Withings ScanWatch 2 and Light review: hybrid watches for the tech-weary

Nowadays there is an increase in the number of people asking me about simple yet stylish smartwatches. Emphasis on simple. Started with nice health and training features! Fill the third party apps! All they want is a device that looks nice, has easy tracking, and doesn’t require frequent charging. Everything else – the Apple Watches, the Samsung Galaxy Watches, the Pixel Watches – comes with too many bells and whistles. Inevitably, daily charging becomes outdated and these expensive watches end up collecting dust in a drawer.

If that’s you, the $349.95 Withings ScanWatch 2 or the $249.95 ScanWatch Light are worth a look.

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How we rate and review products

When I wore these outside, I was often stopped by friends, family, coworkers, and the occasional stranger. “That looks really nice,” they all said. “Where did you get it?” That rarely happens.

Hybrid smartwatches like these are essentially fancier, incognito versions of the fitness bands of yesteryear, wrapped in an analog watch. I recently saw a spirited discussion on Threads about whether you should wear an Apple Watch to a fancy dinner. Well, if you were to wear one to a wedding, only the eagle eye would notice that it’s a smartwatch.

The ScanWatch 2 is elegant, while the Light is sporty. A lot of that comes down to color and materials. The ScanWatch 2 has sapphire glass and an additional dial to track progress toward the step goal. It also opts for neutral colors such as Withings’ classic white or black faces. (There’s also an attractive navy blue option.) The Light opts for Gorilla glass and comes in a fun mint green or light blue in addition to the black and white versions. Both have stainless steel cases in silver or rose gold, with many strap options. Beyond the design, the ScanWatch 2 has more sensors and health tracking features, while the Light is a pared-down version that’s $100 cheaper.

I’d describe my style as “aggressive casual,” but neither watch stood out like a sore thumb with plaids, band tees, and jeans. Both were also easy to dress up for occasions where I needed to look like a put-together adult.

I have small wrists, but the 37mm Light was just the right size – and comically small if compared to the 49mm Apple Watch Ultra 2 on my other arm. The 38mm ScanWatch 2 felt similar in feel, but that is also available in a larger 42mm model. These are on the small side for smartwatches, so if you want something larger they may not be suitable.

These are for the people who say a watch is meant to tell the time… and maybe one or two other things.

That’s because neither watch conveys information, aside from the time, particularly well. All you get is a small grayscale OLED screen. If you want to read a notification, you have to wait until it scrolls slowly. Since there’s no touchscreen, you have to use the digital crown to scroll through menus and press it to select something. I tolerate starting a workout, but I’m less likely to do it for timers or ECG readings. It’s much less annoying than the Fossil Gen 6 Hybrid’s interface, but most days it was easier to treat this as a regular watch.

As with older fitness bands, this is especially useful for reviewing notifications and passively tracking basic stats. “Oh, what is this buzzing? Brad emailed. Brad can wait.” (You can also choose which apps ping you.) Plus, you’ll have to take your phone out to make calls or view your data.

That can be good! If you want to be more present, low-tech can be a useful tool. Navigating the menus on the ScanWatch is tedious, making me less likely to get distracted by a message.

If you want to be more present, low-tech can be a useful tool

Since the single screen is small and grayscale, the battery lasts for weeks at a time. If you use this primarily as an analog watch, those gains multiply. Seriously, I’ve worn them all to soften. Withings estimates you’ll get about 30 days of use on a single charge, although I got about 21 to 25 due to heavier test use. I took the ScanWatch 2 on a week-long business trip, left the charger at home, and all was well.

The only problem is that you might to lose the charger because you rarely need it. When I moved, the ScanWatch 2 charger disappeared into the same interdimensional portal that swallowed all my left socks. You can buy replacements, but unlike other gadgets, all smartwatch makers have their own proprietary chargers. That means replacements can get pricey (in this case, $24.95). And the two watches don’t even use the the same own charger. I tried to see if the Light’s charger would work, but it doesn’t. So if you and a family member both use Withings but have different watches, you can’t share.

The ScanWatch 2 keeps track of more data than the Light. In addition to a new temperature sensor, it measures the oxygen level and height in the blood. It also supports detection of atrial fibrillation via ECG measurements. The Light skips all that and shaves $100 off the price.

Otherwise, these are similar in function. Both support features such as heart rate monitoring and high/low heart rate notifications. GPS tracking for the watches is done via your phone and both are safe for swimming with a water resistance of 5ATM. And now, in the year 2024, Withings has added period tracking!

Withings’ app is geared more towards educated wellness than training, which again is great if you just need the basics. The app has a clean, minimalist design that’s easy to navigate and packed with educational reading material. I just hate the giant notification cards at the top. They are well-intentioned and often include tips on how to use the watch and reminders to achieve your goals. But they pile up, aren’t easy to ignore, and get old after a while. You have the option to subscribe to Withings Plus, but regular users don’t really need the extras it offers. In terms of data syncing, Withings works with Apple and Google’s health APIs as well as Strava.

Which one should you get? It depends if you want that all the health properties or the lower price of the Light. Personally, I would save the extra $100. The temperature sensor is not connected to cycle tracking, and is primarily intended for monitoring your baseline at rest, while sleeping, and during exercise. It’s fun for data nerds, but you don’t have to be a genius to know that you’ll feel warmer during intense workouts. Neither is SpO2 tracking in consumer wearables That still useful.

It was refreshing to test a smartwatch that does less. When I wore the Ultra 2 next to the ScanWatch 2 or the ScanWatch Light, I was able to see firsthand how many notifications I receive every day and how peaceful it can be when you are more intentional about what catches your attention.

But it’s not likely that Apple and Google will suddenly change course. Every year the watches get a little bigger, a little smarter and a little more packed with new sensors. For better or worse, smartwatches continue to do more, even though many people would like them to do less. Samsung is changing things up a bit with the upcoming Galaxy Ring, but even that seems to be an attempt to build out its ecosystem. (And might tempt you to buy a Samsung watch or phone while you’re at it.)

Withings has the ability to keep things simple here. There’s a gap in the stylish yet straightforward tracker space. Garmin hybrids are nice, but Garmins are known for data overload. Smart rings are having a moment, but they’re not ideal if you want them to be some reporting options. Fitbit’s Googlefication is messy. With fitness bands going the way of the dodo, you could do a lot worse than a Withings watch.

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