“Progression”, on the whole, is good. People live, on average, longer than ever; the sum total of all human knowledge and experience is at our fingertips; you can order a burger on your phone and it’ll arrive at your door 45 minutes later and only slightly lukewarm.
Progression is also the order of the day with smartwatches and fitness trackers – or “wearables” as people with black turtlenecks call them. Smartwatches are big business: in 2019, a third of people asked in the UK responded that they own a smartwatch or tracker, and the upturn in awareness of health over the last two years will only have boosted sales.
While there’s seemingly a general design agreement on what a smartwatch should look like – smooth-edged, black-mirrored, feature-laden while also telling the time – sometimes it’s good to take a few steps back.
Enter the Withings scanwatch. The Parisian watchmaker aims to bridge the gap between traditional watch wearers and the tech-forward smartwatch world with its range of classic-looking wearables. The scanwatch certainly finds itself in the luxury smartwatch market, and has, on the surface, all the makings of a great fitness tracker. However, does it manage to achieve the best of both worlds, or miss the mark trying to please everyone?
How we tested
Testing smartwatches is a matter of bedding them into your daily life. To that end, we’ve worn the Withings smartwatch every day (when we remember) for the last few weeks, getting to grips with comfort, design, durability and smart features.
We’ve given the partner app a good run through, checking out all of its various tools, and tested footstep accuracy. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve tested how far it gets away with looking like an attractive, traditional watch in a variety of situations, from café to workout.
Buy now from £249.95, Withings.com
Battery life: Up to 30 days normal usage, extra 20 days in power reserve mode
Water-resistance: 50m water resistant
Health tracking: Heart rate, blood oxygen, ECG, step counter, automatic detection of running and swimming, sleep tracker, elevation tracker
There’s no denying the scanwatch’s attractive design. The watch face is clean, clear and classic, with a subtle smart display that switches off automatically when not being used to leave you with as close to an old-school watch as you can get on the smartwatch market.
Throughout testing, people were consistently surprised that the scanwatch had smart tech under the face, a perfect sign for its traditional credentials. Add to this a comfortable rubber strap and water resistance up to 50 metres, and this is the only classic-looking watch that you’d feel as comfortable wearing to a New Years Eve party as trying desperately to stick to your New Year’s resolution in the gym the next day.
The small smart window on the watch face is large enough to show you the scanwatch’s tools and health information, from steps taken, to heart rate, to distance covered in the day. Switching on the display is a matter of pressing the crown, with navigation via twisting the crown to cycle through options. It’s a simple and effective way to check your vitals – or the time in the dark.
Thanks to the stripped-back display, the scanwatch’s battery life is monstrous. Officially, the watch lasts up to 30 days: using it regularly, we were astounded by how long the things kept ticking. Case in point: we went away for the weekend with the scanwatch on 19 per cent battery, we returned home with plenty of juice left in the tank. Apple and Samsung eat your hearts out.
The scanwatch is certainly more fitness tracker than smartwatch. What it does, however, it does particularly well, with some of the most advanced health tech we’ve seen even in trackers from brands like Fitbit and Garmin.
The “Health Mate” partner app offers a comprehensive series of tools catered to bespoke health tracking, and all information is clearly set out, ranging from oxygen saturation, to heart rate, to sleep and breath tracking.
The watch automatically checks your heart rate throughout the day to make sure you’re in tip top condition, notifying you if it detects a low, high or irregular heart rhythm. This, along with sinus rhythm tracking, can be easily turned into a report to send to your doctor for an extra level of consultation.
An automatic activity detection system means that you should, in theory, not have to tell it that you’re going on your first jog in three months: this is certainly a work in progress, with a few instances of either not picking up activity, or thinking that we’re asleep when we’re actually merely engrossed in the fourth episode of a Netflix binge. However, this is sure to improve with more users entering data into the app, and the manual workout modes work perfectly.
The app also promotes a heightened awareness of the effect mental state can have on overall health, with useful tips and tricks for reducing stress, a stress tracker for you to keep an eye on, and “conversations” with the app to help you reflect on your current stress levels and health goals.
A handy extra is the watch’s compatibility with a variety of smartphone apps, vibrating and displaying notifications on the interactive screen.
The verdict: Withings scanwatch
There’s nothing else on the market quite like the Withings scanwatch. The tech behind the classic face is astounding, and while there are teething problems with some aspects that will improve over time, it gives the big brands a run for their money in terms of scope and sophistication. It’s a mini physical on your wrist, and it’s easy to envisage the scanwatch revolutionising a user’s lifestyle.
If the scanwatch looked like most other smartwatches and trackers on the market, we’d still be impressed. However, what makes this tracker stand out from the rest is its supreme design ethos, adding a layer of luxury rarely seen with wearable tech – it just fits any scenario. This is the hybrid watch that bridges the gap between the beauty of traditional timepieces and the usability of a top-end health tracker. It scores highly in both worlds.
Buy now £249.95, Withings.com
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If you’re looking to read more about the competition, read our review of the best fitness trackers