Apple today seeded the first beta of an upcoming watchOS 5.1.3 update to developers, four days after releasing the watchOS 5.1.2 update with new complications for the Infograph face and ECG functionality for Apple Watch Series 4 owners.
Apple’s release notes state that watchOS 5.1.3 “contains bug fixes and improvements,” so this appears to be a minor update.
Once the proper configuration profile has been installed from the Apple Developer Center, the new watchOS beta can be downloaded through the dedicated Apple Watch app on the iPhone by going to General –> Software update.
To install the update, the Apple Watch needs to have at least 50 percent battery, it must be placed on the charger, and it has to be in range of the iPhone.
When Apple announced its latest Series 4 Watch with electrocardiogram features, my mom took a sigh of relief, and then proceeded to set a reminder to order one for my dad. That’s because we found out last year, by chance, that he has atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat, often times rapid heart rate that can increase your risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related issues.
The ECG feature, which monitors your heart rhythm and can detect AFib,* went live just two days ago. Already, at least one person has benefited from it.
Yesterday, a person on Reddit shared how their Apple Watch notified them of an abnormal heart rate. From there, they ran the ECG app and found out it was AFib. They went to urgent care and saw a doctor who they say said, “You should buy Apple stock. This probably saved you. I read about this last night and thought we would see an upswing this week. I didn’t expect it first thing this morning.”
The patient says they proceeded to go to a cardiologist the next day, who did an exam and confirmed the AFib diagnosis.
“I’m scheduled to go back in a week for some additional tests to start looking at the cause… blood, thyroid, etc…,” they wrote. “He also scheduled me with a partner who specializes more in the electrical side of things to have it looked from that angle as well.”
As one of the first more widely-owned ECG monitors, this could make a huge difference in the number of people who have at least some transparency into their heart health. But to be clear, once you enable the new feature, the watch is still not constantly looking for AFib. When the heart rhythm monitor detects something is off — a skipped or rapid heartbeat, for example — it will send a notification to your wrist.
That’s when you open up the ECG app, rest your arm on your lap or table, and then hold your finger to the crown for 30 seconds. From there, the watch will tell you if there are signs of atrial fibrillation.
If you want to learn more about the features, check out my colleague Brian Heater’s piece below.
An ECG, or electrocardiogram, is designed to measure the electrical activity of the heart to detect abnormal rhythms and diagnose serious heart conditions.
The Apple Watch Series 4 allows users to take a single-lead electrocardiogram to keep an eye on heart health. This isn’t as informative or as sensitive as the multi-lead ECGs you might get in a doctor’s office or hospital, which use several points of contact, but it provides valuable information for those who might not even be aware of a heart condition.
The ECG feature in the Apple Watch uses electrodes built into the sapphire crystal of the Apple Watch (where the heart rate sensor is located) and the Digital Crown that work together to detect the electrical impulses from your heartbeat and route the data to the S4 processor in the device, where it is converted into a signal for Apple’s algorithms.
You can take an ECG using the built-in ECG app on the Apple Watch, which walks you through the steps. You’ll need to place a finger on the Digital Crown of the Apple Watch and wait for approximately 30 seconds while the measurement is taken.
You’ll see a countdown on your wrist, which is designed to let you know just how long your finger needs to stay in place before you can move it.
Following the conclusion of the ECG, Apple will provide a heart rhythm classification that can be shared with your doctor. If your heart is beating in a normal rhythm, Apple will let you know that a standard sinus rhythm has been detected. If your heart is not beating normally, however, the app will let you know that atrial fibrillation has been detected.
If atrial fibrillation is detected, Apple will suggest that you get in touch with your doctor for further testing.
All ECG results captured with the Apple Watch Series 4 are stored in the Health app in a format that’s easy to export and share with your doctor.
Apple has received de novo FDA clearance for the ECG feature in the Apple Watch Series 4, but FDA clearance is not the same as full FDA approval. The FDA does not recommend that the ECG feature be used by those under 22 or those who have already been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.
The Apple Watch Series 4’s ECG function is not designed to replace traditional methods of diagnosis or treatment, and Apple intends for it to be used for informational purposes.
At the current time, Apple Watch Series 4 owners in the United States are the only Apple Watch customers who can take an ECG because the feature needs regulatory approval to be made available in other countries. Apple is working to expand the feature to additional countries.
While the ability to take an ECG is limited to Apple Watch Series 4 users, Apple is implementing a secondary feature designed to send Apple Watch Series 1, 2, 3, and 4 users a notification if an irregular heartbeat is detected via the normal heart rate sensor in the device.
