A report that Apple Watch 6 could contain a blood oxygen sensor creates the very real possibility that the next version of Apple’s best-selling wearable could be an important ally in the fight against Covid-19.
Supporting code for the feature was found in iOS 14 in the spring.
And Apple received a patent for hardware that would detect blood oxygen levels in June.Recommended For You
The latest news is from Taiwan electronics new site DigiTimes, which indicates that ASE Technology has reported won a new contract from Apple for manufacturing the hardware. That hardware is likely slated for the next version of the Apple Watch, which will probably ship late this year. Competing products like the Fitbit, owned by Google, already offer the functionality.
Currently, doctors use pulse oximeters to measure blood oxygen levels. Health levels of oxygen are clearly critical for health in general, but more specifically, low blood oxygen is a fairly common impact of COVID-19 infection.
“Many doctors in emergency rooms are noticing a very concerning finding: Some COVID-19 patients have dangerously low levels of oxygen,” WebMD said in April. “Some are recommending that COVID-19 patients monitor their oxygen levels at home with a pulse oximeter.”
Pulse oximeters are cheap: under $50 in many cases. But they’re only used when someone suspects a problem, and deliberately undergoes a test. Continuous monitoring of blood oxygen levels via an always-worn Apple Watch could detect not only dangerous levels of low oxygen in the blood, but also blood oxygen levels that are trending down. That could make them useful in both monitoring known COVID-19 patients as well as potentially detecting emerging cases.
Of course, Apple is not announcing any Apple Watch Series 6 capabilities, so all of this is speculation until the product actually launches.
However, health is a major focus for the company.
“If you zoom out into the future, and you look back, and you ask the question: ‘What was Apple’s greatest contribution to mankind?’ it will be about health,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told CNBC in 2019. “We’re democratizing it. We’re … empowering the individual to manage their health.”
That’s why the Apple Watch routinely saves lives with fall detection. That’s why the Apple Watch monitors ambient sound, notifies you if you’re experiencing high levels, and provides data on how long you were in dangerously loud environments in the past week. And, of course, why it monitors your heartbeat, can perform an ECG, detect atrial fibrillation, monitors exercise levels, and reminds you to move regularly.
Adding blood oxygen monitoring would make perfect sense, and it certainly won’t be the last health feature Apple will add to a wearable device. And it could help if Coronavirus going to be with us for years to come.
But we’ll have to wait until the Apple Watch 6’s official launch to be sure.