“Electrocardiograms at a fraction of the cost of the Apple Watch Series 4? Yes please!”
- Beautiful analog design
- ECG is beneficial (pending FDA approval)
- No need to charge
- Accurate sleep and fitness tracking
- Watch may be too small for some
- No support for notifications
- No heart rate monitor
The Apple Watch Series 4 has been heralded for being the first direct-to-consumer wearable that allows the average person to measure an electrocardiogram (ECG). Cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), this function can help detect atrial fibrillation (AFib) and notify wearers of irregular heart rhythms, potentially saving lives. But the $400 price tag and the need to use an iPhone puts the technology out of reach for many people. Withings has an alternative.
The new Move ECG sets itself apart by making the technology far more affordable and accessible. It’s an analog watch that can also measure electrocardiograms. It’s currently pending FDA clearance in the U.S., but it’s available now in Europe. I’ve been wearing the Move ECG for over a week. Here’s what it’s like.
The Withings Move ECG is almost exactly the same as Withings Move watch. It’s small and lightweight, with a design that’s sure to attract minimalists. It’s also thin, and easy to pass off as just a regular watch — that’s great news for people who don’t want to advertise they’re wearing something techy.
The lightweight and thin nature also mean it’s easy to fall asleep with the Move ECG on without feeling uncomfortable. The 20mm silicone strap looks and feels nice too, sitting snugly on the wrist. It’s interchangeable if you want another style.
There’s only one button — it’s on the right side — and it’s firm and easy to push. The watch face comes in either black or white with traditional analog clock hands. A subdial on the right side of the face is used for a variety of smart features, including the electrocardiogram.
I love the compact size of the watch; it elegantly suits most outfits — whether it’s worn to the gym or to a formal event. I do think an additional size option would have been nice for those with larger hands, as it can look a little too tiny.
Ilove the compact size of the watch; it elegantly suits most outfits.
The best part about it is that no charger is required to keep it powered; it uses a simple CR2430 button cell battery that Withings claims will last up to 12 months. The companion app — which you connect to using the Bluetooth Low Energy chip on the watch — alerts you to when the battery is low, but you can’t see a percentage level so I can’t say just how much juice I’ve lost in the time I’ve tested the Move ECG. You can replace the battery yourself or head to any watch store to have it done for you (it doesn’t cost much).
The Move ECG is water-resistant up to 50 meters, so you also don’t have to worry about leaving it on when entering the pool.
The electrocardiogram on the Move ECG works through the three electrodes on the watch. Two are located in the body of the device, whereas the third sits on the stainless-steel bezel. You have to touch both sides of the bezel to start recording an ECG, and the reading takes around 30 seconds. The subdial hand will start moving to help keep track, and you’ll need to stay still to ensure a correct reading.
The results are logged in the Health Mate app, and it will tell you if there are signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib). You can read more about AFib here, but in short, it’s a type of irregular heart rhythm that poses a high risk of stroke. Having an ECG, where you can capture data at any moment, reduces the chances of AFib going undiagnosed. It’s why the app allows you to export the data to your doctor.
It’s seamless, easy to use, and it definitely works, just like on the Apple Watch Series 4. But remember: talk to your physician if you’re concerned with the results. The data is meant to be supplementary, and you should not take clinical action without consulting a trained medical professional.
The rest of the features on the Move ECG are the same as you’ll find on the standard Move, from tracking your steps to automatically detecting workouts. You don’t have to do anything to start an activity, just start moving and the Move ECG will detect it. The automatic detection worked best when I was running or walking and picked up the activity within 30 seconds from when I started. If the watch does make a mistake with your activity — like assigning the activity as a walk instead of a run — you can edit it in the Health Mate app.
The score made it easy to compare sleep over time without having to scrutinize each night’s sleep patterns.
There is no built-in GPS, so the watch relies on the GPS on your phone to measure distance and calculate pace while exercising. I usually ran with the Withings Move ECG on one arm and a Garmin Fenx 6S Pro (which has built-in GPS) on the other, and the two shared extremely close results in regards to distance and pace.
A nice bonus in the Move ECG is an altimeter that can detect the number of stairs climbed and elevation during an activity. It’s often an omitted feature on such low-priced wearables.
The watch can also identify sleep patterns when it’s worn to bed. It’s comfortable to wear overnight and equally important, it accurately detects when you go to bed and when you wake up. B
The Move ECG relies only on movement to detect your sleep patterns, which is less accurate than heart rate analysis and movement combined. That being said, the watch did a good job picking up my movements and detecting interrrupted sleep. Whenever my 100-pound labrador retriever jumped into bed with me, there was an interruption detected by the Move ECG that showed up on the sleep graph.
Each morning, the app offers up a sleep score based on data such as sleep duration, depth regularity, and interruptions. The score made it easy to compare sleep over time without having to scrutinize each night’s sleep patterns. You can view your sleep pattern for each day as well as the average over a week and a month.
Not having to charge the Move ECG does come with a sacrifice: there is no standard heart rate monitor. Yes, you can see an average heart rate if you use the ECG feature enough times, but it’s only a quick snapshot. Access to heart rate data lets me know how hard my workout was and how much it contributed to my overall fitness. Because there is no heart rate monitor, you won’t get common fitness metrics like VO2max, training effect, and recovery times with the Move ECG.
What the watch also does not do is notifications. Some hybrid watches use the analog hands to point to certain numbers indicating the app that’s issuing a notification, but you won’t find any of that here. As there’s no digital display, you’ll still need to pull out your phone just as normal when you don the Move ECG.
The Move ECG is now available in Europe at withings.com and Amazon for 130 euros, which is around $144. Once the FDA clears the ECG feature, it will make its way to the U.S., and that’s expected to happen later this year.
Withings offers a 2-year warranty for European buyers, but U.S. owners will only get a 1-year warranty covering manufacturing defects.
The Apple Watch is an all-in-one device that does so much, with a price tag that matches its features. Not everyone needs all of that, and that’s why the Withings Move ECG is perfect for people with heart problems that want to monitor their health, but don’t need notifications or intense fitness tracking data. It works on Android and iOS, bringing wearable ECG functionality to Android phone owners, the low price is a plus. All of this comes in a watch that doesn’t look like a smartwatch, and it doesn’t need daily charging, too.
Is there a better alternative?
The Move ECG is in a class of its own when it comes to price and ECG functionality. No other wearable has an ECG and is so affordable. But it is lacking in features: there is no heart rate monitor, notifications, or app support. If you’re looking for a fitness tracker with a heart rate monitor, the Fitbit Inspire HR is a good place to start. Check out our best fitness tracker guide for more.
If you have an iPhone and extra cash to spare, then you should consider the Apple Watch Series 4. It’s twice as expensive, but it has all the features the Move ECG lacks and more. You might even be able to snag a deal on it now that an Apple Watch Series 5 is on the way.
How long will it last?
The Withings Move ECG is built for fashion, so I wouldn’t recommend taking it rock climbing or anywhere else a rugged watch is required. Under normal usage at home or the gym, I expect the Withings Move ECG to last several years, just remember to swap out the battery.
Should you buy it?
Yes. The Withings Move ECG is a rock-solid choice if you want a beautiful watch, a basic fitness tracker, and ECG functionality without breaking the bank.
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