Thursday, 20 Jun 2019
Reviews

Withings Move ECG review: Hands-on with the first consumer ECG in the UK – Tech Advisor

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When Apple first unveiled the Apple Watch Series 4, one of its most touted features was an electrocardiogram (ECG), a potentially life-saving feature… as long as you live in the US. In the UK and many other countries around the world the ECG feature is disabled, making it all the more appealing that Withings is bringing the new Move ECG to many of those markets – and for a third of the price of Apple’s wearable.

The medical certification process has held Apple up from offering the ECG feature globally, but Withings is apparently confident it can get the Move ECG certified in multiple markets, including the UK.

They’re very different products – as an activity tracker, the Move ECG won’t let you use apps, listen to music, check email, or many of the other features the Apple Watch boasts – but for anyone in the UK tempted by a portable ECG on their wrist, the Withings is suddenly a serious competitor.

Price and availability

The Move ECG is due out in Q2 2019 – so April-June – with a retail price of £129.95/$129.95. That’s about a third the price of the Apple Watch Series 4, which starts from £399/$399, so if it’s the ECG feature you’re really looking for then the Move has a pretty obvious appeal.

It’s worth pointing out that in addition to the Move ECG, Withings has also released a regular Move. That’s available to pre-order now, for £59.95/$69.95, and has the same activity tracking features but without the electrocardiogram or heartrate monitoring – though it does get the benefit of a few extra design options.

Electrocardiowhatnow?

At this point you might honestly be wondering what the hell an ECG is or why you should care about having one in your watch.

An electrocardiogram is a type of heart monitoring that essentially looks out for signs of an irregular heart rhythm – one of the most common indications of heart disease and also a risk factor for strokes, thyroid problems, lung disease and more.

It’s hard to spot though, and most of us probably don’t have an ECG check done by our doctor often, so an ECG in a watch is a great way to keep an eye on your heart health if you want to be cautious, or to closely monitor it if you already know you have problems.

Checking it with the Move ECG is simple, and easy to do any time you’re experiencing symptoms like shortness of breath or palpitations. Touch two fingers to the bezel of the watch and it begins measuring, using the activity tracker dial as a timer. You have to keep holding on for 20 seconds or so while it counts down, at which point the info is all sent directly to the accompanying app.

You’ll be able to see your heart rhythm during the test, along with warnings if there are indications of problems, and the option to print results or email them straight to your doctor. You’ll also be able to see long-term graphs of your heart health data or historic readings if you want to chart changes in your condition.

Beyond the ECG features, this is still a fully fledged activity tracker. It will automatically track including walking, running, swimming, cycling, and stairs climbed – the first time elevation tracking has been included in a Withings watch.

Your step count is also tracked on the activity dial, which shows your progress from 0 to 100 against your set daily step count goal. You can also log specific workouts by pressing a button on the watch, which activates GPS tracking and logs the pace, time, and distance of a workout in real-time on your phone.

If that’s not enough, there’s sleep tracking too, with info on your sleeping patterns, vibration alarms to wake you at the optimum moment in your sleep cycle, and a sleep score based on the quality of your rest.

The regular Move also does all of the above, with the exception of the ECG obviously, and also the elevation tracking, which is exclusive to the ECG version.

Best of all is the battery life. Each watch is powered by a regular watch battery – and Withings says the Move ECG will last for 12 months before it needs to be replaced, while the cheaper Move will last a whopping 18 months. For Apple Watch users uses to charging their device daily, that’s sure to be a very tempting proposition.

Watch this

Whichever version of the Move you buy you’re getting plenty of functionality for the price, but what really sets Withings watches apart is the aesthetic – these are activity trackers that look like beautiful, modern watches, with a minimalist design and slim build that carries echoes of the previous Withings Activité and Steel designs, but feels sportier and more casual.

At first glance, these really both look just like simple mechanical wristwatches, with a clean design that includes the regular clock face and the smaller step count dial within it. Other than that, the watch face is really only interrupted by the Withings logo in place of the 9, and an ECG icon instead of the 6. That’s it.

The body is a mix of plastic and metal, with metal for the bezel – where you need to touch for the ECG – and just just one button, used to activate the workout features. Oh, and both models are waterproof up to 50m to boot.

The Move ECG comes in two colours: black with white and yellow accents, or white with silver and blue accents. The straps we saw at CES were soft silicon, but Withings is planning to release a whole variety of straps in different colours and materials, so you should get a lot of choice in that department.

Those straps will be compatible with the regular Move too, which is actually going to be a lot more customisable – the cheaper watch will launch with five colour options, but Withings plans to add new colours, cases, materials, and glass types over time, including the option for totally custom watch faces later in the year.

It’s worth emphasising that all those options won’t be available for the ECG model though. Withings explained to us that the medical certification requirements mean the ECG model has to be made in a different factory under stricter conditions, which rules out a lot of the custom options that will be offered for the regular Move.

Verdict

Ordinarily you’d never look at a £130/$130 activity tracker as a rival to the latest Apple Watch, but the ECG feature suddenly pushes the new Move into the conversation.

If you need a fully fledged smartwatch this obviously isn’t for you, but if you really just care about health features like the ECG, activity tracking, and sleep monitoring, then for this price the Move ECG is a steal – and pretty beautiful to boot.



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