Withings ScanWatch Review: Beauty Added To A Hybrid Beast

I’m the prime candidate for this sort of watch. A hybrid watch just suits me best. I’m not a fitness fanatic, but I do go to the gym when not embroiled in a global pandemic. In addition, whilst I don’t get swamped in notifications, I do like to know when something is important enough to be taken notice of. Hybrid smartwatches just fill that niche for me and others like me. There’s always been a trailing “..but” at the end of sentences like these. The new Withings ScanWatch might just allow me to avoid writing compound sentences such as this moving forward as it brings a touch of class to the Hybrid space.

Withings ScanWatch
+ FOR
  • Great battery life
  • Gorgeous design
  • Addition of a rotating crown aids UI
  • Health Mate continues to improve
- AGAINST
  • Digital screen still small for some
  • Price increase might cause a gulp

Buy on Amazon UK – £279.95

Disclaimer

Withings provided the ScanWatch to us for free in exchange for a full and fair review. Withings have no editorial input into the content of this review or any social channels we expose the product to, nor did they receive draft visibility of the copy prior to publishing. The review was conducted over a 2-week period, whilst paired to an Android smartphone.

Overview & Unboxing – Withings ScanWatch

We can skip over some of the formalities; if you want to get a list of included specifications you can check out our announcement post. If you want to get into the detail of the Health Mate software that accompanies the Withings ScanWatch, you can check out our review of the Steel HR Sport and the Steel HR respectively. We’ll go into the differences and changes only.

Straight away it’s clear that Withings are upping their game. Along with a price hike of around £100 to £279.95 for the 42mm model (£249.95 for the 38mm) Withings’ unboxing is a much more glamourous affair than previously. Opening the box you receive:

  • Withings ScanWatch
  • Black wristband
  • Magnetic charging cable
  • Quick start guide
  • Carry pouch

It’s a little annoying that the charger has changed again, and an additional charger commands £24.95 at checkout. Whilst this one is magnetic, it’s smaller and feels less sturdy than the cradle that accompanied the Steel HR Sport.

The ScanWatch is bathed in stainless steel, with a textured crown and metallic finished hands. This watch is more watch than it is fitness tracker in aesthetics. This is a line that Withings have found it hard to walk with their previous outings but get it bang on the money with the ScanWatch. The included carry pouch just gives the ScanWatch a touch of elegance that was missing in Withings’ previous offerings as well as many of Hybrid (and non-Hybrid) smartwatches I’ve reviewed or used. It also shows just where Withings is positioning the ScanWatch in the wider market.

The ScanWatch now delivers a bigger, brighter display cut out for notifications which sit underneath Sapphire glass for better protection. There’s also a rotating crown for easier interfacing and it gives it a classy look. Alongside the design tweaks come new metrics such as ECG measurements and recording, an Oximeter, and breathing disturbance detection technology. Those additions are joined by an increase in maximum battery life with a claimed up to 30 days battery life.

Specs – Withings ScanWatch

  • 38mm or 42mm models with Stainless Steel case and Sapphire glass
  • PMOLED display with analogue hands and sub-dial for notifications and metrics
  • Up to 30 days battery life (additional 20 days in power reserve mode)
  • 2 hours charging time to 100%, 1 hour to 80%
  • Metrics
    • Heart beat notifications : high or low heart rate, irregular heartbeat
    • Heart rate: beats per minute
    • Breathing disturbances: detection via oxygen saturation
    • Electrocardiogram: tracing of a 30-seconds ECG recording on a millimetric grid
    • Oxygen saturation level (medical-grade SpO2)
    • Walking and running: steps, distance, calories, based on user’s profile for high precision
    • Calories: metabolic calories and total calories expenditure
    • Running: automatically detected, in-app daily recap of duration and distance
    • Swimming: automatically detected, in-app recap with duration and calories burned
    • Sleep: deep and light sleep phases, irregular heartbeat detection, sleep interruptions
    • Fitness Level: assessment via VO2Max estimation
    • Elevation: meters and floors climbed
  • Health Mate app available on Android and iOS

Performance & Use – Withings ScanWatch

Previous Withings watches weren’t uncomfortable to wear and the ScanWatch is again, immediately comfortable when slipping onto the wrist. The included black synthetic rubber band is non-descript but comfortable and can be swapped out for other standard 18mm/20mm bands if you’re looking for something with more flair. It’s also more breathable than previously included bands too.

The 42mm watch I am reviewing is really something. It’s got a reassuring weight to it, and on a medium/large wrist, I think anything less might get lost. The 38mm Steel HR Sport I was wearing previously sometimes felt a little small.

