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Withings Move ECG review: Heart not to recommend
The health and fitness market interests me for many reasons, but mainly because there’s always something new to talk about. Most of the time, that new feature or sensor we’re talking about is there to better people’s lives — either physically, mentally, or both. That’s exactly why I was so interested in the Withings Move ECG when it was announced last January.
The idea of an analog watch doubling as a fitness tracker is nothing new — Withings has a whole line of hybrid watches — but there aren’t many wearables available to the public with a built-in electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor. This is the watch’s standout feature, for sure.
Now, after a long eight months since its debut, the Withings Move ECG has finally gained CE clearance and is available starting today in Europe. Read our full Withings Move ECG review to find out if it’s right for you.
I've already reviewed the standard Withings Move, so this will be a somewhat shorter review. If you'd like details on the Withings Health Mate app, you'll want to check out our full Withings Move review (linked above).
Withings Move ECG review: The big picture
Keeping an eye on heart health is one of the most important things a person can do for his or her body. For people who suffer from heart arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation (AFib), having quick access to an ECG test can literally be a matter of life or death. However, unless you have an at-home ECG monitor, scheduling an appointment with your doctor or running to the ER is one of the only ways to get these tests done.
The Withings Move ECG is one of the few devices on the market to feature a consumer-grade, wrist-based ECG monitor (it’s also the first ever ECG analog watch on the market). In fact, the Apple Watch Series 4 is one of the only other consumer-grade wearables to feature an ECG. But Apple Watches are expensive, and may not exactly appeal to the crowd looking for an inexpensive at-home ECG. Sure, other at-home ECGs exist, but they’re just about the same price as the Move ECG, and many of them only have one function.
In a way, the Move ECG is in a category of its own.
The design of the Withings Move ECG is essentially the same as the standard Withings Move, only a little thicker and less customizable. Since the Move ECG needed to be approved by the FDA before coming to market, Withings isn’t able to let people customize the colors of the Move ECG like it does with the standard Move. Instead, you can choose from either a black or white watch face and select a variety of different colored watch straps.
The Move ECG is only a bit thicker than the standard Move because of the built-in ECG. Even so, the watch is still quite small. The case, watch face covering, and side button are all made of plastic, while the bottom case is stainless steel. The whole thing is super easy to scratch. I already have a couple of hairline scratches on the plastic covering, but nothing too noticeable. Just be careful with this thing.
The watch straps are interchangeable, and the silicone material is higher quality than I expected considering the price point. Dust and loose hair tend to get caught on the strap easily though, so you may want to swap out the strap if that type of thing bugs you.
Finally, battery life: It’s fantastic. The Move ECG runs on a CR2430 button-cell battery, and supposedly lasts about 12 months without dying. I’m sure that varies depending on how often you exercise and take ECG readings, but anything around that timeframe is still impressive. Do note that you’ll need to take the watch into a shop to get the battery replaced though — since it has a 5ATM water-resistance rating, the back doesn’t come off without a little effort.
ECG and fitness/health tracking
I need to start out by saying that no matter how much praise I give the Move ECG, buying an at-home ECG monitor is not a replacement for going to the doctor, especially if you already have heart problems. This device — and many other fitness products — should be used to help you keep an eye on your heart health, but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to avoid going to the doctor. Also, research suggests the accuracy of wrist-based ECGs may not be comparable to traditional ECGs in some cases, so do your reading and check with your doctor before relying on a wrist ECG.
We asked Withings to comment on the accuracy of the Move ECG compared to traditional ECGs. The company’s official statement can be found below:
AFib is a condition that is often underdiagnosed as symptoms are often not consistent and can be missed if not present at the time of a doctor’s office visit. Move ECG helps overcome this with the ability to record an ECG at anytime and anywhere in just 30 seconds when symptoms occur. This capability provides a more in-depth look at people’s heart health than if they used more traditional ECG methods.We designed the device with our team of trusted medical advisors and conducted a clinical study at Centre Cardiologique du Nord (St-Denis, France) and Aixum Clinic (Aix-en-Provence, France) to validate the technology against the gold standard of ECG measurement, a 12-lead ECG device read by a trained cardiologist (the traditional chest test). In the study, it was found the Move ECG detected normal sinus rhythms in patients 98.1% of times against the gold standard device and showed patients were in AFib 98.2% of times as compared to the 12-lead ECG reading. This shows a very high level of validity of the Withings Move ECG technology. Move ECG is also compliant with CE medical standard.
Also read: ECG: What is it and why does it matter?
Withings claims the Move ECG can provide a medical-grade ECG reading in just 30 seconds. Taking an ECG is incredibly easy.
All you need to do is tap the right side button. Once the small activity dial reaches the 100 mark, place two fingers (index finger and thumb) on the metallic part of the bezel, and the activity dial will then start counting down to zero. It takes about 30 seconds for the whole thing to be done. Alternatively, you can open your Health Mate app, tap the side button on your device, then watch your ECG record in real time. It’s pretty cool.
Placing your opposite hand on the Move ECG while your other wrist is wearing the device creates a closed electrical circuit with your arms and chest. So, if your fingers aren’t in the right spot on the device, like if one finger is off of the bezel too much, the Move ECG will buzz and make you start over.
