Unarguably, the highlight of Apple’s ‘Gather Round’ event from earlier this week was the Apple Watch Series 4. Apart from a complete redesign, the new Apple Watch also comes with improved sensors for more accurate health tracking and it is also capable of doing ECG thanks to a new heart rate sensor.
However, the best part of the Apple Watch — its ECG capabilities — are not going to be available in most markets or even when the wearable hits the retail stores next week. Worse, the ECG capabilities of the Apple Watch Series 4 might be a bit overhyped as per Andrew Moore, an emergency department physician at the Oregon Health and Science University.
“The tech that Apple is working with is very rudimentary compared to what we’d do for someone in a hospital or health care setting,” says Moore.
“The ECG thing is a little bit overhyped in terms of what it will really provide,” he says.
The watch will only be able to tell if the heart rate of its wearer is too fast, slow, or beating irregularly. This data alone is simply not going to be enough for doctors who will have to run tests of their own before they can treat the patient. The FDA clearance to Apple makes it clear that the ECG and atrial fibrillation feature are not meant for users below 22 years of age. Plus, the irregular heart rate feature will not work for people who have already been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation previously.
While FDA has given Apple the necessary approval for the Apple Watch, it recognizes the fact that the wearable’s reading might not always be accurate. This is why FDA mandates Apple to label these risks and warn users about it.
As if this was not already enough, the ECG feature on the Apple Watch Series 4 is only going to be available for users in the United States. While Apple Watch Series 4 units across the globe will ship with the same hardware, the feature will be disabled outside the United States. And even in the US, the feature will not be available at launch. Instead, Apple will be rolling it out via a software update later this year. The update will also introduce a dedicated ECG app for the Apple Watch Series 4.
Apple will probably need approval or clearance from local government bodies in each country before it is able to bring ECG functionality in Apple Watch Series 4 to other parts of the world. There’s no word from Apple as to when — if at all — this will happen.
The basic ECG feature on the Apple Watch might just be sufficient for most people, but the complete lack of the feature in other parts of the world is definitely going to disappoint a lot of customers.
What do you think? Are you disappointed that the Apple Watch Series 4 is going to launch with its ECG feature disabled in your country?