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Withings ScanWatch review: Medical-grade health tracking hidden in a lovely hybrid watch
Withings' latest ScanWatch looks like a classy, standard watch, but hidden inside are medical-grade sensors that track your internal health status. If you want a modern fitness tracker experience in a classic watch then the ScanWatch is definitely something to consider.
Even though the ScanWatch is clearly not a full smartwatch or GPS sports watch, I cannot stop wearing it. It looks like a standard watch while also having superb build quality, slim form factor, curved glass face, classic good looks, and a bit of heft/density to it. It feels wonderful to wear on a daily basis, and the high-quality silicone strap matches the look and feel.
While it has the good looks of a classic watch, it has the ability to serve as a clinically validated electrocardiogram, capture blood oxygen measurements, measure breathing frequency while sleeping, track your heart rate, and more, all while lasting about a month between charging. As I have talked about many times, I cannot use a smartwatch regularly since I cannot stand having to charge my watch more than once a week, and with the ScanWatch, you just wear it and forget it.
Materials: Stainless steel case, sapphire glass, and fluoroelastomer band
Wireless: Bluetooth LE
Water resistance: Up to 50m
Sensors: High precision MEMS 3-axis accelerometer, exclusive multi-wavelength PPG heart rate/SpO2 sensor, stainless steel electrodes for ECG
Battery life: Up to 30 days in normal use, plus 20 days in power reserve mode (time and activity tracking only, no sleep or other advanced measurements). Two hours to fully charge, one hour to 80%.
Watchband: 20mm width
Dimensions: 42mm wide diameter by 13.7mm thicknes, weight of 83g (watch without strap)
The Withings brand is known for high-quality smart health devices, but I have never evaluated any of its products before. I was excited to see the ScanWatch announced at CES 2020, and here we are almost two years later, and it has passed the FDA approval. The wait was worth it as I just cannot take the watch off and replace it with another because it wears so damn well.
When you first open up the retail package, you know this watch is something special with the hybrid smartwatch, premium sport band, magnetic charging cable, and soft fabric transport pouch. The experience is something you would expect from a high-end watch, but the 38mm and 42mm versions are both priced at less than $300, so Withings hits it out of the ballpark with the unboxing experience.
I was sent the white/silver one in 42mm to evaluate for the site, but there is also one with a black watch face and silver bezel. It looks like a typical classy analog watch, and at its core, it functions just like that with the two hands and time measures along the outer edge. There is also a small analog dial at the bottom half of the watch, and that is used to display your level of activity as a percentage of your set goal.
Centered at the top half of the watch face is a small round PMOLED display that shows digital time, date, notifications, heart rate, SpO2 readings, steps, floors climbed, distance traveled, calories, activities, breathe work, and settings. The clock options also include an alarm, stopwatch, and timer.
There is a single button on the right, center side of the watch that also serves as a digital crown you can rotate to scroll through the small digital display. The case of the watch is stainless steel, and on the back, there are three charging pins, second and third ECG electrodes, and the three openings for the multi-wavelength PPG sensor. The first ECG electrode is located around the bezel of the watch.
The Withings ScanWatch can measure metrics including heart rate, oxygen saturation, ECG, steps, distance, sleep, VO2 Max, and elevation. The small digital display shows you the time and data when it first lights up. Spin the digital crown to view your heart rate, steps, distance traveled, calories burned, floors climbed, notifications, SpO2 utility, ECG utility, and workout app. Press in on the digital crown to select an option on the display.
Withings ScanWatch review: in pictures
To activate the echocardiogram, select this option on the digital display and then place your fingers across the right side of the watch and over the bezel. Stay still for 30 seconds and watch the countdown on the watch as the measurement is taken. The ScanWatch will vibrate once the reading is complete, and then the smartphone application will show you the results.
Your ScanWatch can also be used to perform respiratory scans while you sleep. This data can be shared with your doctor, and if there are recorded disturbances, then the data may help diagnose issues such as sleep apnea. You can have respiratory scans set to always-on, automatic (three nights in a row once per quarter), and off. Having it set to always-on will impact your battery life.
The Withings Health Mate application is used to collect data from all Withings health products, including the ScanWatch. I like that I can manually enter information too, like my blood pressure, as I try to find one application that I can use to view trends and even create reports to share with my doctor. I'm disappointed that Fitbit, Garmin, and others don't support manual entry of core data such as blood pressure.
After logging into your Withings account, tap on the Devices tab to connect the ScanWatch. The Devices tab will then show you the ScanWatch battery life, notifications, alarms, display options, health features, and more settings for the watch that can be managed on your phone.
One feature I have not seen on any other wearable is the smart alarm with a customizable band of time for when the watch can wake you up. Some Fitbit wearables support smart alarms, but these have a long 30-minute window to wake you during light sleep, and that's just too long to be practical for me.
The Home tab in the app includes your latest measurements, timeline, your programs, and trends. Tap the plus in the upper right corner to manually enter health information such as weight, blood pressure, nutrition, and more. When you tap the nutrition option, a notice appears that Withings and MyFitnessPal have teamed up to provide a comprehensive food tracking experience.
When you tap on one of the measurement categories, you are taken to another section of the app that provides many more details, historical information, and the ability to view by day, week, or month.
The Dashboard tab shows you single values for your latest data in a number of categories. These include fitness level (VO2 Max), steps, BMI, weight, ECG, oxygen saturation, and more.
From the Profile tab, you can generate a PDF health report to share with your doctor, family members, or others who are interested in your health and progress. You can also connect the ScanWatch to apps such as Samsung Health, Google Fit, Strava, Apple Health, and more.
The ScanWatch can be used to track more than 30 activities, including the ability to automatically recognize walking, running, and swimming if you forget to initiate workout mode. Over time, ScanWatch will even use your body movements to recognize and track other supported activities that you participate in on a regular basis.
You can pause and resume workout-tracking by pressing in once on the digital crown. To end a workout and save the data, you need to long-press in on the digital crown. There is very little information shown during your workout, but afterwards, the smartphone app will show you the duration, calories burned, elevation, and more. If you have your smartphone GPS connected, then you will see a GPS track of your workout too.
Daily usage and conclusions
The more time I spend with wearables, the more I refuse to wear ones that only last for a day or two. It has been refreshing to have only charged the ScanWatch one time after the initial charge over the past month of using it. Watches become much more utilitarian for me when I can just wear them and forget about them. With the ability to track the details of my sleep, extreme comfort for 24/7 wear, and long battery life, I only take off the ScanWatch when I shower.
There is no GPS built into the ScanWatch, but it supports connected GPS, so if you run with your phone, the resulting output will show your GPS path in the smartphone application. Given the tiny digital display, I'm fine not having GPS in the watch.
Sleep tracking closely matches the Fitbit Charge 5 and WHOOP 4.0, but there is no REM period identified in the results. Your actual breathing rate is not shown, but if the watch detects an abnormal breathing rate, then the Withings application will notify you, so it is being measured and just not reported explicitly.
The Withings ScanWatch is a joy to wear with its lovely design and build quality. The long battery life ensures that you can wear it without worry and capture weeks of data that will help you identify trends in your health and wellness. The smartphone app is full-featured, easy to use, and valuable in creating reports of your captured data. At a reasonable price under $300, the Withings ScanWatch is almost a perfect wearable for those who don't want to look like they are wearing a Fitbit or focused tracker on their wrist.