Withings ScanWatch Light review

The Withings ScanWatch Light is a lightweight watch that offers a pretty good range of smartwatch functions, but its small screen isn't good for notifications.

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9.3Expert Score
Watch first, smartwatch second

The Withings ScanWatch Light is a lightweight watch that offers a pretty good range of smartwatch functions, but its small screen isn’t good for notifications.

Design
9.5
Performance
9
Pros
  • Stylish, robust watch design
  • Outstanding battery life
  • Good health and sleep features
Cons
  • Notifications are cumbersome
  • Controls take getting used to
  • Could use deeper health insights

After about two weeks of wearing the Withings ScanWatch Light for this review, I started manually going into the settings of the watch to check the battery life.

I’ve been wearing the Apple Watch Series 9 since it launched, and before that, the Apple Watch Series 5. Before that, I was a big advocate for Fitbit and before that, I loved my Jawbone UP24.

But none of those devices (or any of the options in our best smartwatches list, for that matter) lasted more than 10 days, and most needed to be charged daily. After two weeks, I started to get anxious that maybe I was missing the recharge notification.

I wasn’t.

The ScanWatch Light’s battery lasts for weeks. Not quite the 30 days they state, but more than three weeks.

It manages this by sacrificing some of the smartwatch features you may have come to expect. By design, this is more wristwatch than smartwatch, and it manages that balance exceptionally well.

It also does make some controls a bit more awkward than a traditional smartwatch. And notifications aren’t as useful, given the watch’s actual notification window is tiny.

This didn’t upset me, though. It actually felt good to not be bombarded with alerts that I had received a new email or that someone was at my front door.

Withings ScanWatch Light review: Design

At a distance, the ScanWatch Light looks pretty close to a regular watch. Depending on your colour choice (between Black, Pearl White, Sand, Blue, and Green), that distinction is even more obvious.

That’s because the small grayscale OLED that conveys all the watch’s “smarts” looks black when it’s not displaying anything. On my black review model, the screen almost blends into the watch face.

The watch itself has a 37 mm case, which is a fair bit smaller than the 45 mm screen on the Apple Watch Series 9. My personal preference would be for a larger screen, but that’s what the ScanWatch Nova is for, I guess.

The ScanWatch Light in Black and silver on some grass

That said, 37 mm isn’t small — this is not a dainty wristwatch that looks misplaced on a masculine wrist. It can happily suit either male or female arms, though some colour choices are definitely geared towards the different genders.

The frame is made of stainless steel, while the screen is Gorilla Glass. While I avoided any intentional damage to the watch, I haven’t seen any unintentional markings either.

If you like swimming, the ScanWatch Light is rated to 5 ATM, which means it can go 50 metres in depth for 10 minutes, but ultimately is better suited to shallow water activities like swimming, rather than diving.

The supplied band is a standard watch strap design, and I’d be lying if I said it was comfortable. The fluoroelastomer band is rubbery, but not overly stretchy. 

But despite that, over the month of testing, the band never caused any real irritation of my skin, which is a definite win.

Close up of the ScanWatch Light's screen

Controls and screen

With a traditional watch face and a tiny OLED screen, it’s not a surprise there’s no fancy touchscreen here. Control is managed solely via the crown on the side of the watch.

This is a blessing and a curse. 

I love the fact that such limited controls has forced Withings to be clever about its user interface. Your control options are limited to scrolling up or down by turning the crown, or selecting your option by pressing the crown in.

A long press of the crown launches a shortcut function you can set in the app. I programmed mine to open the activity function, but I always forgot to use it.

The downside of limited controls is that navigating back requires a dedicated option in the menu that you have to scroll to.

It’s not complicated, but it does require a mental shift, as I discovered when I accidentally cancelled my morning alarm during the first week of testing. After checking the alarm was set, I pressed the crown again to turn off the screen, and ended up turning off the alarm.

The small screen, meanwhile, does a decent job of displaying information. Again, Withings has been clever with its real estate, drilling everything back to its most basic information.

The catch is notifications. Text messages scroll across the screen, which is a terrible way of consuming information. Fortunately, there’s an easy toggle in the Withings app to just turn off notifications.

