Looks nice • feels nice • Smarter than it looks • ECG functionality is a premium feature most watches don’t have • Battery lasts a year • Good price
Not for everyone • Potential issues when paired to Android phones
Withings Move ECG is a fancy-looking analog watch that packs a decent amount of smart features.
Sometimes, a smartwatch needn’t look very smart at all.
The Move ECG, a new smart wearable by Withings, shares a lot of traits with your typical smartwatch: It tracks your steps, your sleep, your movement, and it can even help you monitor your heart’s health. But the Move ECG looks nothing like a smartwatch; it’s a simple-looking, fancy analog watch with just one additional hand that (mostly) measures your steps. So who’s it for, really?
After spending roughly two weeks with the Move ECG, I can imagine the user who’d prefer this type of device over both a simple analog watch, as well as a smartwatch with a screen. In fact, I can imagine a lot of them, because the Move ECG is quite good — but you do need to know its strengths and weaknesses before you buy it.
A very different smartwatch
In the case of Withings Move ECG, the positives can also be negatives — depending on your perspective. It’s a fully analog watch, no screens, and only a few clever functions (like a stopwatch that has the watch’s hands reset to twelve-o-clock position and count from there) on the watch itself. The rest of the smart features happen on your phone, in Withings’ app.
Personally, I like a smartwatch with a big screen and as much info as possible, but even I came to appreciate the fact that the Move ECG is just a regular watch which doesn’t distract or annoy, ever. It’s also nice looking, with a fairly small case and a subdued, even timid dial with light Arabic numerals on a black background (there’s also a black-on-white version). It sits very comfortably on the wrist — far better than most smartwatches I’ve tried — though I could use a different strap; the rubber one that comes with the watch kept sticking to me.
There’s one more thing that sets the Move ECG apart, and it’s a big one: You don’t have to charge it. Like a regular quartz watch, it has a battery inside that has to be replaced every year or so. I’ll let that sink in: Unlike the vast majority of smartwatches, which have to be charged daily or, at best, weekly, the Move ECG does not need to be charged at all. If constant charging is an obstacle between you and a smartwatch, you should definitely consider the Move ECG.
Looking after your heart
The Move ECG’s most notable feature is right there in its name: The watch can record a simple electrocardiogram (ECG) — just like Apple Watch — and detect atrial fibrillation or AFib, a common heart disorder that can lead to heart failure. Withings calls the Move ECG the “first analog watch with a built-in electrocardiogram,” but there’s a catch; this particular device has only been approved by Europe’s regulators, while an approval in the U.S. is still pending.
Taking an ECG with the Move ECG is simple, and doesn’t even require a phone: Press the side button once, place two fingers on the watch’s crown, and wait 30 seconds (the seconds are indicated by the watch’s third hand). The results appear in the smartphone app, and can be printed out and shared with your doctor.
The whole thing is very elegant, but its usefulness depends on, well, you. If you’ve never experienced heart issues, you’ll probably try it out once or twice and then forget about it. The watch will not automatically detect potential AFib while you wear it; you need to actively take measurements every now and then which I almost certainly wouldn’t do. On the other hand, Withings quotes the European Society of Cardiology as saying that “one in four people who are 40 years old or over are likely to develop AFib,” meaning that checking on your heart now and then is a good idea.
Just like in the case of the Apple Watch, I feel that these are early days for these types of features — one day in the future, a wearable might be able to automatically detect a number of conditions and illnesses and notify you when something’s wrong. For now, this is the best we’ve got.
Even though the Move ECG doesn’t look like a smartwatch, it has a solid number of smart features. It tracks your steps, measures your sleep quality, and tracks your runs with a built-in GPS. It’s waterproof up to 5 ATM, and it’ll even recognize swimming sessions, though it’s only calibrated for swimming in pools, not open water swimming.
Again, you have to get used to having the watch do the work and then checking the results on your smartphone. When running, I definitely prefer an actual sports watch which gives me info like heart rate, location and pace, but if you can get used to the way Withings is doing it, it’ll serve you quite well. Indeed, in some ways the Move ECG is better than my Suunto sports watch, which is far too bulky to be worn while I sleep, or even as a regular watch.
The Move ECG tracked my (pitifully bad) sleep patterns quite well, and the steps count was similar to what my phone counted. I’ve also tried some of the third-party experiences, but those really aren’t all that connected to the watch; you could easily do them without it as well.
To use the Move ECG to its full potential means to be acquainted with Withings’ Health Mate app and use it often. It’s nice-looking and gives you a pretty decent overview of your activities, though it’s not really a sports-tracking app and won’t have the sort of features you’d get from something like Strava. Occasionally, the app would detect an exercise activity that wasn’t happening, but it only happened once or twice during my testing.
A few words of caution: The Move ECG worked flawlessly when paired to my iPhone X. But I’ve also paired to a Huawei Mate 10 and it worked abysmally — it took a soft reset to get it to connect to the phone, and it would randomly disconnect from it, making it barely useful. This might be Huawei’s fault, but it also might not; best check whether your Android smartphone works well with the Move ECG before buying.
Know what you’re buying
My job as a reviewer is to tell you whether the Move ECG works well, and, when connected to an iPhone, it does.
But in this case, it’s particularly important to understand what type of a device it is. It’s an analog smartwatch with smart features on top. It looks nice and is very pleasant to wear. Its battery lasts a year. It could be particularly useful if you’re suffering from heart problems.
On the other hand, it doesn’t have some features you’d expect from a smartwatch, like phone notifications. Its smart features rely on the smartphone app to be useful. And it’s not the type of smartwatch that will make you use your phone less (I often hear this reasoning behind smartwatch purchases).
Finally, the price of 130 euros ($143) is much lower than that of most smart watches, and is actually quite good even for a quartz watch. Thumbs up.