Alongside the release of the new AirPods, Apple has released a new lineup of spring Apple Watch bands and iPhone cases that span several different band models and case types.
For the Watch, Apple has introduced new versions of its Sport Band, Sport Loop, and Leather band. There are also new versions of the Nike Sport Band, Nike Sport Loop, and Hermès Leather bands.
Over 400,000 people participated in the Apple Heart Study, which used the Apple Watch to collect irregular heart rhythm data from participants for eight months. When an irregular rhythm was detected and suggested the possibility of arterial fibrillation, the Watch sent the user a notification. Study participants who got the notification were contacted telephonically by a doctor and given an electrocardiogram patch for further monitoring.
This weekend, Stanford Medicine reported the results of the study at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session and Expo in New Orleans. The study showed that 0.5% of participants received irregular rhythm notifications putting to rest concerns in some quarters that the Apple Watch’s sensor would overburden health professionals with false positives. In a press release, Jeff Williams, Apple’s Chief Operating Officer said:
We are proud to work with Stanford Medicine as they conduct this important research and look forward to learning more about the impact of Apple Watch alongside the medical community. We hope consumers will continue to gain useful and actionable information about their heart health through Apple Watch.
We’re still in the early days of the potential healthcare benefits of wearable devices like the Apple Watch, and it’s encouraging to see results like these, which show the potential good that can come from arming people with information to help them get the care they need.
What should a wrist computer ideally do for you?
Telling the time is a given, and activity tracking has become another default inclusion for that category of gadget. But we're talking about a computer here, not a simple watch with built-in pedometer. The device should present the information you need, exactly when you need it. This would include notifications to be sure, but also basic data like the weather forecast and current date. It should integrate with the various cloud services you depend on to keep your life and work running – calendars, task managers, and the like. It doesn't have to be all business though – throwing in a little surprise and delight would be nice too, because we can all use some added sparks of joy throughout our days.
Each of these different data sources streaming through such a device presents a dilemma: how do you fit so much data on such a tiny screen? By necessity a wrist computer's display is small, limiting how much information it can offer at once. This challenge makes it extremely important for the device to offer data that's contextual – fit for the occasion – and dynamic – constantly changing.
Serving a constant flow of relevant data is great, but a computer that's tied to your wrist, always close at hand, could do even more. It could serve as a control center of sorts, providing a quick and easy way to perform common actions – setting a timer or alarm, toggling smart home devices on and off, adjusting audio playback, and so on. Each of these controls must be presented at just the right time, custom-tailored for your normal daily needs.
If all of this sounds familiar, it's because this product already exists: the Apple Watch. However, most of the functionality I described doesn't apply to the average Watch owner's experience, because most people use a watch face that doesn't offer these capabilities – at least not many of them. The Watch experience closest to that of the ideal wrist computer I've envisioned is only possible with a single watch face: the Siri face.
Apple announced this morning two ways it plans to celebrate Heart Month in February. First, a new Activity Challenge for Apple Watch users will run from February 8-14, rewarding those who close their Exercise ring each day of that week-long period with a special badge and iMessage stickers. Second, Apple will be utilizing its retail Today at Apple sessions to educate consumers on their heart health.
In recognition of Heart Month, Apple will host special Today at Apple sessions, “Heart Health with Apple,” in stores in New York, Chicago and San Francisco with celebrity fitness trainer Jeanette Jenkins, Sumbul Desai, MD, Apple’s vice president of Health, Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, Jay Blahnik, senior director of fitness for health technologies, and Julz Arney and Craig Bolton from the Apple Fitness Technologies team. Attendees will hear a discussion about heart health and participate in a new Health & Fitness Walk, which was co-created with Jeanette for participants to take a brisk walk with Apple Watch around their community.
These special sessions will be limited to a single session each in the three listed cities, with Apple Union Square hosting on February 11 at 6:00pm, Apple Williamsburg on February 21 at 4:30pm, and Apple Michigan Avenue hosting the final session on February 27 at 6:00pm.
Health is an area of growing importance to Apple, as the evolution of the Apple Watch over its life has shown. Because of that, educating users on heart health via Today at Apple seems like a natural move for the company. And it's a safe bet we'll start seeing more health-focused sessions introduced in the future.
