When the Apple Watch Series 4 landed in 2018, it caused a stir for being one of the first (and unquestionably the most high-profile) wearable to offer an ECG app. Short for electrocardiogram, an ECG records the electrical activity of your heart to indicate whether or not you might be suffering from atrial fibrillation (ABfib), a heart problem experienced by a quarter of the population at some point in their life, and which can lead to life-threatening complications.
While the Apple Watch Series 4 includes a whole lot more for its £399 / $399 / AU$649 price tag, that’s still a hefty price to pay for what could be a genuinely life-saving piece of technology. Thankfully, there is now a far more affordable way to keep a regular check on your heart – with the Withings Move ECG.Although not a fully-fledged smartwatch like the Apple, the Withings Move ECG is a hybrid. This means it has analog dials and no display, but includes accelerometers and a Bluetooth connection for tracking movement, steps, swimming, exercise and sleep, then presenting the data on the free Withings Health Mate smartphone app, available for iOS and Android.The Move ECG is, as you might expect, very similar to the Withings Move, but with the addition of the ECG function. The newer model lacks a heart rate sensor, but you could argue an ECG app is more important than merely knowing your heart rate; the former is a fitness stat, while the latter relates more directly to your underlying health.
Withings Move ECG price
The Move ECG was first shown off at CES back in January 2019, but at the time it didn’t yet have the certification required to use its ECG function. This has now been obtained, and the Move ECG is on sale now in the US, UK and Europe for £129.95 / $129.95 (around AU$190).
Classy, traditional watch design
Smaller than most hybrid smartwatches
Plastic could scratch easily
if you have used previous Withings hybrid watches, then the new Move ECG will be immediately familiar. It offers the French company’s house style of a compact case, domed front, simple and uncluttered face, and a second dial for showing your daily step count.There is a single button at three o’clock where the crown of a mechanical watch would be. A short press of this button activates the ECG function, and a long press tells the watch to start recording an exercise session.The sides of the case are plastic, while the bezel and rear are a classier stainless steel that can be used to measure your heart’s electrical activity when touched. The button is also stainless steel, and so too is the buckle.Withings includes a silicon sports-style strap with the Move ECG, which attaches uses industry-standard quick-release lug bars. This means it can be removed easily and replaced with any 18mm strap. The company itself offers a good range of options here, and the black dial of our review sample means it can be matched smartly to straps of almost any material and color.
Fitness and sleep tracking
Step, sleep and exercise tracking
No continuous heart rate sensor
Although a perfectly decent timepiece, the Move ECG really reaches its stride when used as a health and fitness tracker. The watch is always monitoring your movement, automatically counting steps during the day and sleep each night. Withings says the Move ECG can record over 30 different types of exercise, and everything is logged in the company’s Health Mate smartphone app.The headline feature is, of course, the ECG function. This works in a similar way to that of the Apple Watch Series 4, whereby the wearable touches one side of your body via the back of its case sitting against your wrist, and the other via the finger of your opposite hand. By touching the wrist of one arm and the fingers of the other, a circuit is created and the watch can record the electrical activity of your heart.The Health Mate apps talks you through what the ECG function can and can’t do when you first set up the watch. It is important to remember that ECG smartwatches cannot detect heart attacks, and the data they provide should be used in addition to – not instead of – advice from your doctor.To take an ECG, briefly press the button. The watch then vibrates for a moment and the step-counting hand turns to 100; you then place your thumb and index finger on the metal bezel of the watch case, and keep still while the hand counts down from 30 seconds to zero. The watch vibrates again to indicate that the ECG is complete, and the data can be viewed instantly in the Health Mate app.
12-month battery life
Uses standard CR2430 battery
Being a hybrid smartwatch, the Move ECG’s battery life is measured in months instead of hours or days. In fact, the Bluetooth chip, movement sensors and ECG function demand so little energy, the wearable takes a regular CR2430 watch battery, which Withings claims lasts for 12 months.This will depend on how you use the watch, and those who record daily exercise sessions should expect to see shorter battery life than those who are less active. But either way you cut it, roughly 12 months is very good for a wearable.Unlike Withings watches which have rechargeable batteries, like the Steel HR Sport, the Move ECG’s remaining battery life is not shown in the Health Mate app.
Interface and app
Health Mate app is clean and simple to use
Data from multiple devices is stored in one place
As with all other Withings devices (and those branded as Nokia Health in the past), data captured by the Move ECG is logged by the Health Mate app, which is free and works on iOS and Android.Designed to be a one-stop-shop for health and fitness data, Health Mate syncs with the watch via Bluetooth as soon as the app is opened. The main ‘Timeline’ interface shows your daily steps, percentage of target complete, and floors climbed (thanks to the watch’s altimeter). The Timeline also shows every ECG you have taken with the watch, along with your heart rate at that moment. As we said earlier, this wearable does not monitor your heart rate constantly, during sleep, or while exercising.For sleep data, the Health Mate app awards a score out of 100 each morning. This is calculated by taking into account the total time you spent asleep, but also the depth of your sleep, how much time you spent in REM, and how many times your sleep was interrupted during the night. Your sleep ‘regularity’ is also taken into account, which looks at the average time you go to bed and wake up each day, then you are rewarded a score based on your ability to stick closely to this average.
The Withings Move ECG makes for an interesting proposition. It follows much of the usual recipe – a stylish and simple analogue watch with exercise and sleep tracking – but also adds an ECG function.This puts the Move ECG in a position where it takes the regular Move, a budget £60 hybrid watch, and blesses it with a feature most famously used by the Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 5, a pair of flagship, full-fat smartwatches. The Withings therefore takes features from the top and bottom of the market, and marries them to create a £130 wearable.There are two face color options, each with five straps to help you buy a watch that suits your style, and the metal bezel used by the ECG function adds a touch of class to proceedings. We’re particularly keen on the white case and face with blue strap.The Move ECG is let down by its lack of continuous heart rate monitoring, as this stat is only given when performing an ECG, and we worry that the plastic in place of glass or sapphire crystal will scratch easily.