Review: Apple Watch Series 4 ECG Feature

By Paul Riegler on 6 December 2018
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Apple introduced a long-awaited feature for the Apple Watch Series 4 that performs an electrocardiogram on the wearer. Apple calls the feature “ECG” on watches set to English, although the term “EKG” may be more familiar to readers.

On Thursday, Apple released the feature for customers in the United States with the release of watchOS 5.1.2. The feature can be used to identify atrial fibrillation, a common type of an irregular heart rhythm also known as AFib, and can monitor on an ongoing basis for irregular rhythms.

We’ve been testing the feature for several days ahead of the launch and it does appear to deliver what Apple was promising since the launch of the Series 4 watch.

An ECG is typically used to determine an individual’s heart rate, heart rhythm, and other information regarding the heart’s condition. It’s important to note that the Apple Watch takes a single-lead electrocardiogram that isn’t quite as informative or as sensitive as a multi-lead ECG taken in a doctor’s office. Nonetheless, the information gleaned from the watch’s ECG may prove valuable, in particular for owners of the watch who might not be aware of a possible heart condition.

The feature uses electrodes built into the sapphire crystal of the watch, which is where the heart rate sensor is located, and the watch’s Digital Crown to detect the electrical impulses or waves from the wearer’s heartbeat.

Setting up the ECG feature is simple.  After updating the operating system to watchOS 5.1.2 (your iPhone must be on iOS 12.1.1 or higher), you’ll need to go through a new menu of options on your iPhone that will enable notifications from the ECG feature.

Going through the setup, the watch asked if I had AFib (the answer is “no”) because it doesn’t want the watch to serve as the primary monitoring device for a condition that can cause strokes and heart failure.

Apple issues disclaimers about what the ECG feature does not do, namely track heart attacks or replace visits to the cardiologist. The watch won’t alert the wearer of possible AFib unless it spots an irregularity five times in a row. I did set the watch to alert me if my heart rate fell below 40 beats per minute or rose above 120.

Click here to continue to Page 2Using the Apple Watch ECG Feature

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