Withings ScanWatch Review

A beautiful wearable device with the longest battery life available and the ability to take FDA-approved ECG readings, the Withings ScanWatch is also quite heavy and requires prior approval from a physician before it can be used.

WITHINGS SCANWATCH SPECS

Show SortAnalog with PMOLED Inset
CompatibilityAndroid, iOS
Coronary heart Charge MonitorSure
Sleep TrackerSure
Battery LifeAs much as 30 days
PROS
  • ECG readings and doable detection of AFib
  • Fashionable analog watch design
  • 30-day battery life
  • It consists of an enticing journey case
CONS
  • Physician required to make use of ECG characteristic
  • Tough to get usable ECG readings in testing
  • Cumbersome

When it comes to health and fitness devices, the Withings ScanWatch ($279.99) is a consumer-grade device that does much more than just count steps and motivate you to move. The watch, which was recently approved for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), can read electrocardiograms (ECGs) and potentially detect heart problems such as atrioventricular blockade (AFib). The device’s long battery life and analog aesthetics are appealing, but we found it to be a little bulky, and it took us a while to figure out how to get usable ECG readings during our testing. In addition, unlike the Apple Watch ($399.99), a prescription is required to use the ECG features of the ScanWatch. In other words, while the ScanWatch is one of the more visually appealing fitness wearables we’ve tested, you’ll likely get more use out of the Apple Watch or even Fitbit’s $179.95 Charge 5 instead.

Fashionable However Hefty

Withings ScanWatch Review

The design of the ScanWatch is vastly different from that of the Apple Watch. A distance makes the Apple Watch easy to identify because it resembles an electronic device, but the ScanWatch is distinguished by its understated, sophisticated design. The larger version (42mm in diameter) costs $299.99, while the smaller version (38mm in diameter) costs $279.99. The smaller version (38mm in diameter) is also available. As part of my testing, Withings provided me with a larger model of the watch. It is 2.9 ounces in weight, but it appears and feels like it is much heavier. However, even though my wrists are far from petite, the smaller version that weighs 2 ounces might have been preferable for me.

The watch’s crystal face is made of sapphire glass, which is extremely durable and virtually scratch-proof. You can choose between a silver case with a white or black face, or a rose gold case with a white or dark blue face, depending on your preference. The rose gold color options, on the other hand, are only available in the smaller sizes. You press the outer edge of the watch case with your opposite hand to take ECG and SpO2 measurements, and the sensor records the results.

According to Withings, with normal use, the ScanWatch’s battery should last approximately one month. During our five-day testing period, the battery was still at 96 percent of its capacity, indicating that you shouldn’t have to charge it for several weeks. The long battery life is important because it allows the watch to scan your vital signs on a regular basis and without having to recharge the battery frequently. If you significantly reduce the number of functions on your watch by switching it to power reserve mode (which only supports time and activity tracking), you can get an additional 20 days out of it. A dead battery can be recharged in less than two hours, according to the manufacturer.

Because the ScanWatch does not have built-in GPS functionality, you will need to use it in conjunction with your phone whenever you want to track outdoor activities such as bike rides and runs with the greatest degree of precision. Given that GPS functionality is known to drain a significant amount of power from other fitness trackers and running watches, it is possible that the ScanWatch’s battery life will benefit from its lack of GPS functionality.

Water resistance of up to 5 ATM means that the watch should be able to withstand the rigors of swimming, snorkeling, and other basic water activities. Just make sure you don’t use it for any deep dives. Extreme cold or heat will also be detrimental to its performance; the operating temperature range is 14F to 113F.

The watch comes with a wristband made of fluoroelastomer, which has a similar feel to silicone and can be swapped out. You can upgrade your band to include a leather, metal, or woven PET (made from recycled materials) band in a variety of colors for an additional fee. You will receive a USB drive in the shape of a magnetic disc. In the box, you’ll find a charger, a quick start guide, and a lovely gray felt pouch for storage and transportation.

What’s on the Watch Face?

Withings ScanWatch Review

Because the ScanWatch is designed to look like a traditional watch, it does not include a bright digital display. Instead, two circular insets are placed behind the two clock arms, which display the current time.

