Yesterday, Apple launched the next iteration of its Watch OS based smartwatches, the Apple Watch Series 4. The watch offered various improvements over its predecessor, like what usually happens in the scenario, but the killer feature, according to Apple and many others, was that it could function as an Electrocardiogram (ECG).
An ECG is a test of your heart's rhythm and electrical activity and is normally done by attaching sticky electrode sensors to the skin, which are then connected to a machine that records your bodies electrical output. The results are usually then reviewed by a cardiologist. This is the task that the Apple Watch is now designed to do and it takes a mere 30 seconds in order to ascertain the heart reading using the ECG App combined with the heart rate sensor and electrodes embedded in the Digital Crown.
On the face of it, this feature would seem like a dream come true to many, but Apple have now admitted that the ECG functionality will not be available at launch and will arrive later this year. Also, Apple says that the ECG functionality of the Apple Watch Series 4 will be limited to the US only until further notice.
The watch will be able to potentially detect a serious heart condition such as atrial fibrillation (also called AFib or AF). It can also notify the wearer if their heart rate is reported as being too low. The wearable device can also detect if you've had a fall and help you raise an alert.
Apple have received FDA approval for the ECG functionality in the US, but it appears that Apple is waiting for regulatory approval of this feature for countries outside of the US. This type of approval can take quite a while, so if the ECG is the main reason that you want to purchase the Apple Watch Series 4, you might want to rethink your purchase.
Although Apple would have you believe this is the first wearable device that lets you take a personal ECG, it isn't. Last year a sensor attachment for the Apple Watch, called the Kardiaband, was able to much the same in terms of ECG functionality.
So all seems good so far? well, hold on a second, as the FDA points out a few points in its summary document - the ECG app is only meant for people over the age of 22 and isn’t recommended for anyone with other known heart conditions that can disturb your heart rhythm. The FDA also points out that the app “is not intended to provide a notification on every episode of irregular rhythm suggestive of AFib and the absence of a notification is not intended to indicate no disease process is present.” - Ouch, this gives a less glossy message than Apple's marketing spiel.
It seems this piece of tech is not infallible and there is the potential risk of false readings. Many feel that this will not be a substitute for a full ECG setup that has 5 or 12 leads. It will be Interesting to see how the public reacts to this in daily use.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.