Withings ScanWatch review: health-tracking watch with 30-day battery | Technology

The new Withings ScanWatch is one of the most advanced health trackers you can buy and comes in the form of a hybrid smartwatch with a traditional analogue face and a 30-day battery life.

The ScanWatch comes in two sizes, with either a black or white face. The 38mm size costs £249.95 but it is the larger 42mm size costing £279.95 that is reviewed here.

The new watch is the French tech firm’s latest in a line of hybrid smartwatches first launched in 2014. They all pack health tracking and a small amount of smarts, including smartphone notifications, into attractive traditional analogue timepieces that outlast all the true-smartwatch competition on battery life.

The ScanWatch improves on health tracking with the addition of heart rate tracking and irregular pattern notifications, electrocardiogram (ECG), blood oxygen saturation, respiratory tracking during sleep and longer battery life.



The ScanWatch has a classic appeal that fits with a wide range of aesthetics; perfect for anything from casual clothes to black tie. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Gadget credentials aside, the ScanWatch is extremely attractive. Available with white or black dials, it is the minimalist antidote to your traditional smartwatch clutter, reminding me more of some of the extremely expensive luxury watches from Swiss and German firms.

The cover glass is made of sapphire, which is the scratch-resistant glass fitted to traditional Swiss watches. The body is stainless steel and weighs 83g, which gives it a feeling of quality alongside the solid-feeling crown on the right side that acts as a digital control for the smart functions. Even the fluoroelastomer (think silicone-rubber-like) strap feels premium, although the watch takes standard 22mm bands so you can easily swap them out and Withings sells quite a few as accessories.

The watch is comfortable to wear for extended periods and did not get as sweaty as some silicone-strap watches can.

A small round digital screen is set into the watch face and handles the smart bits such as smartphone notifications, timers and stopwatch functions, plus the manual readings needed for health functions such as taking an ECG. Everything else is handled by the Health Mate app on an Android or iPhone to which the watch connects via Bluetooth.

The watch is water resistant to 50 metres and ships with a felt transport pouch and a small magnetic USB charging puck that clips to the back.

Specifications

  • Case size: 38 or 42mm

  • Case thickness: 13.2 or 13.7mm

  • Band size: standard 20 or 22mm

  • Weight: 58g or 83g

  • Water resistance: 50 metres (5ATM)

  • Sensors: HR, Sp02, 3 electrodes (ECG), ambient light, altimeter

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth Low Energy

Battery life

Withings ScanWatch review



The back of the watch houses all the various sensors plus the charging pin contacts. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Withings says the watch should last about 30 days of general use, which seemed about right in my testing. Not many smart wearables last anywhere near as long as that. You can effectively forget about charging it.

Some features use up the battery faster than others. By default the watch will monitor your breathing overnight only occasionally as it consumes more battery and isn’t needed every night. You can set it to do so though, which by my estimations would reduce the battery life to about 10 days.

Likewise, frequent use of the ECG and blood oxygen saturation functions would also decrease battery life, but even performing them both twice a day the watch only dropped about 4% of the battery per 24 hours.

A full charge using the USB puck that clips onto the back with magnets takes about two hours, but hits 70% in a little over an hour if you’re in a hurry. The watch can also store up to five days of health readings without syncing with your phone.

Sustainability

The expected lifespan for the battery in the ScanWatch is 500 full-charge cycles, which with a long battery life about 30 days, should theoretically last more than 40 years.

While the watch is designed to last with a stainless steel case and scratch-resistant sapphire screen, it is not currently repairable by Withings. The company did not comment on the use of recycled materials, recycling of old products nor trade-in schemes.

Smarts

Withings ScanWatch review



The digital screen shows the time and date, as well as a little moon symbol if the watch is set to monitor your breathing that night. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The watch connects to your phone via Bluetooth and is managed by the Health Mate app, which also decides the apps that can send notifications to your wrist for things such as calls and messages.

Notifications vibrate on the watch and text quickly scrolls across the digital screen. There is no way to look back at previous notifications or action anything from your wrist, so this is very much a quick nudge to say something important has happened on your phone.

I had a few disconnection issues between the watch and an OnePlus 8 Pro Android phone, which required the watch to be rebooted to fix, but, generally, as long as I was checking my health stats in the Health Mate app regularly everything worked as it should. The ScanWatch will work just fine with an iPhone, too.

That’s it in terms of smart features. There is no music playback control or anything else you might expect from a true smartwatch. Every other function of the watch beyond time, timers, a wake-up alarm and stopwatch is dedicated to health monitoring.

