it needs to be manually done. However, within the watch settings, you can enable signs of AFib. This will warn you if you have an irregular heartbeat, and you can then take the ECG.

When you select ECG, you need to hold your hand partially over the watch and wait 30 seconds. You will hopefully receive a result that indicates normal sinus rhythm, and there are no signs of atrial fibrillation.

It can then be inconclusive, or it will detect AFib. If AFib is detected, you can then share the measurement as a PDF and/or your full health report. You can then use this to take to your Doctor.

AFib isn't normally life-threatening and can be treated.

So, in theory, it is amazing that you can potentially diagnose AFib early and get it treated as soon as possible. This watch could literally save your life.

Due to the fact that most of your readings should be normal, I'd say it is essential that you have the signs of AFib setting enabled.

SPO2

Most fitness watches now include SPo2 measurements, and this includes affordable trackers such as the Honor Band 6. Some devices can switch on automatic tracking, either 24/7 or during the night, whereas others require a manual measurement.

The Withings ScanWatch requires measurements manually typically but you can also enable automatic nighttime measurements.

Just like the ECG, it is very likely that you will have a normal blood oxygen reading, and it will therefore be quite easy to fall out of the habit of taking regular readings.

Manual readings are more accurate than the automatic method, so if there is a chance your blood oxygen may be low, this functionality is well worth it.

Sleep Tracking & Apnea

As I use the Withings Sleep Analyzer matt, it appears that the data I am presented for my sleep is primarily from this. However, I can scroll down and get more data from the watch. This then shows similar data, including the duration, time in bed, heart rate, and shows a graph of the different sleep phases.

The data from both devices appear to correlate quite well. There is normally about a 20 min difference between the duration of my watch and mat, and the heart rate is normally within 2bpm.

Assuming you don't have a sleep mat, the ScanWatch will provide essentially the same results, and this includes being able to identify both snoring and risks of sleep apnea. Within the settings, there is a respiratory scan feature. This will randomly do a scan during sleep to check for breathing disturbances. You can also have it switched on every night or switched off completely.

Fitness Tracking – Running, walking etc.

This watch is not designed for any keen amateur athletes, and the fitness tracking features are quite basic. Along with your step tracking, you can manually start a limited number of activities.

You have walking, running and cycling for outdoor tracking; these will all use your phone GPS, which will then generate a map and provide basic pacing information.

Surprisingly it does have integration with Strava, so you can have activities exported automatically. This is more than can be said for sports watches by Huawei, Honor and many other brands.

The watch will then use outdoor activities to evaluate your fitness age, giving you some guidance on how fit you are compared to others.

The daily tracking features include steps, heart rate, and floors climbed. You can also set goals, but there are no friends and no challenges. There are also only limited badges or achievements.

The watch also doesn't generate the same amount of data as competing brands. There is no stress, body battery, recovery, VO2Max etc.

Smartwatch Features

The smartwatch features are basic at best. The main thing is that you can have notifications pushed through, and the small display will give you some indication of what the notification is.

I have personally started to dial down the notifications I receive. The constant bombardment of information can't be good for anyone's mental health. So I am quite happy with limited notifications, and I have set, so I only get Ring Doorbell notifications or Telegram (which only me and my partner use).

Battery

With the limited overall smartwatch functionality and tiny black and white display, there are not many watches on the market that will beat this for battery. It is rated at 30 days and I haven't yet had to charge it more than once.

Price and Alternative Options

The Withings ScanWatch is currently priced from £240 on Amazon for the 42mm plan black watch. The rose gold model I have tried is £280 RRP, currently £250.76.

If you evaluate this based on its functionality alone, I think this is a bit pricy.

Alternative options depend on which side of the fence you fall on. If you want the traditional watch look that Withings offers, then there is really only Withings to choose from.

You have the Move ECG or Steek HR as alternative options. I'd say the Steel HR is the best affordable alternative, being very similar to the ScanWatch but lacking the advanced health features such as ECG.

If you are happy to have something that looks like a smartwatch with a full digital display, then the world is your oyster; however the choices with ECG are somewhat limited.

Alternative watches with ECG

Watches that include ECG include:

  • Apple Watch Series 4, 5, 6 and 7
  • Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
  • Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and 4
  • Fitbit Sense
  • Withings Move ECG
  • Coros Vertix 2
  • Amazfit Smartwatch 2

Out of those, I'd say the Galaxy Watch3 is the best looking and most watchy-looking watch. The Fitbit Sense is probably the best option for health focussed features.

General smartwatch alternatives

For general fitness and health watches, you have more options.

For something good looking with a reasonably traditional watch aesthetic, I'd look at the Huawei Watch GT range, the new Watch GT3 is excellent. Garmin is more fitness focussed, and the Venu 2 is excellent. The Zepp E or Zepp Z are also worth considering.

Overall

I have thought all the Withings devices I have reviewed are excellent, and I like what the brand is doing with their wearable. While everyone else is cramming as many features into watches as possible, Withings have focussed on important health features while retaining a traditional analogue design.

Admittedly, as a keen runner, that means they are of little use to me, but I have no doubt there is a lot of people that would like to keep the slim and traditional style of watch while being able to have fitness tracking and phone notifications.

Perhaps being a bit ageist, but the ECG/SPo2 features and traditional styling seems like this watch will have a lot of appeal to older generations.

The new ECG features come with quite a high price and I think anyone that likes the idea of an analogue-styled smartwatch but doesn't need the health-specific features should consider the Steel HR, which is about £100 less.

Last update on 2022-05-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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