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We had high hopes for the Apple Watch 8, but it now appears that the device won’t have many additional sensors if any at all. Those looking for the next-generation Apple Watch to measure blood pressure, blood glucose, and maybe even blood alcohol levels will be disappointed if this is true.
Bloomberg’s resident Apple expert Mark Gurman shares his predictions for the year ahead in his weekly PowerOn subscription newsletter, laced with some insider information – and it’s depressing reading for anybody hoping for a major makeover of the Apple Watch in 2022.
In fact, according to Gurman, the new watch may not be able to measure skin temperature, something that Fitbit, Garmin, Oura, and other companies have been doing for years.
“Body temperature was on this year’s roadmap, but chatter about it has slowed down recently,” Gurman writes. “Blood pressure is at least two to three years away, while I wouldn’t be surprised if glucose monitoring doesn’t land until later in the second half of the decade.”
A foretaste of what’s to come
Apple has made no indication that any of these additions are in the works. Instead, the hypotheses are based on a mix of filed patents, surveys given to Apple Watch owners, and news from Apple’s component suppliers.
For example, one of Apple’s suppliers, Rockley Photonics, claimed last year that it had built a non-invasive ‘clinic on the wrist’ that could measure metrics such as core body temperature, blood pressure, hydration, and blood alcohol and glucose.
Although the hardware and software are promising, and Rockley has consumer wearables in mind, the gadget is still undergoing clinical testing, and Apple’s dependence on cloud computing to handle the acquired data might pose a privacy risk.
Last year’s Apple Watch 7 was generally expected to be a significant boost over its predecessor, but the adjustments were much more modest when it came; the two main upgrades were a little bigger screen and a harder glass to protect it. Perhaps we should keep our expectations for the watch this year low as well.
When it comes to biometrics, a durable Apple Watch for difficult sports would not be a game-changer, but it could be a more realistic hope.
Analysis: Keeping Expectations in Check
So, why have biometrics been relegated to the sidelines? Although suitable sized skin temperature sensors are available, Apple may have opted to avoid them until it can put the data into a context that is beneficial to the ordinary user. Because skin temperature as a statistic doesn’t imply much and is influenced by so many variables, the corporation may have opted to devote more time to figuring out how to evaluate and show it.
It would be less surprising if blood pressure and glucose monitoring were not available. While many new watches (such as the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4) can estimate blood pressure using data from its optical heart rate sensor, it’s not as simple as it seems, and it requires regular calibration with a normal blood pressure cuff to be functional.
Because these smartwatches aren’t medical equipment, they can’t be used to substitute regular blood pressure checks for persons with hypertension.
Blood glucose and alcohol monitoring without intrusive testing are still a long way off. Abbott, a biometrics business, makes diabetic wearable patches that measure changes in glucose in the interstitial fluid between cells and sync the data with a smartphone app. It’s a lot more handy than finger-prick blood testing, and it allows for continuous monitoring, but the sensor is on a probe that lies just beneath the skin, which isn’t ideal for a wristwatch.
Abbott also makes a non-medical glucose sensor to assist athletes optimise their fueling tactics during competitions, and it announced plans for a series of stick-on patches to detect things like ketones, lactate, and blood alcohol at CES 2022. These, too, rely on a subdermal probe, and even if they didn’t, the data they collect might not be universally appealing enough to make it into an Apple Watch.