Although at times criticized for its aged design, which ironically is becoming the fad again, few will deny how the Apple Watch has been blazing a trail when it comes to turning wearables into miniature health labs on your wrist. The life-saving anecdotes that surround Apple’s smartwatch have become more or less legend and the company is showing no signs of stopping now. Details on how it will do so are still unclear but the next big feature to come to the Apple Watch might be a pulse oximeter.
Apple easily set its smartwatch apart from a sea of smart timepieces with the health features it baked into the device. Going beyond the usual heart rate monitoring, Apple recently added features like fall detection and, the biggest one so far, electrocardiogram or ECG reading. The latter is critical for detecting irregular heart rhythms or AFib (atrial fibrillation), noted to be one of the silent killers in the world today.
That’s not the only indicator of health or disease, however, and Apple has been known to be seeking other such measurable clues. Based on code it saw in the next iOS 14 release, 9to5Mac theorizes measuring blood oxygen levels is that next step.
Oxygen saturation in the blood can indicate various health conditions, with 95 to 100% saturation seen as a healthy base. Anything below 80% indicates problems that could lead to life-threatening respiratory or cardiac arrest. There are a variety of portable blood oximeters available that you can simply clip onto your finger but something that is almost always around your wrist will definitely be more convenient.
That said, the code doesn’t seem to indicate how this feature will be implemented and if it even needs new hardware. If anything, the Apple Watch series 6 might be the first to debut that feature before it lands on older models, if at all.