The Apple Watch never claimed to be the replacement to medical equipment, but reviews show a high error rate in general usage. The Apple Watch Series 6 comes with a blood oxygen level monitor, which is marketed as a “general well-being” feature.
A review of the Apple Watch by Washington Post’s Geoffrey Fowler shows that the watch is misreading every now and then. He also used a Fitbit Sense, which also took erroneous blood-oxygen readings.
You’re Either Fit Or Critical
In his review, Geoffrey said that the first time he used the watch to test his blood-oxygen, he got 88% saturation, which is dangerously low. Five minutes later, he tested again, obtaining 95% saturation. Dieter Bohn from The Verge also encountered an “unsuccessful measurement” during his Apple Watch hands-on.
Users of the smartwatch have come out on Twitter, defending as well as bashing the company for the reading errors in the Watch.
However, an error rate of 8%, as seen by Geoffrey, is not even good for general well-being. In his review, Geoffrey noted that the way consumer tech companies are “marketing health capabilities is getting ahead of what their gadgets can actually, reliably do”.
He’s right in saying so because neither the Apple Watch nor the Fitbit Sense, are approved by the FDA. It means their accuracy as a medical device is nowhere close to that of a traditional oximeter.
While the companies don’t claim these devices as replacements for medical equipment, they’re being used to collect body data. Apple announced its partnership with the Seattle Flu Study, and the University of Washington, during the Apple Watch Series 6 launch. If the collection of body data is erroneous, it can be a cause of concern for future studies.
One of the key reasons for the error-rate is probably the placement of the watch on your body. While a pulse oximeter is placed at the tip of your finger to measure blood-oxygen levels, the watch sits on your wrist. Also, you must sit steadily for fifteen seconds to record an accurate reading.
It is expected that the company will fix these issues via software updates in the future. Apple should fix it soon because it might lead to the wearers being falsely concerned about their health after seeing an inaccurate blood-oxygen result.