The Apple Watch is arguably the most successful consumer health product of all time, allowing users to track a wide range of biometric data while shipping over 33m units in 2020 alone.
That’s why when the Wall Street Journal recently reported that Apple is planning to include an on-wrist blood pressure monitor in an upcoming version of the watch, both consumers and healthcare providers took notice.
- How It Works – Citing internal company documents, the WSJ revealed that Apple’s tool tracks blood pressure changes using pulse arrival times, which measure how long it takes for blood to reach the wrist after a heart beat.
- Limitations – This approach would show users how their blood pressure is trending (picture your wrist vibrating to tell you that your blood pressure is spiking during an argument), but would not provide a baseline measure of systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
- Competition – Samsung is taking a different approach with the Galaxy Watch, which is already equipped with an optical sensor that can detect changes in blood pressure but requires a traditional cuff to calibrate and lacks FDA approval.
- Launch Date – Although the Apple Watch Series 7 is set to debut later this month, blood pressure tracking isn’t expected before 2022, due in part to the engineering challenge of making the feature compact enough to fit in an already-crowded watch.
Rumors of new Apple Watch features circulate every year before the product’s refresh, but the latest leaks provide more insight than most into Apple’s strategy for measuring blood pressure.
Pulse arrival time tracking highlights the Apple Watch’s potential and limitations in healthcare, but with hypertension afflicting ~100m Americans, the feature has the chance to make a significant impact in the lives of patients.