I changed my Apple Watch for a luxury hybrid watch. Here’s what I learned

What is happening

I normally wear an Apple Watch. But I spent a few weeks trying out a hybrid watch called the Withings ScanWatch Horizon.

why is it important

Smartwatches are not cheap. You need to know what you’re getting for your money and whether any alternatives might be worth investing in.

A big smart watch must do three things well: keep you from constantly grabbing your call, track health metrics and look great on your wrist. But not at all smart watches are the same. Some are a better replacement for the phone, while others are more like a regular wristwatch. This is the biggest difference between traditional smartwatches (like the apple watch) and hybrid smartwatches like the Withings ScanWatch Horizon, which I recently reviewed.

Conventional smartwatches do a bit of everything. They’re relatively sleek, have plenty of health and activity tracking features, and are packed with phone-like features like NFC for mobile payments and a speaker and microphone for taking snapshots. calls. The Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, Fitbit Sense and to come Pixel Watch fall into this category.

But hybrid watches usually combine the qualities of analog watches and smartwatches, as the name suggests. They tend to look more like regular watches, with traditional dials that have physical hour and minute hands instead of digital numbers. Hybrid watches don’t have as many “smart” features, but they generally last longer on a single charge and still offer plenty of health tracking options.

I prefer traditional smartwatches and usually wear a apple watch. But spending a few weeks with the $500 Withings ScanWatch Horizon reminded me why hybrid smartwatches can be appealing — and also how they fall short of general-purpose smartwatches.

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Tied to my phone

I felt more dependent on my phone when switching from Apple Watch to ScanWatch Horizon. Withings’ hybrid watch can show notifications (such as calls, texts, and app alerts), and you can also use the watch to set timers and alarms.

But even these basic tasks are easier to accomplish on traditional watches. Since the ScanWatch Horizon only has a small circular display that takes up a fraction of the watch’s face, it’s not ideal for reading full notifications. As I wrote in My opinionthe ScanWatch Horizon’s lack of touchscreen and voice commands also made it less convenient to set times and alarms from my wrist.

Apple Watch Series 7 showing the keyboard

It’s much easier to read notifications and respond to text messages on the Apple Watch. The Series 7 (pictured) has a larger display with a QWERTY keyboard.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

If you want a smartwatch that can take some of the burden off your call when it comes to day-to-day tasks, the ScanWatch probably isn’t. Think of the ScanWatch Horizon as a watch first and a smartwatch second. Even though I don’t have my apple watch connected to my data plan, it’s still a useful substitute for my phone. I don’t need to take my phone out of my pocket for tasks like answering text messages, browsing headlines while I wait for the elevator, or paying at the cash register at my local Rite Aid.

This is not the case with the ScanWatch Horizon. I grabbed my phone almost immediately whenever I felt the buzz of a notification. The ScanWatch Horizon looks more like a fashion accessory with built-in health tracking. I loved how it looked on my wrist, but didn’t find myself using the screen for anything other than checking the time or starting a workout. Most of my engagement happens in the Withings HealthMate app, which provides a breakdown of body metrics and activity.

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The ScanWatch Horizon is more limited than the Apple Watch when it comes to mimicking your phone’s functionality, but it has a different edge. With its stainless steel case, rotating laser-etched bezel, and analog dial, the ScanWatch Horizon is one of the most stylish smartwatches you’ll find. Not to mention, it’s also cheaper than the stainless steel version of the Apple Watch Series 7, which starts at $700.

Incredible battery life

The Apple Watch might have more smarts, but it can’t come close to the battery life of the ScanWatch Horizon. Withings claims the ScanWatch Horizon can last 30 days on a single charge, far exceeding standard smartwatches. In my experience, the ScanWatch Horizon battery drained to 35% after just over a week. I haven’t spent enough time with it to see if it lives up to Withings’ 30-day claim, but it’s still impressive.

Apple Watch Series 7 stalled a bit, showing a digital dial

I usually charge my Apple Watch overnight, but Withings says the ScanWatch Horizon can last 30 days on a single charge.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

The Apple Watch Series 7, on the other hand, typically lasts one to two days on a single charge. But it’s also because the Apple Watch incorporates a lot more technology. The OLED color touchscreen alone has a huge impact on the battery compared to the ScanWatch Horizon’s small screen. Some other wearables like the Garmin Venu 2 Plus that also use OLED screens can last up to nine days. It’s possible to get longer battery life from today’s smartwatches without sacrificing a bright color display.

Both watches go deep on health, but they have different strengths

The Withings Health Mate app

The home screen of the Withings Health Mate app. I appreciate that Withings offers a lot more sleep data than the Apple Watch.

Screenshot by Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

If there’s one area where no watch compromises, it’s health tracking. The ScanWatch Horizon and Apple Watch Series 7 can both measure all the signature health metrics found on high-end smartwatches. This includes electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) measurements – both watches have FDA clearance for this feature – and general heart rate data, activity and exercise, sleep and saturation levels in blood oxygen. Withings blood oxygen feature too has FDA clearanceunlike Apple.

Although they share many similarities when it comes to health tracking, smartwatches have their own strengths. Withings, for example, has a lot more sleep data to offer. You can see a breakdown of how long you spent in light or deep sleep, average sleep heart rate, and trouble breathing. It also issues a sleep score that rates the quality of your sleep, similar to products from Fitbit, Oura and Amazon.

The Apple Watch only displays sleep duration, time in bed, and sleep respiratory rate. This information is also useful, but having access to data on the quality of my sleep helps me understand why I feel tired or energetic in the morning. It also motivates me to go to bed earlier than usual if my sleep score hasn’t been very high lately.

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The Apple Watch’s design gives it an edge over the Withings ScanWatch Horizon in a few other areas. It’s smaller and lighter, which makes the Apple Watch much more comfortable to wear during workouts and for sleeping (though I usually charge my Apple Watch overnight). Additionally, the Apple Watch has built-in GPS for tracking outdoor runs, while the ScanWatch Horizon has to rely on your phone’s GPS. The Apple Watch is also better at encouraging me to stay active throughout the day, as I can customize the display to show my activity rings.

The bottom line

Withings ScanWatch Horizon worn on the wrist

The Withings ScanWatch Horizon (pictured) is a stylish watch and fitness tracker in one device. But I prefer traditional smartwatches like the Apple Watch which separate me better from my phone.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

The Withings ScanWatch Horizon inherits some of the biggest advantages of analog watches: a sleek design and a battery that doesn’t need to be recharged overnight. It’s also a top-notch fitness tracker that doesn’t require a subscription to unlock deeper insights like fitness devices. Fitbit and Oura do.

That said, it didn’t convince me to stray from more traditional smartwatches like the Apple Watch. I value the convenience of being able to verbally tell my watch to start a workout or respond to text messages from my wrist more than having the best looking watch. I might have appreciated ScanWatch Horizon’s distinguished design more in 2013, when smartwatches still looked like this. Now that smartwatches have gotten smaller and lighter and more common, they don’t look out of place on your wrist at weddings and dinner parties.

The ScanWatch Horizon is ideal for those who want both a classic watch and a fitness tracker in one device. I could see why some might prefer the simplicity of the ScanWatch Horizon, as it means the watch itself is less distracting. But the Apple Watch does a better job of freeing you from your phone, and that matters more to me.

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