Speaking of small, the electronic PMOLED display is still just that. It is at least bigger than it used to be, and brighter too. It’s still a little difficult to read text messages on there, but as an “at-a-glance” notification tool, it’s more than adequate.

I can’t fault the overall design of the ScanWatch. I criticised the Steel HR and Steel HR Sport for being a little too fitness tracker and a little less watch. The ScanWatch seems to deliver a subtle but important refinement of their design which gives a touch of elegance that was previously missing.  That elegance is only enhanced by the inclusion of a watch crown. If it’s good enough for Apple it’s good enough for Withings it seems. The crown not only assists in scrolling through the various functions of the watch, but also allows scrolling through notification text. Depending on the application that forwards the notification, the text can now scroll vertically. This is a massive improvement. The crown is easily manipulated to control the functionality of the ScanWatch and doesn’t have any clicks; it’s very smooth. It still has a button aspect to it which is equally smooth and understated.

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We’re still stuck with a small digital display embedded within the otherwise analogue watch face. Of course, I would like to see a bigger display, but I think however Withings achieved that, they would still be compromising something. After all, that is exactly what a Hybrid Smartwatch is. It’s a compromise between form, function, battery life and essential smart features. I’m not sure I’d change much in terms of that makeup here.

Functions – Fitness Tracking & Measurement Stacking

The included features are now bolstered by the addition of medical-grade ECG recording, an oximeter and breathing disturbance detection. All of these new features have been specifically developed along with industry-leading healthcare professionals and labs around the world. In short, they should provide you with enough information to accurately track sleep, blood oxygen levels as well as detecting abnormal heart rhythms. Withings are at pains to point out that none of this is a substitute for direct healthcare intervention and should be used alongside such actions.

The ECG and SpO2 measurements are on-demand and require action from the wearer to complete, whereas other functions such as sleep tracking and respiratory scans to check for breathing difficulties during sleep, will happen at regular intervals. Alongside the standard fitness tracking options and auto-movement tracking, the ScanWatch really seems to have a fully rounded view of your health, for a Hybrid smartwatch.

The fitness tracking can still be a little hit and miss unless you specifically select a workout mode that directly relates to what you’re doing. For example, in my testing when at the gym, I usually complete a combination of cardio and weight sets. There’s no “Gym” setting in the workout slots, and whilst there is a “Weights” option, that only covers half of my workout and I don’t want to be constantly changing my watch mode. I’ve found it’s infinitely easier to not enter a workout mode and let the watch figure it out. That is when I seem to get a calorie burn discrepancy between what the machines at the gym are saying and what the watch is. It’s usually within a margin of error though.

If you’re into going for a run, then you’ll have to take your phone as there is still no GPS included. Equally, if you want to buy a drink afterwards, you can’t use your watch still as NFC is also missing.

All of these metrics and fitness functions have an impact on the battery life too, of course, depending on how often they are used. Withings’ claim of 30-day battery life isn’t overstating what the ScanWatch is capable of, however, in heavy use, it might be pushing it a little. I managed 21 days with everything turned on, which I think is still respectable. I think I could get close to the 30-day mark with a lot of the features turned off or infrequently used. Three Weeks is still more than adequate.

Health Mate – A Great Companion

Once you’re done with the watch for the day you can turn your attention to the Health Mate companion app or the Withings Health Mate web site, where you can review your progress against goals and your historical measurements. Health Mate doesn’t have the depth of say Polar or Garmin’s apps or Web offerings but it is more than enough information for myself. Anybody who takes a casual/passing interest in their health will find something of interest here.

Final Thoughts

 

Withings ScanWatch sitting on a table

Has Withings created the best Hybrid Smartwatch on the market? I’m not sure, I’d have to take a much closer look at some of the competitors. What I can tell you is they have managed to create something truly special. It looks great, it fits great, it’s comfortable, and it provides smartwatch elements that are naturally most important to people.

The fitness tracking isn’t perfect, but it has come on leaps and bounds since their (cough Nokia) early efforts. I defy anybody not to be largely happy with the readings it takes. Furthermore, the amount of work put into the new features such as the ECG and breathing disturbance detection is to be applauded. They haven’t thrown these in as an afterthought; it’s foremost to their philosophy and if it helps users take more notice of their health, then that has to be positive.

Battery life is great once again, and aside from the slightly small digital screen, and the infuriating charger change, I can’t recommend this highly enough. The price bump is justified by Withings in the work it has had to undertake to align itself with the various medical outfits to get this technology to market. I understand that, but some may find a £280 Hybrid watch a little tough to take. Like it or not, it sits firmly in the middle of the smartwatch market price-wise and it has more elegance than most.

Take a punt!

About Craig Bradshaw

Tech enthusiast and Editor-in-Chief of MobileTechTalk

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