There’s a good chance Apple will drop its next-generation Series 6 smartwatch during the company’s Wednesday event. We already know a lot about what’s coming to Apple Watch with the WatchOS 7 software upgrade this fall, but some things are still a mystery. The most whispered rumor is that while there aren’t many hardware updates for the Series 6, we’ll likely see blood oxygen monitoring.
Cool! And I’m not saying that sarcastically. There are many uses for blood oxygen monitoring that go well with Apple’s attempts to develop a useful health device. It’s just that blood oxygen monitoring is nothing new to wearables.
To freshen up, Fitbit added SpO2 sensors to its ionic smartwatch back in 201
Don’t buy an Apple Watch Series 3
If you were wondering whether to save yourself a few hundred dollars and get an Apple Watch Series 3, don’t. According to a Bloomberg report, Apple plans to introduce a new, cheaper Apple Watch to replace the Series 3 alongside the upcoming Series 6.
Apple haters love to ridicule that competing platforms had a specific function a few years before Apple introduced it. (Just check out the comments on our annual WWDC kill blog to prove this.) But when it comes to monitoring blood oxygen, this is a point to consider. If an SpO2 sensor really makes it into Series 6, it has to impress with something very special.
That is not out of the realm of possibility. Heart rate monitoring has been around for ages when Apple decided to blow everyone else’s pants off by introducing an FDA-cleared EKG feature on Series 4. This is a move that Fitbit and Samsung are only catching up to now, two years later. Will Apple coolly announce that it has received FDA clearance to diagnose sleep apnea, which Fitbit is actively seeking? Who knows, but if any company could make this kind of dramatic reveal, it would be Apple.
Editor’s note: Apple’s EKG feature is not yet approved for use in Australia.
Another thing that is at last The coming to the Apple Watch is native sleep tracking. However, as we noted in our watchOS 7 preview, Apple’s sleep tracking is pretty straightforward. While this seems intentional, it is a little disappointing as several other trackers and smartwatches provide a detailed breakdown of your sleep stages and sleep trends over time. When using the watchOS beta, we found that sleep tracking drains the battery by around 20% overnight and requires you to make adjustments to your charging plan. This isn’t exactly an outrageous claim, and a lot of Apple Watch aficionados I’ve spoken to don’t really care about charging their watches every day. But if Gizmodo commenters are any indication, its one day of battery life is a major reason some people haven’t got on the Apple Watch train.
That’s fair, considering Fitbits manages to give you advanced sleep metrics while staying for nearly a week for a fee. The multi-day battery life has also been discovered by Garmin and Polar, and even inexpensive smartwatches like the Metropolitan R from Timex last longer than just 24 hours.
Do not get me wrong. It’s exciting that sleep tracking is coming to the Apple Watch, and in fairness Apple’s MO is only supposed to roll out a feature if the company feels it can do it. It was widely rumored that sleep tracking would be introduced with the Series 5 last year, but Apple waited until this year to roll out the feature. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple kept sleep tracking up to date for now, as more tracking would have required performance elsewhere.
Whether it’s fair or not, everyone expects Apple to lead the way when it comes to health features for wearables for consumers. The company has done this in a number of ways: from diagnosing atrial fibrillation to starting its own clinical trials on reproductive health, heart health, and hearing. And maybe it’s Apple’s own fault, but since the Series 3 it has outdone itself by adding significant changes to each subsequent watch (and adding huge improvements with every watchOS upgrade). The Series 3 added LTE. The Series 4 improved the display and added EKG readings as well as Afib warnings. The Series 5 came with a revamped health and activity app, as well as an always-on display, period tracking, and noise level monitoring. If the Series 6 simply adds sensors that we’ve seen in other devices, it’s a disappointment, unless those sensors allow for more meaningful metrics or diagnostic tools. In any case, we probably won’t have to wait long to find out.