Apple Releases watchOS 7.6, Bringing ECG to a Whopping 30 More Countries

Apple Watch ECG Credit: guteksk7 / Shutterstock
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In the largest expansion yet for one of Apple’s most important health features, the company has just rolled out its ECG app in 30 new countries with the release of watchOS 7.6.

ECG and irregular heart rhythm notifications came to the Apple Watch back in 2018 shortly after the release of the Series 4 model, and it’s no exaggeration to say that these have become the most significant life-saving features of Apple’s wearable.

Time and time again, these sensors found in newer Apple Watches have notified users of unknown heart conditions — oftentimes even ones that doctors and hospitals miss.

To be fair, older Apple Watch models can save lives too, since Apple has packed in heart-rate sensors since the beginning, but the ECG capabilities have taken these to a whole new level.

Unfortunately, the medical nature of the ECG technology requires that it be regulated and approved by health authorities before it can be launched in a given country, and even the US release of the ECG app took until watchOS 5.1.2 arrived several weeks after the Apple Watch Series 4 debuted.

From there, Apple was fairly quick to roll it out to Hong Kong and 20 European countries with the arrival of watchOS 5.2 in early 2019, followed by a few more European countries in watchOS 5.2.1, and then Canada and Singapore with watchOS 5.3 a few months later.

By the end of 2019, the Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 5 models offered ECG and irregular heart rhythm notifications in at least 28 countries worldwide.

This also gradually expanded throughout 2020, with the feature coming to Chile, Turkey, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Brazil, and South Africa across various watchOS 6 updates, and then into Colombia, Israel, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Russia, Taiwan, Japan, Mayotte, Philippines, and Thailand in early watchOS 7 releases.

Most recently, watchOS 7.4 and 7.5 added the app to Australia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Peru, but now watchOS 7.6 has decided to take the brakes off, rolling out the update to a staggering 30 additional countries in one fell swoop.

To be fair, Apple did many of its ECG rollouts more quietly — only about 50 countries have been announced by name in watchOS release notes over the years, but as of June 29, Apple showed the feature as being available in 70 countries.

Along the same lines, this week’s release notes for watchOS 7.6 don’t list any countries by name, simply stating that support for the ECG app and irregular heart rhythm notifications has been added in “30 additional regions.”

Perhaps more significantly, this means that these important health features are now available in a total of 100 regions around the world.

New Countries with Apple Watch ECG 2021

While this mostly includes countries that are so small you may not even have heard of them, there are some notable additions on the list too, such as Ukraine and Haiti.

Specifically, watchOS 7.6 brings the Apple Watch ECG and Irregular Rhythm Notifications to Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cook Islands, Cyprus, Dominica, Estonia, Fiji, French Southern Territories, Gibraltar, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Haiti, Isle of Man, Jersey, Monaco, Montserrat, Nauru, Norfolk Islands, Seychelles, Slovenia, St. Barthélemy, St. Helena, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Martin, St. Vincent & Grenadines, Ukraine, and Vatican City.

While you’ve probably observed that this list now includes a number of popular vacation destinations, it’s worth noting that this doesn’t mean much for travellers. Despite rumours that Apple was considering geo-restricting the ECG feature back in iOS 12, this isn’t the case, and you’ll always be able to use the ECG based on your country of origin, regardless of where in the world you happen to be.

On the other hand, Apple did originally limit the ECG based on where you purchased your Apple Watch. With the feature now available so widely, it’s unclear if this is still the case, but if so, it does mean you won’t have to worry as much about buying a new Apple Watch when travelling abroad.

The massive expansion of the ECG feature seems to be the only thing new in watchOS 7.6, although it’s fair to say Apple has likely also rolled in a few less noteworthy bug fixes and security updates as well.

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