Conventional smartwatches do a little bit of everything. They’re relatively stylish, have plenty of health and activity tracking functionality and are packed with phonelike features such NFC for mobile payments and a speaker and microphone for taking calls. The Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, Fitbit Sense and upcoming Pixel Watch fall into this category.
I usually have an Apple Watch on my wrist. However, I spent a few of weeks testing the Withings ScanWatch Horizon, a hybrid watch. Smartwatches are not inexpensive. You should understand what you’re getting for your money and whether there are any alternatives worth considering. A good smartwatch should do three things well: keep you from reaching for your phone all the time, measure health indicators, and look good on your wrist. However, not all smartwatches are created equal. Some seem more like a conventional wristwatch, while others are better at replacing phones. The most significant distinction between regular smartwatches (such as the Apple Watch) and hybrid smartwatches (such as the Withings ScanWatch Horizon, which I just reviewed) is this.
I prefer traditional smartwatches and usually wear an Apple Watch. But spending a couple of weeks with the $500 Withings ScanWatch Horizon reminded me why hybrid smartwatches can be appealing — and also how they fall short compared with general-purpose smartwatches. I felt more reliant on my phone when switching from the Apple Watch to the ScanWatch Horizon. Withings’ hybrid watch can show notifications (like calls, texts and app alerts), and you can also use the watch to set timers and alarms.
But hybrid watches usually combine the qualities of analog timepieces and smartwatches, just as the name implies. They tend to look more like regular watches, with traditional faces that have physical hands for the hour and minutes instead of digital numbers. Hybrid watches don’t have as many “smart” features, but they typically last longer on a single charge and still pack plenty of health-tracking options.
If you want a smartwatch that can take some of the burden off your phone when it comes to everyday tasks, the ScanWatch probably isn’t it. 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 surrogate for my phone. I don’t have to take my phone out of my pocket for tasks like replying to text messages, browsing news headlines while I’m waiting for the elevator or checking out at the cash register at my local Rite Aid.
But even these basic tasks are easier to accomplish on traditional watches. Since the ScanWatch Horizon only has a small circular screen that occupies a fraction of the watch’s face, it’s not ideal for reading full notifications. As I wrote in my review, the ScanWatch Horizon’s lack of a touch screen and voice controls also made it less convenient to set times and alarms from my wrist. It’s much easier to read notifications and respond to texts on the Apple Watch. The Series 7 (pictured) has a larger screen with a QWERTY keyboard.
That’s not the case with the ScanWatch Horizon. I grabbed my phone almost immediately whenever I felt the buzz of a notification. The ScanWatch Horizon feels more like a fashion accessory with built-in health tracking. I loved the way it looked on my wrist, but didn’t find myself using the screen for much other than to check the time or start a workout. Most of my engagement happens within the Withings HealthMate app, which provides a breakdown of bodily metrics and activity.
The ScanWatch Horizon is more limited than the Apple Watch when it comes to mimicking your phone’s functionality, but it has a different advantage. With its stainless-steel casing, rotating laser-engraved bezel and analog watch face, the ScanWatch Horizon is one of the most elegant 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.
The Apple Watch may have more smarts, but it can’t come close to the ScanWatch Horizon’s battery life. Withings claims the ScanWatch Horizon can last for 30 days on a single charge, far outlasting standard smartwatches. In my experience, the ScanWatch Horizon’s battery depleted to 35% after a little more than a week. I haven’t spent long enough with it to see if it lives up to Withings’ 30-day claim, but that’s impressive nonetheless.