We lived with the Withings ScanWatch and partner Sleep Analyzer and Body+ smart scale health devices.
We’ve been living with the Withings Scanwatch for a month now. We were instantly impressed with it and our view hasn’t dimmed. Here’s why.
Smartwatches have improved immeasurably since the early days when they were chunky things that could barely last a few hours. They’ve since hit milestones in evolution like Garmin’s $2,000 Fenix Chronos (which lasted a week) but even the best known current model, the Apple Watch, still barely lasts two days. Now, for the first time, we feel like we’re looking at a classic, day-to-day watch, that suits all occasions and the battery is supposed to last a month. This on its own will make it attractive and we haven’t mentioned the smarts yet.
Our review model is a 42mm variant but there’s a slightly smaller 38mm version available too. Both are available with a black or white main dials with similarly coloured, lower sub-dials. The latter is marked from 0 to 100 and show you the percentage of your daily steps goal. A black, 9,000-pixel, mono, digital dial utilises a bright, 260-nit LCD to impressively display smart-function-related information (or the illuminated time and date when jabbing the digital crown at night). The case is stainless steel, the glass is watch-grade sapphire crystal and it’s water resistant to 50 metres. A “fluoroelastomer” sportband is included which we found to be comfortable, secure and (refreshingly) non-skin-irritant but it’s compatible with all standard watch bands. Full specs can be found here.
Battery life is stated as up to a month and we found that to be true. If you make excessive use of some of the more power-intensive features though, this will be impacted. We typically got three weeks out of it before recharging.
This being a Withings watch, the smart features are mostly health related and tie seamlessly into the mature Withings Health Mate smartphone app and eco system. Each function is intuitively controlled by the digital crown which rotates to scroll through different functions that are then selected using a single click. To ensure that accidental knocks (during exercise or whenever) don’t ruin a workout recording, you can only end work outs with an additional long-press and confirmation click which is almost impossible to achieve accidentally.
Scrolling up will access the heart-rate meter, your step counter, distance travelled (using phone’s GPS tracking), floors climbed and then some more-advanced functions. The step counter was accurate under basic tests but on some days we felt it undercounted somewhat. We rarely trusted the stated number of floors climbed but it’s a harmless readout.
The first of the advanced features is the ECG (electrocardiogram) which requires you to rest your other hand onto the case while a 30-second assessment is made. While it can’t replicate having an octopus of wires taped to your torso by a healthcare professional, for those with heart conditions or a propensity for aFib (Atrial Fibriliation), it makes for an easy to access tool that can provide an automated warning if anything untoward is happening.
There’s also an SP02 test which is very handy to have in COVID-ravaged countries and for those with relevant breathing conditions. Withings says of it, “The Respiratory Scan feature monitors oxygen saturation, heart rate, breathing frequency and movement all night long. Our exclusive algorithm, developed with experts, computes the data to measure breathing disturbances, an indicator of sleep apnea.”
There’s also a ‘30-seconds of deep breathing’ tool which we first saw on Apple watches. This has been backed by multiple scientific (and spiritual) health-related sources to help inspire calmness and relaxation.
Outdoor workouts require access to your phone’s GPS if you want accurate distance measurements, but you can still measure workouts indoors and in the pool independent of the phone.
It will regularly monitor low and high heart rate, general activity (steps, calories burned and distance covered) along with sleep cycles (including light, deep and REM). The latter also measures your duration of sleep, recommended time to be asleep and wake up time as well as interruptions. It can also help you wake up properly by detecting whether you’re in a light or deep sleep and vibrating on your wrist accordingly. The vibration will also work with phone calls and notifications and was a much appreciated feature for those of us who detest phones ringing in the office! It can also be set to vibrate as an alarm.
Everything gets automatically uploaded and tracked in the Health Mate app which, after a while, paints you an impressive picture of how healthy your lifestyle is.
It can be partnered with other Withings health products which we’ll mention below, but as a standalone device, we’re devilishly impressed. The looks, the functionality, the operation and the battery life are all top-drawer and when you add the price of just $499 RRP ($479 for 38mm version) it makes for astonishing value. Added to the intuitive, mature and well-polished Withings digital health ecosystem, it’s hands down, the best smartwatch on the market.
Other Withings products
Withings has also released other devices to help track your health and we tested these too.
Withings Body+ smart scales review
These lightweight scales connect to your Wi-Fi network and Withings Health Mate smart app. If you don’t stand on them square, arrows will tell you which way to shuffle. Once set, they will tell you your weight and how it's been tracking over the past week.
If a significant other or kids share the scales it will know that they’re different people without asking (it can automatically monitor up to eight users). We really liked the way it plotted and tracked everything but... the first time we used it, it took a second ‘ghost’ reading of someone who was 1.5kg lighter. This ghost weight then synced with Health Mate and all our other fitness apps that were connected to it which was a pain. What’s more, deleting the measurement from the app did not delete it from the scale which re-synced the erroneous weight every time we measured ourselves. The only way to delete the info was a full reset. It must be said though, that after a month of regular use we never experienced this issue again.
The scales also measure and track your body’s water composition, BMI, muscle mass, fat mass and bone mass using bioelectrical impedance. There’s more on the science, here. Once it’s reported your headlines, it gives you a weather report (although it wasn’t always right!) If you’re not interested in looking at all the readings, you can select which are important to you via the app.
Additional, wider feet (shoes?) are included in the box in case you use your scales on a carpet. Withings claims that the batteries will last for 18 months which is impressive for any Wi-Fi device. In our tests, the four, triple-A batteries only dropped seven percent in a month.
Withings points out that the individualised measurements are useful for pregnant women checking their fetal development and the high sensitivity (0.1KG) is good for measuring a baby’s growth. There’s also a separate mode for athletes who operate on a different health spectrum.
It’s available in white or black. At $180 it’s not cheap but, all in all, we found it a great complement to the ScanWatch and Health Mate app and really gave us a zero-maintenance, rounded picture of our health thanks to the readings being automatically integrated into the Health Mate app plus the subsequent health recommendations. In this regard we felt it was worth the premium over regular scales and tracking apps using the likes of MyFItnessPal.
Withings Sleep Analyzer review
The Withings Sleep Analyzer is a pad that you place horizontally (aligned with your shoulders) under your mattress and leave plugged in via a long, strengthened, USB-based, power chord. While it replicates some of the features of Withings smartwatches it enhances the sleep monitoring features.
It too tracks sleep cycles, duration and provides an overall sleep score. It also provides ‘medical-grade’ sleep apnea detection and monitors the time and duration of snoring episodes plus heart rate tracking.
It also features IFTTT smarthome features in that it can automatically dim lights when you go to bed and adjust the thermostat when you wake up.
Many of the medical diagnostics usually involve having to wear sensors so it certainly takes the pain out of that. The ability to identify conditions like sleep apnea will be particularly useful for some but many people who struggle with sleep will benefit from the effortless, automated, ongoing monitoring, recommendations and shareable health reports that it generates.
Ultimately, it provides additional benefits to the smartwatch or, for those who don’t have a Withings smartwatch, a great opportunity to casually monitor one’s sleep-related health factors without high-effort diagnostics from health professionals. Its usefulness (and value) will vary from person to person but, at $230, it represents great value for a potentially life-changing quasi-medical device.