Apple’s slew of new WatchOS 9 features include some compelling medical and fitness upgrades. But none of them will apply to the affordable Series 3 model.
Apple Watch owners will soon be able to store greater chunks of their medical history to help track heart conditions and update doctors, according to the latest updates to be applied to the Watch’s operating system in WatchOS 9.
However, the upgrades won’t apply to those buying the most affordable Watch model, the Series 3. This is down to the technical requirements of the overall WatchOS 9 upgrade, which Apple will only facilitate with the higher-end models on sale in recent years, including Series 4, 5, 6, SE and the current flagship 7 device.
The new AFib History feature, initially available in the US but likely to be rolled out later in Europe, aims to build a medically useful profile of a person’s potential heart issues by tracking the frequency of abnormal heart rhythms, also known as atrial fibrillation (AFib), over an extended period of time.
According to Apple, users who are diagnosed with AFib will be able to turn on the AFib History feature to access information that includes an estimate of how frequently a user’s heart rhythm shows signs of AFib. This is designed to give deeper insights into the AFib condition, according to Apple. Users will then also receive weekly notifications to understand the frequency better, as well as getting a detailed history in the Health app, including lifestyle factors that may influence AFib, like sleep, alcohol consumption, and exercise.
The feature has been cleared for use by the US FDA regulatory body, and will likely need similar approval in Europe.
Apple adds that users will also be able to download a PDF with a detailed history of their AFib and lifestyle factors, which can then be shared with doctors and other medical professionals.
Alongside this, Apple is adding a new app called Medications that aims to let people track what medicine or supplements they’re taking. The app, which will work with the Health app and will also be viewable on iPhones, will allow for schedules and reminders to be set.
Apple insists that all of this sensitive personal health data remains encrypted when on the device and when it’s being backed up to iCloud.
Otherwise, the WatchOS 9 update includes a lot of new fitness features that should interest runners, swimmers and those who take workouts regularly.
There are new metrics such as stride length, ground contact time and vertical oscillation, to be added to Workout Views. They’ll also be viewable in the Fitness app summary and Health app.
You’ll also be able to race against your best or last result, as well get alerts on how your pace is faring compared to other performances.
Swimmers, meanwhile, can now better calculate their strike count, combined with the time it takes to swim a length of the pool.
And the Workout app has been updated to allow teh watch’s digital crown to be used to rotate between Workout Views. ‘Heart rate zones’ can also now be created to monitor the intensity of a workout, while there are new alerts for things like pace, power, heart rate and cadence.
And triathletes now get a new Multisport workout that automatically switches between any sequence of swimming, biking and running workouts.
There are also a few new Watch faces within WatchOS 9, including Lunar, Playtime (from artist Joi Fulton), Metropolitan and Astronomy.
As for sleep tracking, WatchOS 9 is another step toward the more sophisticated sleep trackers from the likes of Fitbit and Garmin with more details from its heart sensor and accelerometer on REM and deep sleep. The Sleep app will aid comparison charts for things like heart rate, respiratory rate and time asleep in the Health app.
However, all of this won’t be available to the Series 3 model, which Apple still sells. It’s unusual for an entire software update to completely skip a product Apple still ships.