After nearly three years without a new smartwatch, Withings is kicking off IFA 2023 by announcing not one but two ScanWatch hybrid watches.
The $349.95 ScanWatch 2 is Withings’ latest and greatest hybrid smartwatch, with a new temperature tracking module that uses a combination of four sensors: a thermistor; heat flux; PPG (the green LED for measuring heart rate); and accelerometer. Data from the four sensors will then be fed into an algorithm that uses movement, heart rate, and skin temperature to deliver health insights. Withings also introduced a slightly pared-down, fashion-first ScanWatch Light for $249.99.
Unlike most smartwatches these days, the ScanWatch 2’s temperature tracking isn’t intended for advanced cycle tracking, though the ScanWatch 2 does add the ability to log periods and symptoms straight from the wrist. Instead, Withings told me the goal is to monitor temperature fluctuations during the day and build a baseline to help wearers optimize workouts and detect when they may be getting sick. The ScanWatch 2 will show temperature zones during workouts and recovery temperatures afterward. As for illness detection, this isn’t quite the same as the warning light idea researchers have been looking into since the start of the covid-19 pandemic. You won’t get a notification that you might be getting sick. It’s more indirect. By building a temperature variance baseline, Withings gives you the opportunity to spot abnormal fluctuations, which you can then interpret as a sign that you may be getting ill.
There’s a reason Withings opted for such a roundabout approach. While there’s preliminary evidence that consumer wearables are capable of proactively detecting potential illnesses, building it into a full-blown predictive feature would require FDA clearance. And while Withings is no stranger to that process, it is long, tedious, and could potentially delay sales in the US. The original ScanWatch didn’t go on sale in the US until nearly two years after it was announced because that’s how long it took to get the required FDA clearance for its EKG and atrial fibrillation detection feature.
The ScanWatch Light is to the ScanWatch 2 what the Apple Watch SE is to the Apple Watch Series 8. It’s missing the ScanWatch 2’s temperature sensors, EKGs, atrial fibrillation detection, and high and low heart rate notifications. It also doesn’t track elevation or blood oxygen levels.
I got to see the original ScanWatch, ScanWatch 2, and Light side by side at a hands-on event in New York City ahead of IFA 2023. The Light has the most distinctive design of the three: it’s more feminine, with a thinner bezel and more colorful options like rose gold, pastel blue, and a minty green.
On my wrist, the 37mm Light was noticeably smaller and lighter. The green one, in particular, reminded me a lot of the Garmin Vivomove Sport but with a classier analog vibe. The regular ScanWatch 2 comes in two sizes — 38mm and 42mm — and has a more classically masculine style. I don’t love that smartwatch (and other tech) makers tend to make entry-level devices more colorful and feminine-coded, while higher-end trackers almost always adopt a more masculine style. I’m sure there are technological and market research factors at play here, but generally speaking, I wish companies explored more unisex design options.
I only got to see demo models of Withings’ new watches, so it’s impossible to reach any verdicts yet. That said, they certainly felt nice to handle — probably because the cases are stainless steel. (The ScanWatch 2 also has a sapphire crystal lens.) It’s been a while since we’ve seen this kind of classy hybrid smartwatch — and frankly, I’ve missed them and their battery life; both of these watches will have an estimated 30 days on a single charge.
The $349.95 ScanWatch 2 and the $249.95 ScanWatch Light are available for preorder today. Withings says it expects the watches to arrive at selected retailers later in October.