18 March 2020
A new feature found in iOS 14 tells how serious Apple is for its users’ health. Apple introduced the electrocardiogram (ECG) on Watch Series 4 in 2018 and this year, it is likely to bring one more interesting health-related feature that will be able to detect blood-oxygen levels of the user wearing the smartwatch.
The tech site, 9to5Mac, found the references during a look at the iOS 14 code snippets. It is found that Apple may be developing this new health feature to let its users know about their blood oxygen levels. When the Apple Watch will detect low blood oxygen saturation below a certain threshold, a notification will trigger, alerting the user to take some action.
Blood oxygen levels between 95 and 100% are considered healthy and an action would be required if the level goes below to this range. A low blood oxygen level can compromise heart and brain function and increases the risk of respiratory or cardiac arrest.
It is currently unknown if this feature requires any specific hardware or an upgrade is enough. Apple added electrocardiogram features in the Apple Watch Series 4 by just upgrading the heart rate monitor. We assume the blood oxygen levels feature may get introduced the same way.
Earlier this year, Apple’s competitor Fitbit in the wearable world released blood oxygen monitoring before Apple could do. All the Fitbit devices that feature the SpO2 sensor started showing up the blood oxygen levels feature after a software update. It appears the same feature will only debut with new series – Apple Watch Series 6 that may come with a SpO2 sensor or some kind of oximeter for the same.
However, a teardown of the Apple Watch by iFixit in the past had suggested that the smartwatch can detect blood-oxygen levels but Apple hasn’t activated it yet.
According to what iFixit’s team noticed, Apple’s heart rate monitor is actually a plethysmograph that also acts like a pulse oximeter. It is possible that Apple hadn’t activated the feature in the past due to FDA regulations. And now the references found in the iOS 14 code snippets are enough to indicate that Apple may have finally received FDA approval.