Apple Frames, my shortcut to add device frames to screenshots taken on modern Apple devices, has been updated with support for the 11" iPad Pro and 40mm Apple Watch Series 4. This marks the second major update to Apple Frames, which now supports the following Apple devices:
- iPhone 6, 7, 8, and X
- iPhone XS and XS Max
- iPad Pro 11" and 12.9" (2018 models)
- Apple Watch Series 4 (44mm and 40mm)
- MacBook Pro (Retina 13")
- iMac 5K
If you've followed MacStories for long, you probably already know that AutoSleep is one of our favorite sleep tracking apps on iOS. The app stands out for offering a frictionless, effort-free experience. Where other sleep trackers may require you to start and stop sleep tracking manually, AutoSleep takes the burden of remembering those tedious tasks off your plate. If you wear an Apple Watch to sleep, the app will automatically detect your sleep patterns even without a separate Watch app installed. If you don't have a Watch, or simply don't wear it to bed, the app will track your sleep through other methods. Whatever your habits are, AutoSleep has you covered.
Today marks the debut of AutoSleep's latest major iteration: version 6.0, which introduces new wellness features, refined graphs and color schemes, sleep hygiene trends, Siri shortcuts, an improved Watch app, and more. It's an extensive update that simplifies some aspects of the app while branching out into fresh, innovative areas of health tracking.
On 9to5Mac, Zac Hall breaks down how the new electrodes work in the Apple Watch Series 4 based on details published by Apple when it updated watchOS last week with the new ECG app. For now, the ECG app is only available in the US, but that doesn’t mean that others can’t benefit from the hardware that it uses. As Hall explains:
According to Apple, putting your finger on the Digital Crown to capture a heart rate reading also measures faster and with more accuracy as it updates every second versus every five seconds while the measurement is active.
That’s because placing your finger on the Digital Crown completes a circuit between your heart and arms that allows the Watch to record electrical impulses across your chest.
It will take time for the ECG app to gain the approval of regulators worldwide. However, in the meantime, it’s nice to know that the hardware that makes the ECG app possible is enhancing heart rate capture for everyone.
At Apple’s September keynote the company introduced the Series 4 Apple Watch. Among the features announced was a preview of the ability to generate an electrocardiogram or ECG within thirty seconds by placing a finger on the Digital Crown. At the time, Apple said the ECG functionality would ship in a software update ‘later this year.’
Today, with the release of watchOS 5.1.2, Apple has shipped the ECG app. As we explained in the MacStories Series 4 overview, the ECG functionality is enabled by new hardware including a new titanium electrode built into the Digital Crown:
This electrode pairs with another electrode built into the bottom of the Series 4's new sapphire crystal back. When you place your finger over the top of the crown you form a closed circuit between your finger and the wrist of your other arm – where the back electrode is making contact.
Apple’s ECG sensor is notable because it’s the first of its kind available over the counter to consumers. ECG results taken with the Apple Watch are stored in the Health app, from which they can be exported as a PDF for sharing with your physician.
According to Apple's press release:
The ECG app’s ability to accurately classify an ECG recording into AFib and sinus rhythm was validated in a clinical trial of around 600 participants. Rhythm classification from a gold standard 12-lead ECG by a cardiologist was compared to the rhythm classification of a simultaneously collected ECG from the ECG app. The study found the ECG app on Apple Watch demonstrated 98.3 percent sensitivity in classifying AFib and 99.6 percent specificity in classifying sinus rhythm in classifiable recordings. In the study, 87.8 percent of recordings could be classified by the ECG app.
watchOS has also been updated to notify users of irregular heart rhythms:
the irregular rhythm notification feature will occasionally check the user’s heart rhythm in the background for signs of an irregular heart rhythm that appears to be AFib and alerts the user with a notification if an irregular rhythm is detected on five rhythm checks over a minimum of 65 minutes.
The irregular heart rhythm notification feature, which is available for the Series 1 Watch and later, was likewise tested in clinical studies:
In that sub-study, of the participants that received an irregular rhythm notification on their Apple Watch while simultaneously wearing an ECG patch, 80 percent showed AFib on the ECG patch and 98 percent showed AFib or other clinically relevant arrhythmias.
The new Apple Watch ECG app and irregular heart rhythm notification feature are available as part of watchOS 5.1.2, which can be downloaded from the Software Update section of the Watch app on your iPhone.
In addition to Apple's clear case for the iPhone XR and 18W USB-C adapter, Apple online stores in Europe started selling Belkin's highly anticipated Boost Up dual wireless charging dock and USB-C to HDMI adapter earlier today.