Health and fitness

Withings ScanWatch review



You can see your heart rate at any time by turning the digital crown to show BPM and then wait as it updates your readings. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The ScanWatch records all the usual things you expect from a fitness tracker: steps, distance, floors climbed and calories. It also has comprehensive heart monitoring, including periodic heart rate recording, alerts for high or low beats per minute or other irregular patterns.

You can also manually take an ECG by activating it in the menu and then placing your hand over half of the watch for 30 seconds while sitting still. An ECG is used to spot irregular rhythms in your heart rate and is becoming an increasingly common feature in high-end smartwatches where it is useful for self monitoring for heart problems.

You can also manually record your blood oxygen percentage using the SpO2 sensor, which is used as a measure of respiratory function, meaning that a low recording could indicate you have a problem with your lungs or that you are in a high-altitude environment.

Withings ScanWatch review



To take an ECG, scroll to the ECG option, push the crown in and place your hand over one side of the watch. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The watch will also automatically track your sleep. Simply wear it overnight for it to record your heart rate, sleep duration and phases, quality, wake-ups and breathing disturbances.

The watch performs what Withings calls a respiratory scan, which uses the SpO2 monitor and other sensors to highlight issues such as sleep apnoea. The firm has a clinical study under way for validation of its sleep apnoea detection, so in the meantime it just records when a disturbance has happened.

The respiratory scan takes place automatically overnight and on a routine basis, based on previously recorded data. The watch alerts you during the day if it will monitor your breathing overnight or you can set it to record it every night, which will reduce the battery life significantly.

The ScanWatch also has a smart vibrating alarm function that monitors your sleep cycle and wakes you up at the best possible time for you to feel refreshed. You set the time by which it it must wake you up plus a window leading up to it where it can wake you up early if the time is right.

The watch can automatically record activities such as walking, running and swimming, measuring duration, calories and other relevant data such as Vo2 Max – a fairly common measure of cardiorespiratory fitness. Other sports can be manually tracked, too, using the menu system. The watch lacks its own GPS for tracking routes, instead relying on your phone’s location system, which means the ScanWatch isn’t for serious running tracking but will be fine for the occasional bit of exercise.

Health Mate app

Withings ScanWatch review



The Health Mate app makes understanding your data and what it means fairly easy and has a new chatbot assistant that tries to help you out when it spots issues. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

While you can see your heart rate or other metric at the time of measurement on the small digital display on the watch, all the data is synced to and displayed within the Health Mate app, which is one of the best of its kind around.

It displays your latest measurements in a daily timeline with easy to interpret graphs and numbers. Tapping on them will show your history for each measurement plus some fairly good explanations of what the figures and charts mean.

It also has a new health assistant that is a bit like a chatbot. It picks up on a notable event of the previous day and will chat through some things associated with it, such as advice on how to get to sleep quicker.

Overall, the Health Mate app does a better job of showing and explaining what is going on than most competitors and there are no add-on fees for any analysis.

Price

The Withings ScanWatch costs £249.95 in 38mm size and £279.95 in 42mm size.

For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 has an RRP of £399, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 costs £249, the Fossil Gen 5 costs £279, the Apple Watch Series 5 costs £399, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music costs £299 and the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar costs £739.99.

Verdict

The Withings ScanWatch is an extremely attractive traditional watch that hides a unique combination of exceptionally long battery life, a little bit of smarts and a lot of health monitoring.

Not many true smartwatches or fitness trackers contain quite as many health-monitoring features, from general activity to comprehensive sleep tracking. The Withings is particularly good for monitoring heart health with abnormal rate alerts and on-demand ECG becoming increasingly sought-after by those concerned about their heart.

You also get smart alerts, which are basic but may be just enough for most people not after a full smartwatch experience. But the watch certainly isn’t cheap and costs about the same as many fully featured smartwatches or running watches, which admittedly lack the ECG functions. The lack of GPS also means you are stuck carrying your phone if you want to record a route.

The ScanWatch is an attractive alternative to a smartwatch or fitness tracker for those who want comprehensive health tracking but with a touch of class.

Pros: attractive, easy to read, 30 days battery, ECG, SpO2, comprehensive sleep tracking, notification alerts, 50m water resistance, sapphire glass, good app

Cons: expensive, no GPS, not fantastic for running/cycling, occasional disconnection issues

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Melissa M. Taylor

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