The sensors on the back of the ScanWatch light

Withings ScanWatch Light review: Performance

Yes, the ScanWatch Light tells the time. As a watch, it’s great.

But this section is more about the “smart” part of the hybrid smartwatch. 

Withings has packed many functions into the ScanWatch Light. It’s not everything, though — for more advanced features like an ECG, you need to spring for the ScanWatch 2 or ScanWatch Nova.

The watch’s screen can track steps, distance travelled, workouts, heart rate, calories, clock (it’s digital, which is useful when it’s dark), cycle tracking and breathing. It also tracks your sleep.

Because the screen is so small, most of the health and fitness information is kept for the Withings app, available on iOS on Android.

One good thing I appreciated with the move from an Apple Watch to the ScanWatch Light was the fact that the Withings app seamlessly integrates into Apple Health. That means I have a continuous stream of data, and while I can’t see the info in Apple’s Fitness app, it’s all in the Health app.

But when it comes to the Withings app, your information is broken down to key data, tracked over the past seven and 30 days.

Wearing the ScanWatch Light outdoors

Exercising

The watch tracks a huge number of exercises, withe everything from Walking and Running and Cycling to Zumba, Ping-Pong, and Rugby (though no referee in the world would let you on the field wearing a watch).

There’s no integrated GPS with the ScanWatch Light, so you’ll need to walk around with your phone if you want to map out your route.

It will also track activity automatically, though I found that when the watch tries this, it won’t turn on the GPS. It doesn’t even buzz your wrist to ask if you wish to track it officially, like the Apple Watch does.

Sleep tracking

Given how lightweight the ScanWatch Light is, I found it easier to wear to bed for sleep tracking than the Apple Watch. But all watches all have that problem.

The insights from sleep tracking are interesting, and seem to be a bit more useful than Apple’s offerings.

Each night you get a score, based on four factors: Duration, Depth, Regularity, and Interruptions.

For almost every night I wore the ScanWatch, it told me my Depth score was “Bad” because I didn’t spend enough time in deep sleep or REM.

But insights into how to turn it around were lacking. All the app told me was “You can’t control your sleep phases in your sleep, however getting to bed later than usual leads to less deep sleep. That’s why regularity is key!”

My regularity score was consistently “Good”, though, so not sure what I can do top get a deeper night’s sleep. I’d love more insights, Withings!

The watch will also monitor your heart rate over your sleep, which you can help identify trends in your overall health.

Battery life

Withings claims 30 days of battery life. 

After two weeks, I started checking battery life every few days, and after 23 days of sporadic activity and not great sleep (apparently), I got the notification the battery was at 5%, and I should charge it up.

This is fundamentally the biggest reason to buy a hybrid watch like this. If you only have to charge the watch once a month or so, you can spend more time using it.

For what it’s worth, the battery is pretty quick to charge up as well, going from 4% to 100% in a couple of hours.

The ScanWatch Light on a fence

Verdict

With its combination of a stylish design and a fairly robust function list, there’s a lot to like about the ScanWatch Light.

It’s a watch first, and a smartwatch second, and I truly appreciate that. There are no apps, and while that means things like notifications are pretty terrible to read, it also allows more focus.

It also means you get weeks of battery life. It’s a revelation.

The watch does a good job of tracking your exercise and your sleep, though all insights are delegated to your smartphone. I’d also love more profound insights, particularly on the sleep front.

But overall, if you are looking for a hybrid smartwatch with a small, yet stylish face, the ScanWatch Light is a strong performer.

Buy the Withings ScanWatch Light online

9.3
Withings Scanwatch Light 37mm – White

Withings Scanwatch Light 37mm – White

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9.3
Withings Scanwatch Light 37mm – Rose Gold

Withings Scanwatch Light 37mm – Rose Gold

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$299.00
9.3
Withings Scanwatch Light 37mm – Black

Withings Scanwatch Light 37mm – Black

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Product disclosure

Withings supplied the product for this review.

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Author

  • Nick Broughall

    Nick is the founder and editor of BTTR. He is an award winning product reviewer, who has spent the last 20 years writing, editing and publishing technology and consumer content for brands like Finder, Gizmodo and TechRadar.

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