(Pocket-lint) - Withings has carved out a good slice of the smartwatch market as its own by recognising that plenty of people actually aren't all that fussed by the fancy displays and smart features of these modern timepieces.

Stripping those back and providing all the accurate health and fitness tracking you could need, with a primary analog watch face and small display for functionality, has made Withings' watches popular for good reason.

The ScanWatch wraps together all those good points, plus brings both atrial fibrillation detection and SpO2 monitoring to the table, making for a compelling and stylish package. 

Design

  • 38mm or 42mm sizes with analogue faces
  • 22mm swappable strap
  • 5ATM water resistance

The ScanWatch, as is inescapably obvious when looking at it, is a hybrid watch that can easily pass for a standard watch if its small screen isn't on. On that level, it's a great success - this is a seriously classy-looking watch for the price.

It has a relatively simple design, without too much ornamentation. Its heavy and solid feel evokes quality, while there are no plastic or cheap elements bringing the overall package down.

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We've been using the 42mm version of the watch, which is of a decent size but far from too large. The smaller 38mm version has a minimalism about it that we really like, too. 

Regardless of the size you opt for, you'll get a cleanly designed watch with a clearly readable face and no differences on the features or battery front between the two. Both sizes are also available with a black watch face, further widening their potential appeal to people's varying styles.

The ScanWatch uses standard 22mm straps. It comes with a default black one made from fluoroelastomer - it feels like pretty normal silicone material - which is a useful choice for a watch that you're encouraged to use when exercising. We typically swapped the strap out for a leather equivalent when we weren't jogging or playing sport, which is easy to do. 

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The watch's dial is a digital crown - much like that featured on the Apple Watch - and provides control over the limited set of menus that you can interact with on the small PMOLED display. Clicking the crown brings this to life, so you can scroll through various settings or set an activity timer.

This is straightforward, although the size of the display does mean that it can sometimes be a tad obtuse to get where you're trying to go. The whole face is covered by scratch-resistant sapphire glass, which is clear and well-chosen, while the watch as a whole manages 5ATM water resistance - meaning it'll be fine down to depths of 50 metres. 

Smart features and battery life

  • Limited notifications only
  • 30-day battery life

As is hopefully becoming clear, Withings isn't selling the ScanWatch on the idea that it can be a catch-all smartwatch. There are far fewer smart features here than you would get if you went for a full-display smartwatch like the Apple Watch Series 5 or Samsung Galaxy Watch 3.

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While you can get vibration alerts to let you know a call or message is incoming, you'll struggle to read what they contain on the small display, and notifications are effectively the limit of what you can do. There's no music control, let alone playback, and you won't be able to compose message responses or anything more advanced like that. 

There's also no voice assistant or a similar system. However, it's worth pointing out that these don't feel like negative notes on a watch like this. The ScanWatch has no pretense at offering more advanced smart features, so there's no issue with their absence. If you want a smartwatch that will let you take phone calls and dictate emails, you're better off looking elsewhere.

However, that pared-back approach makes the ScanWatch elegant to use much like a traditional mechanical watch. You can use it to start a workout or wake you up in the morning, but you can also wear and use it like a regular watch and forget that it's smart at all. 

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That's aided by superb battery life, which stretches to 30 days if you're not using too many of its more advanced health features regularly. We found that this touted life held up under our testing, and supports the watch's ability to track your sleep without needing an overnight charge. 

Withings confirms that this battery life will be lower if users want to utilise the watch's AFib detection daily, or set it to monitor breathing patterns every night (instead of more periodically as recommended) - but it'll still last through a week and then some, setting it apart from more fully-featured smartwatches. 

Health tracking

  • Heart rate and activity tracking
  • AFib detection and SpO2
  • Tethered GPS

The real cornerstone of Withings' business is its health tracking - and the same is very much true when it comes to the ScanWatch's biggest strengths. This is one of the most advanced health tracking watches you can find anywhere right now, as it can help you gain a pretty comprehensive view of your fitness and wellbeing. 

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The headline additions to the ScanWatch compared to previous Withings watches is atrial fibrillation detection, which can help to monitor the regularity of your heartbeat. It can also check for breathing disturbances while you sleep, giving it a potent edge over simpler heart-rate monitors.

However, it also does a whole bunch else besides, including standard heart-rate tracking, SpO2 monitoring, full activity tracking (including steps, calories and distance), an altimeter to track how many floors you go up or down, sleep cycle tracking, and activity modes for a wide range of sports (from running to football, tennis and more). 

The ScanWatch's tracking was accurate in our testing, matching up nicely with control tests from Fitbit's Versa Lite smartwatch. Whether we were on a lazy walk, taking a light jog, or playing tennis for 90 minutes, the heart-rate data was consistent and easy to review. Ending a workout using the digital crown wasn't quite as quick as we'd like - requiring us to hold down the crown a couple of times - but that wasn't much of a roadblock. 

That reviewing of data is through Withings' Health Mate app, which is impressively easy to navigate. Your data syncs to your phone automatically, although the ScanWatch can store five days' worth before that's needed, just in case you're ever without your smartphone for a few days. 

On the app you can review your activity rates by the day, week or month, and can easily zoom into previous days or specific workouts to see how you performed. Sleep tracking works in the same way, and will be instantly familiar to anyone who's used Withings' Sleep Analyzer. The tracking is similarly solid, too, although the ScanWatch isn't the lightest for wearing overnight. 

Heath Mate also makes it easy to change the settings as far as notifications and alarms go, and you can download any software updates for the watch through it, too. It's a well-rounded system that shows the benefits of the years of iteration and development Withings has put into it. 

Verdict

The Withings ScanWatch is one of those wonderful pieces of technology that integrates so well into life that you can more or less forget about it. That feels like it's by design - its tracking ticks away in the background with impressive accuracy, whether you're out on a run or just having a normal work day - because you won't always be fretting about charging it.

The ScanWatch looks great too, with that clean-but-premium hybrid design, and while the strap it comes with isn't super-premium it's easily swapped out for whatever 22mm alternative you want.

Overall the ScanWatch is an attractive package with top-grade tracking, although it's fair to say that you can also opt for an alternative if you want a lot more smart features - and it won't cost that much more. But if you think a hybrid smartwatch could be the right pick for you, they don't come better than this. 

Also consider

Apple Watch Series 3

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If reading all about the ScanWatch has made you think that you do, in fact, want smart features rather than a traditional watch, and you want to undercut Withings' cost as well, then Apple's Series 3 smartwatch is a top pick. It's now more affordable than ever, as it's not the latest and greatest model in the range, and will give you a great integrated experience - especially if you're using an iPhone. 

Withings Steel HR Sport

If you like the idea of a hybrid but want to get a slightly more affordable watch, and don't mind missing out on AFib detection, the older Withings Steel HR Sport is a great bet. It's got a pretty similar design and is similarly excellent for sports tracking. A 30-day battery life matches the ScanWatch, although the watch face itself has a slightly less clean look. 

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Writing by Max Freeman-Mills. Editing by Mike Lowe.