I have tested countless smartwatches and fitness trackers, and many of them impressed me at first blush. But few claimed a spot on my wrist after the review was done. All eventually lay discarded on the nightstand after I forgot to charge them. Most smartwatches tout features I have little use for, and fitness trackers often look incongruous outside the gym.
The Withings ScanWatch is different. This hybrid smartwatch has a very particular set of skills: It passes easily for an analog watch; it tracks my activity, workouts, and sleep; it keeps an unblinking eye on my health; and it offers basic notifications from my phone. It can also go a whole month between charges.
The sapphire glass and stainless steel construction of the timepiece make for a sophisticated pairing that conveys quality. The Withings ScanWatch looks like a traditional watch, with chrome-covered hour and minute hands. The circular face has two smaller dials inside. The bottom dial has a single red analog hand that shows your progress toward your fitness goals for the day, which is measured as a percentage between zero and 100. The top dial isn’t actually a dial at all. Press the rotating crown on the side of the ScanWatch and the minute and hour hands sweep aside as a tiny passive matrix OLED display comes to life to show you the digital time and date. Give the crown a spin to see different bits of data appear on that tiny screen: your heart rate, step count, distance covered, and floors climbed.
Switching from an Apple Watch, I found the 42-mm Withings ScanWatch heavy at first. It has chunky lugs (the 38-mm model has a much daintier design), but it is a comfortable timepiece to wear, with a generous black fluoroelastomer wristband that has proven durable and less apt to pick up lint than the silicone bands I’ve worn before. The ScanWatch looks and feels precise. The classic design blends in with any setting or outfit, so I rarely feel the need to take it off when I dress up or down.
Distilled and Accessible
Stripped of superfluous smartwatch features, the Withings ScanWatch focuses firmly on fitness and health. There’s no NFC for mobile payments, no microphone or speaker for calls or voice assistants, and no support for music playback. You can turn on incoming notifications from your phone, but I recommend setting them to calls only, as the display is too small for other notifications. By the time a ticker-tape text message unfurls, you could have easily slipped the phone from your pocket, read the notification, and put it away again.
It’s rare for me to use a device for nine months before reviewing it, but the American release of the Withings ScanWatch was delayed while the manufacturer sought clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration for its ability to detect atrial fibrillation through the built-in electrocardiogram sensor, and to measure blood oxygen levels with the SpO2 sensor. Both the Apple Watch 7 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 offer similar functionality, but only the Withings ScanWatch has FDA clearance on the blood oxygen monitoring.
These features allow the ScanWatch to alert wearers to irregular heartbeat issues and breathing disturbances that should be investigated by a medical professional. Because AFib is intermittent, the ability to take an ECG reading on-demand and record any episodes is potentially valuable. So is the ability to share that data with a doctor through the Withings Health Mate app. The SpO2 functionality can reveal respiratory problems, such as sleep apnea, but measuring SpO2 accurately takes a little practice. I got inconclusive results until I followed Withings’ guidelines.