Apple Watch 6 could save even more lives with key new feature

Apple Watch Series 6 blood oxygen level
(Image credit: Future)

Apple may be adding oxygen blood level monitoring to the Apple Watch soon. It’s not clear yet if this function will be available to all models or just the Apple Watch Series 6.

According to 9to5mac, code found in iOS 14 indicates that Apple is working on enhancing watchOS to continuously analyze the level of oxygen in your bloodstream as well as new improvements to the watch’s electrocardiogram (ECG) functionality.

The feature will work like heart rate and ECG monitoring: when the Apple Watch detects a level of oxygen that goes off the healthy range, it will alert the user. A 100 to 85% oxygen level range is considered normal. Anything under that could damage your heart and affect your brain function, so it will trigger a notification just like an irregular or extreme heart beat does now.

As iFixit discovered in its teardown back in 2015, Apple Watch is perfectly capable of measuring oxygen bloodstream levels even while the feature has never been activated. So, in theory, Apple could add oxygen monitoring to all its Apple Watch models.

It’s unlikely that we will see that happening, though, as Apple has a long story of adding extra features to the latest models of its devices even while the old models have perfectly capable hardware. Google’s latest Fitbit has added blood oxygen monitoring to old models through a simple software update.

It is also possible that the Cupertino company will add a more accurate, dedicated oximeter to the Apple Watch Series 6, therefore justifying making this a new feature exclusive to the 2020 model. Furthermore, it’s reasonable to think that a new dedicated oximeter comparable to current medical devices may also be needed for FDA approval.

Better ECG coming, too

The next watchOS update may bring enhanced ECG functionality. Right now, the ECG function in the Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch Series 4 doesn’t work well when you are exercising: if your heartbeat goes over 100 to 120 beats per minute, the ECG’s reading will be be unreliable.

According to 9to5mac’s code review, that limitation will be eliminated soon either through new software or a new combination of hardware and software.

Whether it is the Apple Watch Series 6 or just a software upgrade available to old models, Apple is keeping a steady course on turning its focus into human health. 

Jesus Diaz

Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story and wrote old angry man rants, among other things. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce, and currently writes for Fast Company and Tom's Guide.