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After last year’s Apple Watch Series 7 failed to live up to the pre-release hype, many have at least been expecting that this year’s Series 8 model will bring some more revolutionary improvements – but now it looks like we could be in for yet another iterative upgrade.
Alongside rumours of a big redesign for Apple’s wearable, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman warned us that the addition of any major new health sensors was extremely unlikely, and although last-minute production problems gave us some faint hope, it turns out that Gurman was ultimately right.
Rumours earlier in 2021 had pointed to the possibility of blood pressure monitoring and blood glucose sensors — two things that we know Apple has been working on for years — but Gurman threw a bucket of cold water on those ideas when his sources revealed that they weren’t nearly ready for primetime.
Instead, Gurman said the most we could expect in the Apple Watch Series 7 was a body temperature sensor, but he also cautioned that even that probably wouldn’t be ready in time, noting that it was more likely to arrive in 2022 on the Apple Watch Series 8.
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Now, however, it looks like even this relatively simple sensor may not be in the cards for this year’s model either. In his latest Power On newsletter, Gurman responded to a question on what new health features we should expect from the Apple Watch, and his sources aren’t especially optimistic about this year’s plans.
Gurman said that blood pressure, blood glucose, and body temperature are still very much in the works, but he also said that we shouldn’t expect any of these to arrive soon.
Body temperature was on this year’s roadmap, but chatter about it has slowed down recently. Blood pressure is at least two to three years away, while I wouldn’t be surprised if glucose monitoring doesn’t land until later in the second half of the decade. Mark Gurman
This isn’t really all that surprising for blood pressure and blood glucose, both of which Apple has faced challenges figuring out with any degree of accuracy. Some rumours suggested that the company had a blood pressure solution for the Apple Watch Series 6 that had to be scrapped due to serious problems with accuracy.
Accurate, non-invasive blood glucose monitoring, on the other hand, is something that researchers have been trying to figure out for decades, and even last year Gurman emphasized that one was a good several years away.
The idea that we aren’t getting a body temperature sensor this year is a bigger surprise, however, since there were indications Apple wanted to add it to last year’s Series 7, but simply couldn’t get it ready in time. To be fair, Gurman doesn’t have definitive information that it’s not coming, but he does say that he hasn’t heard much about it, which does imply that Apple may have shelved it for now.
The difficulty with these kinds of health sensors, however, is that Apple has to reach a much higher bar. Apple isn’t putting these in just for novelty purposes — they have to work, and they have to work well. That means they need to have a very high degree of accuracy. This can be a challenge even for something as seemingly straightforward as a body temperature sensor, especially considering that it has to take these measurements at the wrist.
Consider that the last major health feature Apple added to its wearable, the Blood Oxygen sensor in the Series 6, isn’t certified by medical experts for anything useful. It’s a “wellness” feature, at best, designed to help users get a feel for their general fitness, but it’s definitely not intended to be used to diagnose or even alert users to possible medical conditions.
That’s probably fair when it comes to a blood oxygen sensor, as even medically certified pulse oximeters aren’t traditionally used to diagnose everyday health conditions. Body temperature, blood pressure, and blood glucose, however, are all much more critical measurements, much like heart rate and ECG, and therefore Apple has to make sure that they are as solid and reliable as they can possibly be. Otherwise, what’s the point of including them in the first place?
Even if the Apple Watch Series 8 doesn’t gain any new physical sensors, however, that doesn’t mean that Apple isn’t working on bringing other important health features to its wearable. The Wall Street Journal reported last fall that Apple could still have some “more ambitious health-related improvements” this year, including features for detecting sleep apnea and perhaps improving the blood oxygen sensor, so it can be properly certified to provide medical guidance.
[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.]