• Adam Tilton

Withings Scale: Review

I often get asked about the wearables I use and my experience with them. As part of my recent “Am I healthy?” experiment, I purchased a few more to help me track a wider range of biometrics. Previously, I shared my review of the Oura ring. Today I’m sharing my thoughts on the Withings Body Cardio Scale, Health Mate App, and Smart Blood Pressure Monitor.

There are three weight scale options from Withings: a simple weight scale; a weight scale that also measures body composition; and the most advanced option that measures weight, body composition, and heart rate. I decided on their most advanced scale because a weight scale that was clinically tested to measure heart health was too intriguing to pass up.

Unfortunately, the weight scale is a lemon. Ambitious, but rubbish. It accurately measures my weight, but the most advanced weight scale clinically tested to measure heart health doesn’t get points for being a weight scale. One of the key features supporting the $150 expense is “heart rate tracking at every weigh-in,” but the measurement doesn’t inspire confidence. Mainly, because it doesn’t always work—it often displays an “X” instead of my heart rate (and I’m confident I do indeed have a heart). When it does display my heart rate, the measurements are often considerably different from those taken by my Apple Watch.

To be sure it wasn't a user error I referred back to the instructions: “stand still on a clean scale, don’t talk, and align your heels with the lines on the scale.” Standing on it just right increased the chance of getting a heart rate measurement, but I found it hard to use, which is strange for something that you stand on. You have to place your feet at a very specific position on the scale, as the image below shows:

I also started monitoring my heart rate on my Apple Watch at the same time I stood on the scale so I could compare values. Below is a chart of my heart rate over the month of February with readings from both Apple Health and the Withings Scale. It became pretty clear that I don’t actually need to measure my heart rate through my feet (especially when the data is often off) when I get readings all day from my watch.

Beyond heart rate, Withings measures your vascular age. They classify mine as “not optimal.” This suggests I am 10 years (!!!) older than my chronological age when compared to other Withings users. Withings suggests I improve my healthy habits, especially exercise. In particular, the Health Mate App suggests the following:

  • Enjoyable exercises

  • Workout with a friend

  • Encourage family members to participate

  • Measure progress

  • Do 150 minutes of exercise per week

  • “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including moderate-intensity aerobic activities such as brisk walking and strength training exercises like yoga,” which I don’t believe is a complete thought

  • “Talk to your doctor about the right exercise program for you”

I wonder how my doctor feels about a weight scale of dubious accuracy recommending I talk with them about how to improve my vascular age. “Hello. Yes, so, I bought this device off the internet and it told me to call you to discuss my vascular age...”

Beyond the Health Mate App’s groundbreaking recommendations and support for improving my health through enjoyable exercise with friends, it provides a dashboard that summarizes my health metrics. One of the metrics it reports is an overall “fitness level”—an indication of how well my heart and lungs power my body through exercise. My score is 50, which is higher than the average 25-year-old’s score of 46, and the average 35-year-old’s score of 44. So which is the better indicator, my overall fitness score or my vascular age? No idea. Overall, the Health Mate App is lame.

The blood pressure monitor is no nonsense. Slide the cuff over your arm, press a button, and wait patiently while the measurement is taken. The data syncs seamlessly to the app, but I don’t have much use for it once it’s recorded. During my last physical my blood pressure was slightly elevated and my doctor recommended I use this device to keep tabs on it, and so I am.

The Rating I devised a 1 - 5 rating system for the wearables products I’m currently using. They are categorical, i.e. there is no 3.5 rating. 1: This device is bad and I don’t recommend anyone use it. 2: This device does not satisfy its primary purpose. 3: The device does what it says on the box. 4: The device provides more than I was expecting. 5: This device will literally change your fucking life. The Withings Blood Pressure Monitor is a 3. The Withings Body Cardio Scale is a 2. I plan to send it back for a simple weight scale.

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