A couple of reports earlier this week said that the Apple Watch Series 7’s complex design might lead to manufacturing delays. One of them indicated that the 2021 Apple Watch models will feature a blood pressure sensor, although an insider said there’s “no chance” for that to happen this year. However, Apple is working on adding more sophisticated health features to the Apple Watch. This includes monitoring hypertension, checking temperature, detecting sleep apnea, and performing blood sugar readings. Such health-tracking features require more research, and some of them might need FDA approval before rolling out into a commercial device like the Apple Watch.
The Apple Watch blood pressure sensor
People familiar with the plans have informed The Wall Street Journal about upcoming Apple Watch health features. Moreover, the Journal says internal company documents also prove Apple’s interest in these novel health sensors.
Apple plans to bring blood pressure readings to the Apple Watch as soon as next year, but there’s no guarantee on the timing. Blood pressure readings require inflatable cuffs and a high level of accuracy. Hypertension affects as many as 108 million Americans. It’s a severe condition that needs proper monitoring and treatment.
The Apple Watch would not feature inflatable bands. Instead, Apple is looking at measuring the speed of the wave a heartbeat sends through the arteries to estimate blood pressure.
Initially, the readings would only show the user a trend in blood pressure levels without providing baseline measurements for the systolic and diastolic readings that appear on a traditional blood pressure device.
Apple is also studying a cuffless blood pressure device, which would provide readings without inflating. The work, however, is still in the early stages.
Apple wants to measure more than blood pressure
The future Apple Watch devices will have additional health monitoring features, the Journal reports. This includes tracking other heart-related conditions. One of them might be monitoring irregular heart rhythms such as atrial fibrillation. The current Watch models can detect AFib in undiagnosed patients. But it’s not suited to track the condition.
Apple would require approvals from the FDA for expanding the AFib monitoring functionality on the Apple Watch.
Blood sugar sensor
Monitoring blood sugar levels would be a massive win for a device like the Apple Watch, just like monitoring blood pressure. Diabetes is a condition afflicting millions of people worldwide, and the treatment requires frequent blood glucose readings. The procedure is invasive, which is why a passive Apple Watch blood glucose sensor sounds so exciting.
The Journal reports that Apple is struggling with the technology, which is in its early stages.
Using the Apple Watch for fertility planning
Separately, Apple is studying adding a thermometer to the wrist. The sensor would have an immediate medical use, according to Apple’s rumored plans. It could give women clues about their ovulation cycles when the feature launches next year.
Down the road, the temperature sensor could detect fevers.
Detecting sleep apnea with the Apple Watch
Also, Apple wants to use the blood oxygen sensor in the Apple Watch to detect sleep apnea. The challenge is knowing when to take readings at night. The feature can drain the battery, the insiders told the Journal. Also, many Apple Watch users recharge the Apple Watch overnight, which means they wouldn’t be able to take advantage of sleep apnea detection features.
Apple also wants to improve the Apple Watch’s ability to track sleep patterns. This improved sleep tracking feature, AFib monitoring, and the fertility feature might also roll out in 2022.