Withings ScanWatch Nova review – My Apple Watch now sits in a drawer

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REVIEW – What defines a watch? Years ago, that would have been silly to ask. Today, however, it’s a legitimate question. In nine short years, the most popular watch in the world—by far—is the Apple Watch. But is it really a watch? To me, a watch is a mechanical time-keeping device worn either in a pocket (old times) or on the wrist. What Apple made is a computer worn on the wrist. Sure, it tells time, but that’s almost an afterthought. It’s the other stuff that makes it an Apple Watch. What if you like the look and elegance of mechanical (analog) watches, but you appreciate the benefits only a smartwatch can provide? You’re in luck because the health company Withings has released the ScanWatch Nova, an analog and smartwatch combined. A true hybrid.

Withings ScanWatch Nova 16

What is it?

The Withings ScanWatch Nova watch is designed in the tradition of a diver’s watch (think Rolex). This iconic look includes a stainless steel case, ceramic rotating bezel, glow-in-the-dark markers (indexes) and hands, an oyster metal band, and a sapphire glass face. 

Two bands are supplied with the Nova watch: Oyster metal and fluoroelastomer (say that fast five times). The fluoroelastomer band is a silicone band that works well for exercising. Withings offers other bands and colors in leather ($50), recycled PET woven ($36), and fluoroelastomer ($36). Not much detail is given on the web page about the bands, though.

The Nova is a true diver’s watch rated at 10 ATM, which means the Nova can withstand a depth of 110 yards—that’s over the length of a football field! 10 ATM also means it can withstand splashes, rain or snow, showering, swimming, diving into water, snorkeling, and high-speed water sports.

Withings ScanWatch Nova 15

The smart portion of the ScanWatch is contained inside a small circle screen built into the watch face and underneath the case where it rests on the wrist. Here’s a list of the readings the Nova can perform (forgive me if I missed a couple):

  • Track body temperature 24/7 
  • On-demand electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Measure blood oxygen levels (SpO2)
  • Measure heart rate beats per minute (BPM)
  • Sleep quality score
  • Count walking steps
  • Count breaths taken per minute
  • Menstrual tracking

More on these features later in the review.

Withings ScanWatch Nova 6

What’s included?

  • Withings ScanWatch Nova
  • Metal oyster band
  • Fluoroelastomer band
  • Tools for sizing oyster band
  • Smartphone app for storing gathered health data

Withings ScanWatch Nova 3

Design and features

When I received the Withings ScanWatch Nova for review, I had no idea how involved it would become. This watch does so much right out of the box, plus can do even more with a paid subscription to Withings+, an extra-cost subscription that includes health content, setting and tracking goals, health status monitoring, a library of recipes, workouts, and articles. Withings+ costs $10/month or $100/year. Note that Withings+ also works with other Withings health products.

Let me state right now that I did not nor do I intend to subscribe to Withings+. I’m sure someone like me could benefit, but I know me and I wouldn’t follow it enough to make it worthwhile. Plus, I’m not a fan of companies charging for features after an item is purchased. Others may feel differently. I get all the info I need (and then some)  from the watch and its app.

Withings ScanWatch Nova 18

Opening the box containing the ScanWatch Nova shows off its elegance. The packaging presents the watch like a fine piece of jewelry—which I guess you could say it is. The Nova comes in three colorways: Black, Green, and Blue. I had trouble choosing between blue or green—finally deciding on Blue. 

Once out of the box, the Nova will need to be fully charged which doesn’t take long. Withings states that a full battery will last 30 days—a far cry from the Apple Watch which needs to be charged every day or two. The main explanation for the phenomenal battery life is that the smart portion is relegated to a small, circular monochromatic screen on the watch face—yet still relays necessary information. By comparison, Apple’s full-color, beautiful, and infinitely changeable face is a battery hog. 

Withings ScanWatch Nova 11

As a test, I wore the watch 24/7 on a 12-day vacation to the UK with my wife and purposefully left the charger behind. When we returned, I had all kinds of measurements to peruse. The Nova still had 22% of battery life left. While this fell short of the advertised 30 days (don’t they all?), it’s still darn good! Plus, it recharged to full in less than an hour. Note that recharging the Nova requires a small attachment with a USB-C port (cable included). Recharging is the least elegant function of the watch. I would have appreciated a more simple method—such as how Apple does it magnetically.

Withings ScanWatch Nova 8

The watch face of the ScanWatch Nova sports a monochrome display, a small dial at the bottom showing the progress of steps taken, hour and minute hands, indexes, and the rotating outer bezel used for tracking diving times. The hands and indexes are glow-in-the-dark, but they don’t shine as much as I wish. In the dark, I have to stare at the face for a while before I can see the hands.

One clever thing Withings did is to move the hands out of the way when needed. Let me explain: The hands can block the circular screen when the time is anywhere around 10 am-2 pm. If the crown is pressed, the hands move out of the way exposing the screen, and return to the proper time when the crown is released. Withings thought of everything.

