The Withings Body Scan Scale
A scale that will tell you much more than your weight, and perhaps more than you want to know
There’s a joke about an elderly lady who gets a phone call one evening. She answers it with “Hello.” A creepy man’s voice says, “I think you’re naked right now, and you want me to come over and do all the things you like to do in bed. We’re going to … ”
“Wait,” the woman interrupts. “All this you know from ‘Hello’?”
It may be a first for a review of a tech product to start with an old, Catskills-style gag, but it came to your columnist’s mind within minutes of firing up the Withings Body Scan, which, at nearly $400, is the world’s most expensive bathroom scale by a considerable margin. But it measures so many bodily parameters within a minute of your stepping on it that you will forgive the hefty price tag.
Aside from pounds, what exactly does the French-designed Body Scan measure from a brief “Hello” to the soles of your feet? Well, heart rate, vascular age, pulse-wave velocity (an indicator of arterial stiffness, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular events), visceral fat, autonomic peripheral neuropathy (a type of nerve damage that can occur with diabetes), body-mass index, and whole-body composition with a readout of fat and muscle mass for each body part. Oh, and coming soon, basal metabolic rate—the number of calories you burn while doing nothing other than breathing. Did we mention it can also perform an electrocardiogram (ECG)?
Although the Body Scan recognizes up to eight different users by their feet, it also has a handlebar you pull up before a weigh-in. With two sets of fingers, two thumbs, and two feet sensed separately, the device is effectively a six-lead ECG. The sensors, which are integrated into the glass top of the scale, work by stimulating sweat glands in the feet. During the minute or so it takes for the Body Scan—which the company calls a “connected health station” rather than a mere “scale”—the user takes up a slightly tentative pose not unlike someone riding an early Segway, albeit one you won’t fall off of. Body Scan’s companion app is a very fine one that gives you endless data to cogitate on and kvetch over.
Many will wonder if all this medical measurement from a brief encounter with a bathroom scale seems a little too good to be true, and some physicians have warned that scales promising to measure bodily vitals beyond weight are not always wholly accurate.
However, Withings, a well-established maker of Internet-connected health gadgetry, is seeking scientific validation for Body Scan, which has been available in Europe since late last year, and just got F.D.A. clearance in the U.S. The company has partnered with the American Diabetes Association on its cheaper ($200) Body Comp model, which has much of the same biometric technology on board. Two other Withings bathroom-scale technologies have also been undergoing clinical trials, which are not complete. It has to be encouraging, though, that the company is serious enough about its products to submit them for formal trials.
Your columnist has been using Body Scan for three months, and the wealth of data not only seems highly plausible but is as reassuring in some details (my visceral fat is normal!) as it is depressing in others (body fat is trending upward; muscle mass, trending down).
One thing before you are tempted to buy: If you have a pacemaker, Body Scan could be hazardous—so best not.
The Marantz Stereo 70s Receiver
For those who want vintage hi-fi sound but with all the modern conveniences
The Marantz brand has always had a special cachet for high-end-audio fans.
Their quietly flashy, lowercase logo, often in shiny gold lettering, resonates with a sense of 1960s New York. Fittingly, Marantz was founded in 1952 in Kew Gardens, Queens, by a sound engineer, Saul Marantz. A lot of hi-fi fans, especially older enthusiasts, still regard Marantz as the first audiophile brand.
Today, Marantz is Japanese-owned and based in Carlsbad, California, but a good deal of the original aura persists. The Marantz sound is rightly characterized by its devotees as notably warm, rich, and relaxed. And the company takes the sound business very seriously, emphasizing that it has had only four “sound masters” (chief sound engineers) in 70 years, the first being Marantz himself.
Marantz has lately been trying to get younger people into hi-fi audio. This is quite the challenge for several reasons, just one of which is that—so far as your columnist can see—beyond wanting a ton of bass, there’s scant evidence of younger people appreciating quality sound. Yet another U.S. company, a headphone start-up in Brooklyn, whose story we’ll be looking at in the next column, has been trying to do just this by means of a devilishly clever social-media campaign. More on that in two weeks.
So, with Marantz’s customer base aging, one of the company’s first attempts to create new audiophiles is this beautifully styled and sweet-sounding $1,000 “stereo receiver”—a modern hi-fi term for an amplifier that can accept inputs from a variety of sources, including music-streaming services.
The Marantz Stereo 70s has plenty of the essential hipster-ish qualities, such as a retro industrial design featuring plenty of proper rotary knobs but with wholly mid-2020s electronics.
It does, however, require traditional wired speakers, which is also quite retro today. Your columnist heard it wired into a pair of Bowers & Wilkins’s compact, $1,000 606 S3s, and very lovely it sounded. The whole system that Marantz demonstrated, for $2,000—a lot of money to younger people, if not for hi-fi graybeards—produced an exceptionally deep, wide “soundstage.”
Sophisticated, almost trad, hi-fi for hipsters, then. It could work out well for this veteran, still-American brand.
The Tex:Power TP:247 Emergency Power Hand Crank
A Special Forces–worthy power source that will bring your devices back to life when you’re on the run
Jerry Ranger is an appropriate name for a former British Marine who has spent several decades designing and producing gadgets to conjure emergency electrical power out of sunlight, wind, and flowing water. His products are typically designed for explorers, hikers, campers, and, on occasion, armed forces, including in the U.S.
This is Ranger’s latest, a handheld machine that converts muscle power into electricity. The Tex:Power TP:247 is a hand crank that in two and a half minutes of fairly vigorous turning will power up a dead cell phone sufficiently to return to active duty. Among the new gadget’s users, Ranger tells us, are British Special Forces operating in Ukraine.
The TP:247 is a beautifully engineered rotating cylinder with a strong rubber grip and a tough, detachable crank handle. With no need for charging or maintenance, you could imagine a TP:247 even being a handy accessory to keep in the car if you are driving in remote parts. You might use it once in 10 years and still be glad you bought it.
Ordering is currently a bit convoluted. Buyers outside the U.K. need to purchase from the British Web site, but the supplies are held in Texas, so they can be shipped from the U.S. to avoid customs complications.
Finally, a bag that will give you the upper hand on extortionate airlines
Life for air travelers has increasingly become a battle of wits: The People vs. The Airlines. One of the more novel ways the airlines have of gouging passengers for extra dollars is charging for baggage in the overhead compartments.
Given this state of undeclared war, the need for luggage that is unassailably strong but as light as possible—thereby squeezing every ounce from the ever changing punitive scale of charges—has never been greater.
We have been hugely impressed by the Light range, from the five-year-old Melbourne, Australia, brand, July, which claims to sell the world’s lightest four-wheeled cases, with the smallest one in the range, the Carry On Light, weighing in at a remarkable four pounds. Having tried a few similar products from direct-to-consumer makers like July, we can assure you this is almost spookily weightless—and well made, too, from a German polycarbonate. We also loved the bright range of colors, which are so important for checked baggage. Our sample was a dazzling orange.
We did feel the $295 Carry On Light was a little too small, with its 32-liter capacity, and would, if buying, go for the Light Expandable, which is less than five pounds and has 40 liters of space.
Based in London and New York, AIR MAIL’s Tech Columnist, Jonathan Margolis, spent more than two decades as a technology writer at the Financial Times. He is also the author of A Brief History of Tomorrow, a book on the history of futurology