After pressing the crown, the PMOLED display illuminates to display your health and fitness data, as well as any notifications from your phone. The top one appears to be nothing more than a black circle until you press the crown. Turn the crown dial to cycle through the available options, which include the time and date, current heart rate, step count, distance traveled, and number of floors climbed. If you continue to scroll through the options, you will be able to record an activity while also taking an ECG or SpO2 reading.

The second inset is a single-arm analog dial that can be used to quickly check your daily step count without having to push the crown all the way down. As you move around throughout the day, the arm slowly circles the dial, which displays your step count as a percentage of your total. When you reach the three o’clock position with your arm, you have achieved 25 percent of your daily step goal. For the sake of clarity, the dial has marked the 50 percent and 100 percent positions.

Setup Requires a Cellphone and a Physician

Withings ScanWatch Review

To get started with the ScanWatch, you’ll first need to download the Healthmate app from Withings (available for Android and iOS). It is not possible to set up the watch from a computer. The app is completely free, and you will not be bombarded with upsells or premium subscription offers while using it. As soon as you launch the app and create or log into your Healthmate account, the first thing you should do is pair your phone with the wristband. Then, simply follow the rest of the setup instructions that appear on the screen.

Remember that you must have your first ECG read and approved before you can use that feature, as I previously stated. The process is entirely virtual, and Withings provides free assistance. Some states may require you to speak with a doctor over the phone before receiving approval; however, neither the doctor nor Withings will charge you for the call. See Withings’ resources on the process of getting your ECG approved by a doctor for more information.

The company provided me with a version of the app that didn’t require this step, but the process is fairly straightforward for anyone else in the United States of America. When the app prompts you to take your first ECG reading, it provides illustrations to help you hold and position the watch properly. The instructions, on the other hand, could better explain that the watch casing also serves as a sensor (when you touch it, you complete a circuit that allows the ECG to proceed).

As soon as you take a satisfactory reading, the Healthmate app sends the information to doctors at Heartbeat Health, who will review the information within 48 hours. To read and validate the results of your first ECG and to issue the prescription that allows you to use the ECG feature of the watch, Withings contracts with Heartbeat Health, a separate healthcare technology company that is not affiliated with Withings. Additionally, you must agree to submit some personal information (such as your name, date of birth, and contact information) to Heartbeat Health in conjunction with the initial reading. You will not be able to see the results of your ECG reading in the app until Heartbeat Health has reviewed your data and issued the prescription; they will remain hidden until you have received doctor approval.

If everything goes according to plan and you are given permission to use the ECG, you are free to take as many additional readings as you want in the future. It is possible to export your ECG results to a doctor after they have been displayed in the app. As I’ll explain further below, in addition to the ECG, SpO2, and fitness tracking capabilities, the app can also assist you in performing an ECG, VO2Max assessment, and tracking your weight over time.

Finicky ECG Readings

Withings ScanWatch Review

Despite the fact that they are the ScanWatch’s primary selling point, some people still doubt the utility of on-demand ECG readings. A common argument is that the type of person who would be most likely to purchase a pricey fitness-tracking smartwatch is not the same as the type of person who would benefit from regular ECG screenings. However, if you would benefit from this technology because of certain risk factors or your age, then this technology can legitimately assist you in monitoring your health. It’s important to remember that pacemakers and cardioverter defibrillator implants can result in inconclusive ECG data, and that you must be at least 22 years old to use this feature. The age restriction is in accordance with FDA policy, which states that teenagers, defined as those between the ages of 12 and 21, should not use non-pediatric medical devices due to concerns about their safety and effectiveness. According to Withings, it complies with this policy.

Taking an ECG reading at the appropriate time is far more useful than performing these measurements at random intervals. Throughout the day and night, the ScanWatch measures your heart rate at regular intervals. Whenever it detects the possibility of an irregular heartbeat, it sends you an alert on your watch and phone, prompting you to take an ECG. You should get an ECG as soon as you are able to, ideally right away. If you notice that your heart is beating irregularly, you may want to have an ECG done as a precaution. As previously mentioned, you can export your ECG readings and send them to your physician. Using the app, you can even watch a video of your ECG as it is recorded.

