• Thanks to a combination of hardware and software, Apple Watch has evolved over the years into a powerful health and wellness tool for millions of users.
  • Soon, at least one new and potentially life-saving capability will be added to its feature set: The ability to analyze blood-oxygen levels, according to a new report. That’s important, because low blood-oxygen levels could signal an impending health emergency.
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There have been countless stories over the past couple of years about how Apple Watch saves lives, thanks in part to the watch’s heart rate monitor that can spot life-threatening health conditions early. That’s one reason some insurance companies have decided to just go ahead and subsidize the cost of an Apple Watch for its members. Meantime, a new report has shed some light on even more health features along these lines that are coming to the watch soon — and stand to make it an even more powerful complement to users’ overall wellness regimens.

Based on what it says was an early look at iOS 14 code, 9to5Mac is reporting that Apple is bringing at least two potentially life-saving new additions to the watch. They include an improvement to its ECG element, and even more importantly the capability of analyzing blood-oxygen levels of the wearer. The latter is especially important, because if those levels are below 80% it could preface heart and brain impairment. Low blood-oxygen saturation can also lead to serious emergencies like cardiac arrest. Accordingly, a new notification will reportedly be added to the watch in tandem with this feature’s launch, alerting the wearer whenever their blood-oxygen saturation is too low.

The report isn’t clear on one crucial aspect of this feature’s arrival, however — the timing. It’s yet to be determined whether an all-new Apple Watch will be needed for this or if the feature could be added via a new version of the watchOS software.

Unrelated, this new report also points to another important health feature coming to the watch soon — an improvement to the ECG app that will fix the inconclusive heart rate readings that currently show when the app measurement falls between 100 and 120 beats per minute. That result is currently happening on the fourth- and fifth-generation models of the watch. This also follows a watchOS update in recent weeks that fixed another bug, that one related to the watch not flashing an alert when it detects an irregular heartbeat in some users. Apple has said this bug only impacted wach owners in Iceland, but it should go without saying that downloading the latest watchOS update is always advisable no matter where you live because of the additional features and security improvements it brings.

As noted, Apple Watch has been credited with saving scores of lives at this point (one of the most recent examples we mentioned here). And it’s no stretch to assume those kinds of stories will continue to multiple once these and other new health features are added to Apple’s increasingly popular wearable.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.