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Apple Watch Series 6 might have a vital feature for the coronavirus era

Published Aug 1st, 2020 1:34PM EDT
Apple Watch Series 6
Image: Apple Inc.

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  • Apple is reportedly going to build a blood oxygen sensor into the Apple Watch Series 6.
  • Doctors and experts say that low oxygen saturation levels can be a sign of COVID-19, which is why pulse oximeters have been sold out online for months.
  • Apple announced that the iPhone 12 launch has been delayed past September due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, which means the next Apple Watch might be delayed as well.

It’s been close to five months since the US government declared a national emergency due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, but our understanding of the virus is still woefully limited.

Some people who catch the virus become very ill and require urgent care, but others will never know they’re infected unless they get tested. The symptoms are so varied and arbitrary, it can difficult to determine whether or not you have COVID-19 without getting a test. Therefore, it’s no surprise that pulse oximeters started flying off store shelves in the early days of the pandemic, because low blood oxygen levels can be a sign of the disease.

A pulse oximeter is an electronic device that clips to your finger and measures both your heart rate and the oxygen saturation in your red blood cells. As Yale Medicine explains, oxygen levels between 95-97% are considered normal by the American Lung Association, but any reading below that range would warrant calling a doctor. At the very least, it’s nice to have one around for peace of mind, and the next Apple Watch might have one built in.

According to a report from DigiTimes (via 9to5Mac), Apple made a manufacturing deal with ASE Technology ahead of the launch of the Apple Watch Series 6 later this year. More notably, the report also claimed that the new Apple Watch model will be the first with a built-in blood oxygen sensor. Rather than having to buy a separate device to check your blood oxygen levels, you could simply check your Apple Watch Series 6.

This isn’t the first time we’ve about a blood oxygen sensor coming to the Apple Watch, as 9to5Mac found code in the leaked iOS 14 beta earlier this year which suggested the ability to read blood oxygen levels was in Apple’s plan. That said, no mention of the feature was made at WWDC 2020, where watchOS 7 was announced. 9to5Mac posits Apple was waiting to announce hardware that supports the feature before bringing it up publicly, and the DigiTimes report appears to back that idea up, which means older watches probably won’t gain the feature.

Unfortunately, due to the very same virus that a future Apple Watch may potentially help you detect, Apple confirmed on Friday that its new iPhone models will launch “a few weeks later” than the standard late September window, which means that the event where the iPhone and other new products are announced might be delayed as well. If that’s the case, then we could be waiting a few extra weeks to see the Apple Watch Series 6 on store shelves.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.