Withings's Latest Smartwatch Doubles Down on Medical Wearables

Image: Withings

Last year, Withings wowed at CES with a hybrid smartwatch that could also take your ECG. That was no small feat, considering it came just months after Apple made waves with the same feature on the Series 4. This year, it’s doubling down on ‘medical-grade’ hybrid smartwatches with the ScanWatch, which can take ECGs and monitor for sleep apnea.

The ScanWatch purportedly tracks for sleep apnea via Sp02 sensors. That makes sense, and in the world of wearables, it’s nothing new. Fitbit has included SpO2 sensors since it introduced the Ionic in 2017. Garmin has them in their smartwatches as a means of measuring how much your body has recovered from strenuous workouts. Fitbit has been hinting that sleep apnea is an area of interest for years now, but has yet to create new features with the SpO2 sensors. That’s what makes the ScanWatch interesting—not only is it claiming to help detect sleep apnea in users, Withings has submitted it for FDA clearance.

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Getting FDA clearance is big—it certainly lent credibility to the Series 4's ability to read ECGs. But it’s also a gamble. Unless you’re Apple, getting the FDA to clear a product can take months—which is exactly what happened to the Withings Move ECG last year. Despite being announced in January 2019, the watch got stuck in regulation hell. It finally became available in Europe in September, and as of this writing, it’s still not available in the U.S. While it’s admirable that Withings is sticking to its guns with the ScanWatch, there’s a real chance we won’t see it for months. Maybe even years.

That said, Withings’s ECG features are pretty good—even on a hybrid. I got the chance to test out a review sample a few months ago, and the results were on par with the Series 4. That’s a good sign for the ScanWatch, which seems like the Move ECG plus SpO2 sensors.

Another welcome addition to the ScanWatch is a small PMOLED display. One problem I had with the Move ECG was that I couldn’t do much from the wrist. I could only view the time and what percentage of my step goal I’d walked. For anything else, I’d have to whip out my phone. On the ScanWatch, you’ll be able to view steps, sleep score, calories, distance, and heart rate. You can also see smartphone notifications. The digital crown will also let users record ECG and SpO2 measurements, start workouts, and set alarms.

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That said, without testing it’s hard to tell how accurate the ScanWatch will be when it comes to sleep tracking. I’ve tested other Withings smartwatches and sleep products and the results have generally been so-so. Withings says it worked with cardiologists and sleep experts in developing the ScanWatch—a good sign—but the overall accuracy of wrist-based sleep tracking isn’t as ironclad as we’d all like.

Right now, Withings is projecting the ScanWatch will be available sometime in Q2 this year—though if history is any indicator, I’m not holding my breath. It’ll come in two sizes: 38mm and 42mm for $250 and $300, respectively.

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About the author

Victoria Song

Consumer tech reporter by day, danger noodle by night. No, I'm not the K-Pop star.