Withings ScanWatch first look: A smartwatch that can detect sleep apnea

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It’s been a dramatic few years for Withings. Having been acquired by Nokia, spat out, then bought back by its original founder, it’s now going all-in on health.


Its latest smartwatch is called the Withings ScanWatch, and it may be about to beat Apple and others on one major feature. Pending FDA clearance, the ScanWatch will be able to detect signs of sleep apnea using a new SpO2 sensor.

Read this: The best hybrid smartwatches

That’s just one of the new features. The watch also adds an ECG (which will also need the regulatory nod), allowing you to check for symptoms of atrial fibrillation.

There’s no doubting that the ScanWatch is an impressive piece of technology – but considering the company’s Move ECG watch from last year still hasn’t received FDA approval in the US, we’re remaining cautiously optimistic that Withings will make good on its promise to get the ScanWatch out by the second quarter of the year.

The ScanWatch comes in 38mm and 42mm case sizes, set to be priced at $249 and $299 respectively. There will be a range of silicone and other material bands to choose from, with nicer options like the leather pushing the price higher.


By the way, it’s a really nice watch. Withings knows how to make a good looking hybrid, and the ScanWatch retains a similar look and feel to the Withings Steel HR. What is different is the turnable crown, which you can use to scroll through the menu on that – yup, it’s back again – digital display.

Withings says you’ll get around 30 days of battery life from a single charge, one of the benefits of going for the hybrid approach over a full-screen smartwatch.

But let’s get to the important stuff: what the ScanWatch means for your health. As we said, the watch can make ECG readings, and these can be performed on the spot by selecting the ECG from the menu, holding at least one finger to the case, and waiting for the 30 second countdown to finish.

Once you’ve taken a reading, you’ll be able to open the app and check your rhythm is normal. If it’s not, it will suggest contacting your doctor. There’s also an option to produce a PDF of your ECG reading, which you can take along to the surgery.


All in all, it works much like the Apple Watch’s ECG. And similar to the Apple Watch, while you can take off-the-cuff ECG readings, the optical sensor that checks your heart rate throughout the day will also keep an eye out for irregular heartbeats, and if it thinks you may have them, suggest you take an ECG test.

Where the ScanWatch is very different is in offering sleep apnea detection. This uses a new pulse oximeter sensor to monitor your oxygen levels at night – one way that hints of sleep apnea can be caught.

An estimated 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, and it’s set to be one of the next big things in health and wearables. Fitbit has been working on this for quite some time, but it looks like Withings may be about to pip it to the post.

But there’s a big “if” here: Withings has to get FDA and CE (European) go-ahead, and while the company tells us it’s confident it will have it in time for a Q2 launch, the Move ECG is still in regulatory purgatory with the FDA.

Initial verdict

The ScanWatch is one of the most exciting wearables to come out of CES this year, and its sleep apnea detector could be significant if Withings can get FDA clearance. Here’s hoping it does, because it’s about time someone started chasing Apple.

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