It is important to note that the ScanWatch does not detect heart attacks or other cardiac events. The app reminds you on multiple occasions that if you believe you are having a heart attack, you should seek medical attention immediately.

My ability to take an ECG reading was inconsistent during testing. I had to discard about eight readings out of every ten attempts, which was a lot. The majority of them were simply “too noisy,” while a few others were unable to complete the task. Anything that interferes with a clear ECG reading is considered noise in this context, and can include electrical interference, muscle movement, and conversation.

I might have had a better chance of success if the instructions in the app had made it clearer that I needed to touch the top metallic part of the watch’s case with my fingers in order to complete an electrical circuit. In the absence of that information, I had no way of knowing whether I needed to press firmly against my skin to ensure good contact between the rear of the watch (where another sensor is located) and my skin, or whether there was another reason for holding the watch in the manner described in the instructions. Even though a help page on Withings‘ website lists a few dos and don’ts for positioning your hand while taking the ECG, it does not explain clearly that you do not need to apply much pressure to the watch. The process is still somewhat difficult for me, even though I eventually got the hang of it and was able to get more definitive readings.

SpO2 Testing Is Simpler

Withings ScanWatch Review

The ScanWatch and some other fitness trackers now provide an oxygen saturation reading, which is known as SpO2 (oxygen saturation). In the case of a respiratory illness, such as COVID-19, it is extremely important to monitor your oxygen levels closely; a low score could indicate that you should seek medical attention immediately. Alternatively, if you do not have access to a finger-cup pulse oximeter, which is the industry standard tool for measuring blood oxygen saturation, the ScanWatch is a convenient substitute.

It is also possible to use the ScanWatch to take SpO2 measurements throughout the night in order to detect changes in your breathing patterns while you sleep. In addition, the app tracks deep and light sleep, as well as sleep interruptions, and provides a summary of the data. It does not, however, provide information on REM phases.

While these data points are somewhat advanced metrics, the ScanWatch’s breathing disturbance alert is the only feature that distinguishes it from other similar devices. Another type of device, such as the Garmin Venu or the Fitbit Charge 5, does nothing more than alert you if your oxygen saturation level has dropped at any point during the night and highlight that data point on a graph. The information is the same in all of them, but Withings is the only one that draws your attention to it.

You can take an oxygen saturation reading on the fly in the same way that you can take an ECG reading. The procedure is very similar to that of taking an ECG, but I had a much higher success rate in this testing session.

Fitness Tracking Throughout the Day

Step count, elevation, calories burned, sleep tracking, and other metrics are covered by the ScanWatch in the same way that other fitness devices do, including the ScanWatch. Running and swimming are two examples of activities that are automatically tracked by the app.

The ScanWatch, like many other current fitness trackers, incorporates breathing exercises into its design. After you’ve indicated how long you’d like to take some slow inhales and exhales, you’ll be guided through them by slight vibrations and a visual indicator.

I wore the ScanWatch at the same time as a Garmin Venu Sq (which is similar to the Garmin Venu 2) in order to compare step counts between the two devices. When compared to the Venu, the ScanWatch consistently reported significantly fewer steps per day and per walk (sometimes as much as 20% fewer), according to our research. The accuracy of either watch is difficult to determine; however the Garmin device has earned my trust because I’ve been using it for several months without incident.

An Attractive Timepiece for a Strictly Limited Audience

Withings ScanWatch Review

The FDA-approved ECG feature of the Withings ScanWatch is the primary reason to purchase this device. For those who would benefit from regular at-home ECG readings (and learn how to take the measurements correctly), the ScanWatch can be a legitimately useful tool for monitoring their heart health. Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor or medical expert and that you should consult your physician before purchasing the ScanWatch. The analog design and long battery life of the watch, in addition to its SpO2 and fitness-tracking capabilities, are also appealing to us. However, due to the somewhat finicky nature of taking ECG readings and the bulky design of the watch, the Apple Watch and the Fitbit Charge 5 are both preferable options to consider. If you like Withings’ design language but don’t need to take ECG readings, you can save money by purchasing the Withings Steel HR, which is an older model.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.


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