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Withings' new health watch can check for sleep apnea

The ScanWatch promises FDA clearance by sometime this year. Is this the next wave in sleep tech?

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The ScanWatch has ECG, and it also checks for sleep apnea. It's arriving in the first half of the this year.

Angela Lang/CNET
This story is part of CES 2020, our complete coverage of the showroom floor and the hottest new tech gadgets around.

I've lived with a CPAP machine for years, after I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I had to do a sleep study to realize I even had apnea. There are a number of health wearables that have promised to eventually check for sleep apnea, including Fitbit. Withings looks like it may have beat everyone else to the punch with the ScanWatch at this year's CES in Las Vegas.

The French health tech company released an ECG-equipped watch last year, but the new ScanWatch looks like the most complete on-wrist health package yet. It also has a one-lead electrocardiagram for checking for arrhythmia, but has PPG (optical heart rate readings) and can engage in continuous monitoring for possible atrial fibrillation, much like the Apple Watch. The Withings ScanWatch also measures SpO2 for blood oxygen levels like Fitbit's wearables, and can track sleep. But the most intriguing feature is a deeper sleep analysis mode that can recognize possible sleep apnea.

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There aren't other watches that can check for sleep apnea yet, even though Fitbit's promised this feature for a while in its sleep tracking tech. Withings claims that both atrial fibrillation and sleep apnea detection are "clinically validated," but no specific FDA clearance status has been posted yet.

According to Withings' PR, the watch is "currently going through the FDA and CE clearance approval processes for both ECG and sleep apnea detection," with more indications around Q2 this year of when the watch will be available (clearance timing often affects when health devices go on sale).

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A look at the ScanWatch in several colors and with different straps.

Angela Lang/CNET

Withings' health smartwatches have been a consistently good choice for anyone looking for a normal-looking watch with solid fitness features inside. The ScanWatch looks like other previous Withings watches, with a stainless steel case, sapphire crystal dome, real analog watch hands, and also an OLED display for heart rate and other on-watch fitness stats. One standout feature could be its promised 30-day battery life, which is far beyond what competitors like Fitbit or the Apple Watch have.

At $249 (£229) for the 38mm model or $299 (£279) for 42mm, it's also more expensive, priced closer to the Apple Watch and the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2. (The Active 2, released last fall, has ECG features and fall detection capabilities, but hasn't been FDA-cleared yet.)

The version I tried at CES in Las Vegas, on a crowded showfloor, wasn't a working model...and detecting sleep apnea is something that would only work after a night's sleep, anyway. But the watch's design feels great, and I hope the final version works...because I could use the help to check up on how my nightly rest has been since using my CPAP.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.