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A recent report from sources within Apple’s supply chain raised hopes that the Apple Watch Series 7 could include a new health monitoring feature, contradicting information from other reliable sources, but it looks like we really shouldn’t get our hopes up quite yet.
Yesterday, Nikkei Asia reported that the Apple Watch Series 7 was running into some pretty significant production delays, due to the “complicated designs of the new smartwatch.”
However, in addition to the major redesign that we’re already expecting, supply chain sources also pointed to “new features such as blood pressure measurement” that were creating the additional challenge of “fitting a greater number of components into a smaller size body.”
This last point took us by surprise, as several generally reliable sources have said that there won’t be any major health upgrades this year. The most significant of these is Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who shared earlier this year that Apple was working on a body temperature sensor, but that even this wouldn’t likely make the cut for this year’s Apple Watch. Instead, we should expect that as the next major health feature coming to the 2022 Apple Watch Series 8 model.
Gurman was particularly quiet on the topic of blood pressure sensors. Although he did confirm that Apple is working on blood glucose monitoring, he noted that’s still several years away.
The fact that non-invasive blood glucose monitoring isn’t coming any time soon shouldn’t be a big surprise — researchers have been trying to crack that nut for over 40 years, so Apple isn’t just going to walk in and solve it overnight.
Blood pressure monitoring, however, is something else that Apple is already actively working on, to the point where it may have almost made it into last year’s Apple Watch Series 6. Unfortunately, it seems Apple has been struggling to get the necessary level of accuracy to make it a viable solution.
Certainly, the omission of any mention of blood pressure monitoring in Gurman’s previous reports, combined with the fact that Apple may have solved the accuracy issues, gave us some optimism that just maybe it could be the “One more thing” for this year’s Apple Watch. However, Gurman has doubled down on his prior assertion that this won’t be happening.
When asked to comment on the Nikkei Asia report of the blood pressure sensor, Gurman succinctly responded that there’s “no chance” of this happening.
Instead, Gurman suggests that the production delays are being caused solely by the new display technology, specifically the new lamination technique that will bring the display closer to the cover glass.
In a Bloomberg article on the delays, Gurman also adds that since Apple hasn’t yet announced a release date, it has plenty of options for how to proceed, including either a later release or simply shipping a smaller number of units out of the gate.
It wouldn’t be the first time an Apple Watch has hit snags coming out of the factory. The first version was delayed in 2015 due to production problems. But since Apple hasn’t yet announced the release date for the Apple Watch Series 7, it has options. The company could just give a later date or ship a smaller number of units.Mark Gurman and Debby Wu for Bloomberg
However, Gurman implies that Apple will likely still announce the Apple Watch at this month’s iPhone event, even if it can’t actually ship the first devices until later. This wouldn’t be entirely unprecedented, since Apple did the same with its new iPad lineup last September, not to mention this past spring’s iPad Pro and 24-inch M1 iMac.
After all, since the new iPhones are expected to be ready this month, it’s not like Apple won’t have something colossal available in the days following the event. With that on the table, delaying the Apple Watch into October won’t seem like such a big deal.
Many More Health Features Coming in 2022 and Beyond
None of this means that Apple has given up on its plans to add blood pressure measuring capabilities to the Apple Watch. They’re just not going to be ready for this year.
According to The Wall Street Journal (Apple News+ link), blood pressure monitoring is still very much on the table, but it’s part of a suite of health-related improvements that are slated for next year’s model.
The company is expected to release its seventh version of the Apple Watch in the coming weeks, according to analysts, but most of its more ambitious health-related improvements aren’t expected before 2022.Rolfe Winkler, The Wall Street Journal
The WSJ also suggests that the previously rumoured body temperature sensor might have a more specific application in fertility planning, rather than simply as a means to let users measure their own body temperature on demand.
In line with Gurman’s previous reports about the body temperature sensor, the WSJ notes that the fertility feature will likely be first on deck for next year’s Apple Watch Series 8, but Apple is also working on “potential improvements” to irregular heartbeat monitoring and sleep tracking for next year as well.
The WSJ also managed to get some insight into Apple’s other long-term plans, which include detecting sleep apnea and providing additional medical guidance, but these probably won’t arrive next year.
Beyond next year, Apple wants its smartwatch to be able to detect sleep apnea, provide medical guidance when it senses low blood oxygen levels and, perhaps one day, spot diabetes, according to the documents and some of the people.Rolfe Winkler, The Wall Street Journal
Some of Apple’s more ambitious health features also require the FDA to sign off on their use. For instance, the blood oxygen sensor added to last year’s Apple Watch is considered a general “wellness” feature rather than a medical one, but Apple is hoping that the FDA will approve it to allow the company “to alert users if their blood-oxygen level drops.”
Similarly, even though the Apple Watch has accurately detected atrial fibrillation since the feature was introduced with the Series 4, the ECG and irregular heart rhythm sensors have not yet been approved by the FDA for actually tracking those conditions — they’re simply a warning to seek medical advice. Apple is working to change this as well.
[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]