Apple Watch Series 8 Will Get New Health Sensors (But Not for Blood Pressure or Blood Sugar)

The sensors are expected to help people make babies.
Pregnancy Credit: prostock_studio / Shutterstock
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Although the Apple Watch Series 8 will be getting some new health sensors this year, they’re unlikely to be the groundbreaking sensors that many folks have been hoping for.

Over the past few years, reports have surfaced that Apple is working on everything from blood glucose monitoring to blood pressure monitoring. Each year, we see rumors getting our hopes up that this could finally be the year that these features arrive, but they never seem to appear.

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This time around, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman is making sure that our expectations are more realistic. Last year, Gurman made it clear that blood glucose monitoring was still years away, and sadly the same also appears to be the case for blood pressure sensors.

Some of these features are also really tough nuts to crack, even for a company the size of Apple. For instance, researchers have been working for decades on finding a reliable method for non-invasive blood glucose monitoring. Even after spending hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of person-hours of research, they have yet to come up with a clinically viable product. Sometimes you can’t solve a problem just by throwing money at it.

There were also reports that blood pressure monitoring nearly made it into the Apple Watch Series 6 two years ago but had to be scrapped due to serious accuracy problems.

There’s no doubt that Apple is working on the technology. Reports of blood pressure sensors go back to at least 2017, and there’s ample evidence of potential third-party blood glucose sensors already being field-tested.

However, the biggest challenge with medical sensors like these isn’t whether they can detect things like blood pressure and blood glucose — it’s whether they can do so accurately. After all, a blood pressure sensor that gets your readings wrong even part of the time is worse than having no sensor at all, and the results of wrong readings from a blood glucose monitor can be fatal.

“Baby” Steps

This doesn’t mean this year’s Apple Watch won’t get any new health features. They’re just going to be a bit less spectacular than what many folks are hoping for.

For one thing, it looks like the rumored body temperature sensor is still on the table. Gurman first reported this in June, saying that Apple had planned to bring it to the Apple Watch Series 7 last year but that it was unlikely to make the cut and would likely be pushed off to the Series 8.

However, Gurman later hedged his bets, telling a reader of his Power On newsletter in January that “chatter” about the body temperature sensor has slowed down, suggesting that it might have been pushed back again.

While it’s still not a sure thing, Gurman now seems more confident that the body-temperature sensor could appear “as early as this year,” although it’s likely to have a fairly narrow scope at first: helping people make babies.

The company is planning to add a body-temperature sensor to the watch as early as this year. The feature, which Bloomberg first reported on last year, would initially be designed to help with fertility planning. Mark Gurman

This latest report aligns with what we’ve previously heard from the Wall Street Journal. Last fall, sources speaking to the WSJ revealed that the body temperature sensor was intended to have a more specific application in fertility planning rather than as a way to let users measure their own body temperature on demand.

Gurman adds that Apple could expand this down the road to help determine if wearers have an atypically high body temperature. Still, he notes that it could be a long time before it’s precise enough to replace a thermometer.

Future versions of the watch could expand the feature to determine if a user has a higher than normal body temperature, but — like with blood pressure — is unlikely to show an actual measurement. Mark Gurman

Apple appears to be taking the same approach to blood pressure monitoring. Having given up on sensors that can provide detailed systolic and diastolic readings, it seems content to offer non-specific warnings. Users will be told when they might have high blood pressure (hypertension) and advised to check it out by seeing a doctor or taking a reading with a dedicated blood pressure measuring device.

According to Gurman, Apple is already trialing this blood-pressure technology on employees, but it’s not confident enough to bake it into an Apple Watch quite yet. Gurman says we shouldn’t expect to see this until 2024, when the Apple Watch Series 10 (or “Series X” ) makes its debut.

Apple is also expected to add expanded sleep tracking capabilities, pill management, and some new women’s health features to its collection of health features this year. However, Gurman says these are coming to an “updated version of the Health app on the iPhone,” suggesting that they’ll be features of iOS 16 and watchOS 9 that will likely also come to older Apple Watch models.

[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.]

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