Withings ScanWatch Nova 17

Since I chose to use the oyster band, it had to be sized for my wrist. Fortunately, Withings provides an excellent set of tools to remove and add sections properly until the proper fit is achieved. While the resizing wasn’t as smooth as I had hoped, the tools helped—a lot. I’m saving the tools. They are too nice to discard even after the band fits my wrist. The oyster band is so comfortable, I haven’t even tried the fluoroelastomer band—yet. 

Withings ScanWatch Nova 7

Let’s go over the Smart parts of the Nova watch. I won’t cover every smart function (there are a lot), but here are my thoughts on the ones I use every day. Note that the readings and measurements are listed and stored in the Withings app. To access the features on the watch face, just press the crown and turn the dial until the preferred setting is reached. Note that each feature can be set to show on the face—or not—in the Withings app.

Withings ScanWatch Nova 2

Many of the smart features rely on various lights located under the watch case that rests against the skin of the wrist. This is much like all other smart watches.

Withings ScanWatch Nova 10

Track body temperature 24/7

When my wife and I returned from the UK, I developed a sinus infection that felt like I had a fever. The Nova indicated my temp was .1° over normal—not exactly a fever. How accurate can a temp reading be when taken from a wrist?

On-demand electrocardiogram (ECG)

I like this function. By placing my other hand over the watch, I get an ECG which is then stored in the app. This is a manual (but easy) test. It’s not automatic. Note that if certain rules aren’t followed, the reading will fail and must be repeated.

Measure blood oxygen saturation levels (SpO2)

This one is important for my health. I have what is known as Interstitial lung disease. Along with the medicine I take, I need to stay on top of my oxygen saturation levels. Thanks to my medicine, it’s “so far so good”. The Nova watch makes taking these measurements easy. The watch will walk you through the steps. Oxygen saturation levels can also be measured overnight—provided the watch is worn while sleeping.

Withings ScanWatch Nova 9

Measure heart rate beats per minute (BPM)

This is a common one. My family does not have a history of heart disease, but at my age, I keep an eye on my heart rate anyway. It’s usually in the high 60s to mid-70s at rest—despite my severe lack of exercise. 

Withings ScanWatch Nova 13

Sleep quality score

This one is interesting. I’m still not convinced how accurate it is. But then, I’ve not seen any sleep measurement I trust that doesn’t have a thousand wires attached to my head. Even so, this is a good indicator of sleep trends. Mine—always bad.

Count walking steps

This simply counts the steps you’ve taken throughout the day. You can set a goal and the Nova will constantly remind you how you’re doing. Apple has pretty colorful rings that need to be completed by the end of the day, but the Nova just has a simple analog dial at the bottom of the watch face indicating the percentage of success, not actual steps. It’s user-friendly and doesn’t suck the battery dry as those colorful rings can.

Count breaths taken per minute

This is a manual test I’ve not taken much. I’m not convinced of its use when you can easily check heart rate, but it’s there if you need it.

Menstrual tracking

I’m a guy, so there’s that. However, from what I’ve read, it looks like this measurement can help predict ovulation for couples trying to get pregnant. That’s cool!

There are the usual alarms that can be set along with a built-in Stopwatch. I set an alarm to remind me when to take my lung medication twice a day and a wake-up alarm. The watch quietly buzzes the wrist. This works quite well and gently wakes me up every morning without disturbing anyone else.

Withings ScanWatch Nova 14

There are countless goal-setting features in the app along with videos explaining how to master the Nova. Note that this review doesn’t cover everything the ScanWatch Nova is capable of doing. But I hope it gives you a taste of the Nova’s features. Withings offers a 30-day trial to see if it might be right for you.

Withings ScanWatch Nova 5

What I like about the Withings ScanWatch Nova

  • Beautiful
  • Useful
  • Long-lasting battery
  • Sturdy
  • Comfortable 

What needs to be improved?

  • Not a fan of the Withings+ subscription model
  • Expensive

Withings ScanWatch Nova 1

Final thoughts

So what’s it like wearing the ScanWatch Nova day after day? As someone who is coming off 5 years of wearing an Apple Watch 3-4 days per week (because charging is a pain), I find myself wearing the Nova every day—and through the night. That’s easy to do when it only needs to be charged every three weeks or so. Yes, the Nova is more expensive than a typical aluminum Apple Watch, but it’s less expensive than the comparable stainless steel Apple Watch—and better looking (IMHO). After over a month spent with the Withings ScanWatch Nova (this review is late), I’ve put my Apple Watch in a drawer. I never thought I’d do that.

Price: $599.99
Where to buy: Withings and Amazon
Source: The sample of this product was provided for free by Withings. Withings did not have a final say on the review and did not preview the review before it was published.

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