For now, the ECG feature is available in a beta capacity to developers who have the watchOS 5.1.2 update installed. There is no watchOS public beta, so non-developers will need to wait until the official release of watchOS 5.1.2 to install the update.
What do you think of the ECG option in the Apple Watch? Let us know in the comments.
Apple today released watchOS 5.1.2, which enables the ECG app on Apple Watch Series 4 models. However, as Apple made clear, the ECG app is currently only available in the United States and its territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, preventing it from being used internationally at this time.
Many software features on Apple devices are initially limited to the United States, but international users have often been able to simply change their iPhone or Apple Watch region to the United States to gain access.
That’s not the case with the the ECG app on the Apple Watch Series 4, though, as it only functions on models purchased in the United States. Those who live in and bought an Apple Watch in Canada, the UK, or elsewhere abroad can’t use the region-switching trick to enable the ECG app — it doesn’t work.
Note that the ECG app requires an Apple Watch Series 4 with watchOS 5.1.2, paired with an iPhone 5s or newer with iOS 12.1.1.
Both the ECG app and irregular heart rhythm notifications are regulated features on the Apple Watch. Both features have been granted De Novo classification by the FDA for users 22 years and older in the United States. Apple says people already diagnosed with atrial fibrillation should not use the app.
The newest update for Apple Watches is out now, bringing a highly anticipated feature to Series 4 devices. Apple pushed out watchOS 5.1.2 today, which includes its ECG app for monitoring irregular heartbeats.
Apple Watch Series 4 devices all have built-in electrodes that can measure electrocardiograms, or ECGs. At the time of the Watch’s debut in September, Apple’s native app with which the electrodes communicate wasn’t ready for consumer use. Now, it’s rolling out as part of the watchOS 5.1.2 update.
The ECG app is for the Watch itself, while ECG data gets stored in Apple’s Health app on iOS devices. To take an ECG reading, users must place their finger on the flat side of the Digital Crown on their Series 4 Watch. The electrode on the Digital Crown communicates with the other electrode on the Watch, which sits near the heart rate monitor, to take a complete ECG measurement.
The first video focuses on the Apple Watch’s potential to save lives, including a man who crashed while kitesurfing and used his Apple Watch to call his son, a 13-year-old boy whose Apple Watch alerted him to an elevated heart rate, a mother in a car crash who called 911 from her Apple Watch, and a man with blood clots.
“People reach out to Apple all the time to share how Apple Watch has become an indispensable part of their lives,” said Apple in the Real Stories video description. “Here are some of their stories.”
The second video highlights the story of Michael Jackson, from Duluth, Minnesota, who was born with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy. One night, he was woken up by an Apple Watch notification about an elevated heart rate, rushed to the emergency room, and found to have sepsis, a potentially fatal condition.
“Many people reach out to Apple to share how receiving heart rate notifications on Apple Watch has helped them recognize and react to serious conditions,” the second video description reads. “Here is Michael’s story.”
Apple today released watchOS 5.1.2, the third update to the watchOS 5 operating system that runs on modern Apple Watch models. watchOS 5.1.2 comes one month after the release of watchOS 5.1.1, an update that introduced new emoji and color watch faces and addressed a bricking bug that had been introduced with watchOS 5.1.
watchOS 5.1.2 can be downloaded for free through the dedicated Apple Watch app on the iPhone by going to General –> Software Update. To install the new software, the Apple Watch needs to have at least 50 percent battery, it needs to be placed on a charger, and it needs to be in range of the iPhone.
watchOS 5.1.2 introduces the long-awaited ECG feature for Apple Watch Series 4 models in the United States. The ECG functionality works through electrodes built into the back of the Apple Watch Series 4 and the Digital Crown, allowing users to take a single-lead electrocardiogram with the wrist-worn device. An ECG measures the electrical activity of the heart and is often used to diagnose heart conditions.
Alongside ECG functionality, watchOS 5.1.2 introduces a new feature that will let you know if the Apple Watch is detecting an abnormal heart rhythm that’s indicative of atrial fibrillation, which can be a sign of a serious health problem. The ECG feature is limited to the Series 4, but the irregular heart rhythm notifications will be available on all Apple Watch models able to run watchOS 5 – that’s Series 1 or newer.
The watchOS 5.1.2 update also brings new complications for the Infograph watch faces on the Apple Watch Series 4. Complications that have been added include Mail, Messages, Home, Maps, Apple News, Find My Friends, Phone, and Remote, all of which can now be assigned to the available complication slots on the Infograph watch face.
With most of these complications, the icon is designed to provide quick access to opening up an app rather than relaying information like unread messages or emails.
watchOS 5.1.2 also includes a new toggle in Control Center for turning the Walkie-Talkie feature on and off, which makes it a lot easier to disable Walkie-Talkie when it’s not in use and turn it back on when it’s needed.
