Apple took the wraps off its newest Apple Watch at an event today, and the crowd went wild over one particular feature: the ability to take an electrocardiogram (ECG) using the new ECG app. Unfortunately, the feature will only be available in the U.S., and later this year. That said, the Apple Watch Series 4 has plenty more features, including several others that focus on fitness and health.
The Apple Watch Series 4 retain the same design as its predecessors, but has a display that's more than 30% larger and integrates into a thinner and smaller case. WatchOS 5 offers advanced activity and communications features as well, along with health-related capabilities, including a new accelerometer and gyroscope, which are able to detect hard falls, and an electrical heart rate sensor. The ECG app has been granted a De Novo classification by the FDA, but there's no word on when the feature might be available in Canada.
"We're thrilled Apple Watch has become an essential part of people's lives," said Jeff Williams, Apple's COO at the event. "The completely redesigned Apple Watch Series 4 continues to be an indispensable communication and fitness companion, and now with the addition of groundbreaking features, like fall detection and the first-ever ECG app offered directly to consumers, it also becomes an intelligent guardian for your health."
Offered in two sizes, 40mm and 44mm, the Watch also has a speaker that is 50% louder, optimized for phone calls, Siri and Walkie-Talkie, and a relocated microphone to reduce echo for better sound quality, says Apple. The device includes the next-generation S4 chip with a custom 64-bit dual-core processor, delivering twice the speed while maintaining the same all-day battery life.
The back of Apple Watch Series 4 is black ceramic and sapphire crystal, allowing radio waves to easily pass through the front and back for better cellular service. The Digital Crown now includes haptic feedback, offering a more mechanical and responsive feel through the sensation of incremental clicks.
The user interface is optimized for the larger display, allowing for app icons and fonts that are bigger and easier to read. New watch faces take full advantage of the Series 4 display, like the customizable Infograph face, or the Breathe face, where the animation is timed around a deep breath. Additionally, a suite of motion faces, including Vapor, Liquid Metal, Fire, and Water, react uniquely with the curved edges of the case.
Using the ECG app (in the U.S.), you can take a reading right from your wrist. It uses the electrodes built into the Digital Crown and new electrical heart rate sensor in the back crystal. Touch the Digital Crown and after 30 seconds, receive a heart rhythm classification. It can classify if the heart is beating in a normal pattern or whether there are signs of Atrial Fibrillation (AFib), a heart condition that could lead to major health complications. All recordings, their associated classifications, and any noted symptoms, are stored in the Health app in a PDF that can be shared with physicians.
With watchOS 5, Apple Watch intermittently analyzes heart rhythms in the background and sends a notification if an irregular heart rhythm suggestive of AFib is detected. It can also alert the user if the heart rate exceeds or falls below a specified threshold.
Fall detection uses a next-generation accelerometer and gyroscope, which measures up to 32 g-forces, along with custom algorithms to identify when hard falls occur. By analyzing wrist trajectory and impact acceleration, Apple Watch sends the user an alert after a fall, which can be dismissed or used to initiate a call to emergency services. If Apple Watch senses immobility for 60 seconds after the notification, it will automatically call emergency services and send a message along with location to emergency contacts.
Beyond safety and health features, the Watch is, of course, a fitness and workout companion as well. Activity competitions allow users to challenge other Apple Watch wearers, automatic workout detection provides an alert to start a workout while giving retroactive credit, and Yoga and Hiking are new dedicated workout types that accurately track active calories burned and exercise minutes earned. Running enthusiasts can take advantage of extended battery life, which is increased to six hours, for outdoor workouts and enjoy high-performance features, including cadence for indoor and outdoor runs, pace alerts for outdoor runs, and rolling mile pace, which shows pace for the immediately preceding mile.
A tap of the wrist can initiate the Walkie-Talkie feature, a watch-to-watch connection that works over Wi-Fi or cellular. The Siri watch face is more predictive and proactive, offering shortcuts and actionable content from favourite third-party apps. watchOS 5 also lets you listen to favourite podcasts on the go with Apple Podcasts on Apple Watch, and stream any podcast in the catalog by using Siri. With Apple Watch Series 4, enriched complications offer a more detailed view of helpful third-party apps like Dexcom, which allows for continuous glucose monitoring, or Streaks, which shows daily progress on tasks.
Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS) starts at $519 in Canada, and Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS + Cellular) starts at $649, both featuring the updated design and new health capabilities. Series 3 will be available at a new starting price of $369. Along with the three aluminum finishes anodized in silver, gold and space grey, Apple Watch Series 4 now comes in a gold stainless steel with matching Milanese band, joining the silver and space black stainless steel models. A new collection of bands debut for fall and all bands continue to work with any generation of Apple Watch.
A new Apple Watch Nike+ collection features redesigned Nike watch faces that match the new band colours, including a Pure Platinum/Black Sport Band and a Summit White Sport Loop with reflective yarn. Apple Watch Hermès introduces an elegant assortment of colour-blocked bands and exclusive watch faces that shift from one colour to the other with the passage of the minute hand.
Customers will be able to order the new Apple Watches in Canada beginning Friday, September 14, with availability beginning Friday, September 21.