The results are sent to your phone immediately with a brief summary of what they mean. In my case, I usually get the message, “No sign of atrial fibrillation. Tap here to see details.” Of course, your mileage may vary.
Tapping the notification brings you to the Health Mate app. From there, you’ll see an overview of your ECG reading with a graph showing your chart on top, complete with a “play” button that scrolls through your ECG second-by-second. You’ll also find summaries of your sinus rhythm, average heart rate, and a text box if you’d like to add comments.
The most convenient part of the ECG results page is the “Share PDF with your doctor” button. Clicking this generates a PDF of your ECG that you can download, email, or print out to show your doctor. Here’s what the PDF looks like:
I don’t think I need to tell you how important an ECG is to have around, so I’ll let the facts speak for themselves. One in four people in the U.S. and U.K. will develop AFib at some point in their lifetime. AFib can occur irregularly, too, meaning much of the time it can go undiagnosed. If you think you show signs of heart issues, book an appointment with your doctor. If he or she tells you to keep a closer eye on your heart, the Move ECG might be a device worth considering.
The Withings Move ECG isn’t just an ECG machine — it’s also a fitness tracker in disguise. It’ll keep track of all the basics: steps taken, calories burned, distance traveled, elevation, and sleep. You’ll want to use the connected GPS feature if you’d like more accurate distance statistics for your outdoor workouts. I ran 2.76 miles with the Move ECG (without connected GPS enabled) and it only registered as a 2.5-mile run. That’s closer than some other devices get, but still not as accurate as relying on an actual GPS module.
As for sport profiles, the Move ECG will automatically track walking, running, swimming (thanks to its 5ATM rating), and biking. You can’t actually select your activity type ahead of time since there’s no display on the watch, so you’ll need to start a workout, finish it, then go to the Health Mate app and make sure the Move ECG recorded the activity correctly. Walking, running, swimming, and biking will automatically be assigned to those activities. If you performed a different activity, you’ll need to assign the activity type after the fact in the app. There are more than 30 different activity types to choose from, including climbing, ice skating, indoor cycling, and more.
Compared to my Garmin Forerunner 245 Music, the Withings Move ECG did a good job at step counting throughout the day. Both watches usually ended the day only ~100 steps apart, which could have easily been attributed to me wearing them on different wrists. It’s also a little hard to track how accurately your body is burning calories during workouts, but the Move ECG was also mostly in-line with what the Forerunner 245 reported.
Sleep tracking has improved since the last time I checked in with a Withings device. The Move ECG did a fine job at detecting when I fell asleep, when I woke up, how much I tossed and turned during the night, etc. Also, since the Move ECG doesn’t take up much space, I hardly notice it on my wrist while sleeping.
The Health Mate app is quite good at relaying useful insights to you after it learns your sleep patterns. If your sleep is constantly being interrupted or if you’re falling asleep too late (resulting in a lack of deep sleep), the Health Mate app will point those things out and tell you what to improve. It’ll also show you how your sleep patterns progress over time, and give you a sleep score (0-100) based on your quality of sleep.
Like the Withings Move proper, the Move ECG does not have any smartwatch features. You won’t get notifications on your wrist, and you can’t customize the physical side button. I would’ve liked to at least see some notification support here. Other hybrids vibrate for incoming notifications, and it’s sorely missed here.
Just about the only other feature that’s not directly fitness-related is the silent alarm feature. The alarms work well and always go off when they’re supposed to, but the vibration motor is pretty weak. I wouldn’t rely on only the Move ECG to wake you up every morning.
Withings Move and Move ECG specs
|Withings Move and Withings Move ECG|
Bottom case: stainless steel
Free/unlimited online data storage with a Withings account
5 days of local storage of data between syncs
Up to 18 months (CR2430)
Bluetooth Low Energy
iOS 10 or later / Android 6.0 or later
Value and the competition
The Withings Move ECG is available now in Europe on Withings.com and Amazon for €129.95 or £129.95. The watch isn’t slated to receive FDA clearance in the U.S. until Q4 2019, so Americans will need to wait a few more months to place their orders.
I think £129.95 is a fair price for the Withings Move ECG. I was originally surprised that the standard Move was being sold for just £70, so adding an on-demand ECG monitor for just £60 more seems reasonable. Especially considering the Apple Watch Series 4 — one of the only other wrist-based ECGs out there — starts at nearly £400, this seems like a fantastic price point for those who aren’t looking for a full-fledged smartwatch.
It should also go without saying that if you don’t need an ECG, we still recommend the standard Withings Move as a great option, or the Garmin vivomove HR.
Withings Move ECG review: The verdict
The importance of having an ECG on you at all times cannot be overstated if you have heart problems. Strapping your at-home ECG to your wrist is a great way to ensure it’s on you at all times, and the fact that the Move ECG doesn’t need to be charged gives you one less excuse to leave it at home.
It's almost difficult NOT to recommend the Withings Move ECG for those looking for this type of functionality.
It’s almost difficult to not recommend the Withings Move ECG for those who need this type of functionality. On top of the usefulness of the built-in ECG, you get a great hybrid watch with accurate health tracking. The Move ECG isn’t as decked out as other hybrids, and some people will rightly pass due to the lack of smartphone notifications and optical heart rate sensor.