Apple’s release notes:
This update includes new features, improvements and bug fixes:
– New ECG app on Apple Watch Series 4 (US and US territories only)
* Allows you to take an electrocardiogram similar to a single-lead electrocardiogram
* Can indicate whether your heart rhythm shows signs of atrial fibrillation—a serious form of irregular heart rhythm—or sinus rhythm, which means your heart is beating in a normal pattern
* Saves ECG waveform, classification and any noted symptoms in a PDF on the Health app on iPhone to share with your doctor
– Adds the ability to receive an alert if an irregular heart rhythm that appears to be atrial fibrillation is detected (US and US territories only)
– Enables direct access to supported movie tickets, coupons, and rewards cards in Wallet when tapped to a contactless reader
– Receive notifications and animated celebrations when you achieve daily maximum points in a day during an Activity competition
– New Infograph complications for Mail, Maps, Messages, Find My Friends, Home, News, Phone, Remote
– Manage your availability for Walkie-Talkie from Control Center
The article begins with a story about 46-year-old Texas resident Kevin Foley, who was having trouble breathing normally during a movie. Fortunately, since he was wearing an Apple Watch and participating in the recent Apple Heart Study, he was alerted to signs of an irregular heartbeat and went to the emergency room.
At the hospital, doctors hooked Foley up to an ECG machine and found signs of atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that can lead to stroke and other potentially fatal complications. Foley spent the next few days in the hospital while doctors worked to return him to a normal sinus heart rhythm and is doing fine now.
“Apple’s largest contribution to mankind will be in improving people’s health and well-being,” Cook boldly proclaimed.
“We have tens of millions of watches on people’s wrists, and we have hundreds of millions of phones in people’s pockets,” said Williams. “There’s a huge opportunity to empower people with more information about their health. So this is something we view as not only an opportunity, but a responsibility of ours.”
Williams also appeared on CBS This Morning today to talk about the ECG app. The YouTube video can only be streamed in the United States.
The report says a traditional hospital ECG is often referred to as a “12-lead” machine, as its 10 different electrodes provide information on 12 different areas of the heart. The new Apple Watch is the equivalent of only a single-lead device, but research suggests the ECG app is still very accurate.
In a press release, Apple said the accuracy of its ECG app was validated in a clinical trial with around 600 participants. The study found the ECG app on Apple Watch demonstrated 98.3 percent sensitivity in classifying atrial fibrillation:
Rhythm classification from a gold standard 12-lead ECG by a cardiologist was compared to the rhythm classification of a simultaneously collected ECG from the ECG app. The study found the ECG app on Apple Watch demonstrated 98.3 percent sensitivity in classifying AFib and 99.6 percent specificity in classifying sinus rhythm in classifiable recordings. In the study, 87.8 percent of recordings could be classified by the ECG app.
“The FDA has been very rigorous, and they should be,” said Williams, referring to the Apple Watch’s heart health features.
The article goes on to claim that some cardiologists and other experts have raised concerns that the Apple Watch’s ECG feature is “unnecessary for the general population” and “could cause problems,” including false positives.
“If everybody with an Apple Watch and an alert from an Apple Watch went to a heart-rhythm doctor that was super comfortable with this, then I think it would be O.K.,” said Dr. John Mandrola, a cardiac electrophysiologist. “But there are going to be millions of people going to the doctor that in many cases will be just fine.”
Apple responded that no medical test is 100 percent accurate, so some false positives are inevitable, according to the report. Moreover, the Apple Watch will only alert users to a potential heart-related problem if it detects five instances of what it considers a cardiovascular episode, including arrhythmia.
Importantly, in an internal document obtained by MacRumors, Apple cautioned that the ECG app is “not intended to be a diagnostic device or to replace traditional methods of diagnosis,” and “should not be used to monitor or track disease state or change medication without first talking to a doctor.”
To take an ECG reading from the Apple Watch, users will need to place a finger on the Digital Crown while wearing the watch. The reading is completed in 30 seconds, allowing users to determine whether their hearts are beating in a regular pattern or if there are signs of atrial fibrillation.
Irregular heart rhythm notifications will also be available on Apple Watch Series 1 through Series 4 models in watchOS 5.1.2.
Apple says the setup process for these heart health features will include details about who can use the features, what the features can and cannot do, what results users may get and how to interpret them, and instructions for what to do if users are feeling symptoms that require immediate medical attention.
watchOS 5.1.2 should be available through the Apple Watch app on a paired iPhone around 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time as usual. At launch, the ECG app will be limited to the U.S., but Apple is likely working to get regulatory clearance elsewhere.