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Withings ScanWatch detects AFib and sleep apnea for $249

(Image credit: Future)

Apple took smartwatches to the next level when it added an electrocardiogram sensor to the Apple Watch. Withings, maker of popular hybrid smartwatches that last months on a charge, just upped the ante on medical-grade features with its $249 ScanWatch. 

When it goes on sale in the second quarter of this year, the ScanWatch will be able to diagnose atrial fibrillation (just like the Apple Watch) and sleep apnea. This watch could literally save lives.

Withings is awaiting clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before announcing an official sale date for the ScanWatch. But in a demo I saw of the device on Sunday (Jan. 5), ahead of CES, I was impressed.

(Image credit: Future)

The watch's built-in ECG sensor can detect atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm that can be a sign of heart disease, just like the Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 5. Withings also included an SpO2 sensor in its newest watch for measuring blood oxygen saturation levels. The sensor can detect whether you stop breathing during sleep. If multiple severe episodes are detected, the watch alerts you to your sleep apnea diagnosis.

This is a big deal. Many people don't realize they have sleep apnea, and you have to undergo a sleep study in the care of a doctor for an official diagnosis. Putting that feature in an affordable smartwatch might encourage people to make healthy changes to address their sleep apnea (for instance, quitting smoking or losing weight).

The watch only scans for sleep apnea on the first night you wear it to conserve battery life. Withings says the ScanWatch lasts 30 days on a charge, which is leaps and bounds ahead of the Apple Watch's 18-day battery life.

(Image credit: Future)

The ScanWatch is a hybrid smartwatch with a sapphire glass watch face and stainless steel case. At first glance, it looks like a traditional timepiece, but a small display reveals information including steps, heart rate, SpO2 levels and other bits of data you want to see at a glance. All of the information is synced to the Withings Health Mate app for deeper analysis.

Its lengthy battery life is due to its lack of a power-hungry full-color touchscreen display. But that trade-off might be worth it if ScanWatch saves your life.

Be sure to check out our CES 2020 hub for the latest news and hands-on impressions out of Las Vegas.