Apple fans around the world rejoiced on Tuesday morning in Cupertino, California as Tim Cook (Apple CEO) and his team presented several new products. The highly anticipated reveal of the iPhone 11, 11 pro and iPhone Max took place. Apple also unveiled a new iPad, Apple Arcade, Apple TV+ and the new Apple Watch series 5.
Millions of people around the globe tuned in via Youtube live stream to catch the announcements. At one point views reached 1.8 million people, according to Mashable, well above their goal of 1 million.
But we were most interested in the new Apple Watch series 5. After it was announced that Apple was making changes internally to their health team to focus more on digital health, the thinking was the product would be revolutionary. That, or at least a step in that direction. However, the results were somewhat underwhelming, given that Apple has a team of some 50 doctors and more than 400,000 research participants. Let’s take a look of the results of this massive team!
Touting Current Features
It wouldn’t be an Apple event if they didn’t toot their own horn a bit. They started off the presentation of the Apple Watch Series 5 with a long video of customer testimonials. It was a great video showing how previous versions of the Apple Watch helped people avert tragedy, in some cases. But the features touted aren’t exactly Apple exclusives.
Elevated Heart Notifications
This feature notifies your Apple Watch if you heart rate spikes unexpectedly. The idea is that if this happens frequently, that you will go visit you doctor to perform further health checks. This is not an Apple only feature. Many products with a much lower price tag like Fitbit and Garmin also have those same features. Some wearable technology products even take it a step further and allow you to customize a wide range of notifications.
Calls When You Fall
This feature can actually detect when someone falls and assists in calling 911 and your loved ones for you. It’s using something called an accelerometer, inside the smart watch. This detects any type of movement and if the movement is significant, it will send an alert and enable phone calls easily.
Most fitness trackers and smart watches nowadays come with some tool to help you get up and motivate you to be active. Apple Watch is no different. You will get ‘pinged’ if you are not moving for too long and it will encourage you to do so. However, Fitbit is the king in this arena. They have based an entire business on motivation and competition. Still, motivation is a powerful tool and if these products can do it, kudos!
Apple Watch Series 5
Onward to the Apple Watch series 5. It has been much anticipated and here are all of the features that were announced on Tuesday at the Steve Jobs Theater.
Always On Display
The watch that never sleeps, as the saying goes. Well it’s true this case. In prior models, if you haven’t moved the watch close to your face, it will remain off; a black screen. But with the Apple Watch series 5, the watch is always on. Though it dims when you put it down at waist level or when you’re working out, it’s still always on. The thinking was now you don’t have to make crazy motions in public every time you want the screen to turn on and see the time. More universal in more situations.
Built In Compass
Not sure how useful this is for the common folk, but what the heck. The new compass feature is based on relatively old technology called a magnetometer. It gives you orientation and direction of where you are facing. It was described as being more of a tool for developers to enhance their apps. They provided examples of a running app that would have precise directions of your runs and same thing for a kayaking/boarding app. Unlikely that many future Apple Watch owners will use this feature.
Many were anxious to see what the new vision of Apple Health will look like. Instead of focusing on world-class hardware and health technology, they went the route of research and partnering with some big institutions. Apple described their own Apple heart study that they already conducted and detailed what’s to come. But big names don’t always mean big results and better features for future problems.
A new feature in the Apple Watch series 5 can actually detect decibel levels. So part of the Apple hearing study, they will look to monitor sound levels and see how they affect your hearing in the long run. For this, Apple is partnering with World Health Organization (WHO) and the University of Michigan.
Then there’s the women’s health study. Not much detail was provided, but the claim is that Apple will monitor menstrual cycles to potentially detect infertility and osteoporosis. This will be conducted in partnership with Harvard and the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Finally, the heart and movement study will look to use metrics from the Apple Watch series 5 to help improve overall health. Done in partnership with the American Heart Association (AHA) and Brigham Health.
Needless to say, Apple was extremely vague with all of these initiatives and really made it seem like they didn’t know what they were talking about. At the end they also promoted the Apple Research app and said that people can get involved in all of these studies through the app. The lack of thought put in to this part of the presentation only verified that the only reason the Apple team showed up was for the iPhone.
The new Apple Watch series 5 will come in a new titanium finish, available in many different colors. There are also a variety of new bands in partnership with Nike. Also a fancier version available in partnership with Hermes (just to get a few more dollars from you).
Apple is always on top of the design, layout and the applications. But it would have been great to see improvements in health analytic hardware. Oddly enough, they didn’t even have to create anything new, just improve a hidden feature that ALREADY EXISTS!
Heart rate variability (HRV) is a feature that exists that not many people use. It’s probably safe to say that not many people even know it exists. Also, no one really knows what it is or how it works. But HRV is quickly becoming a gold standard in health analysis. It’s actually the best tool available in the world that can give us a picture of our overall health.
Heart rate variability measures the time difference between each successive heartbeat, in milliseconds. If you heart rate is static, that’s a low HRV and is not good. If your heart beats vary, beat-to-beat, that’s a high HRV, which is good. But Apple fails to capitalize on this feature using ECG / EKG in the new Apple Watch series 5 despite their medical team that can fully operate a decent sized hospital! Even worse: trying the HRV feature on the Apple Watch series 4, the data is being gathered from the low precision optical sensor, as opposed to ECG. More about that here
It’s the only way that you can actually gauge stress levels, see how diet affects your body, determine sleep quality and so much more. For more detail on HRV read this.
There are already many companies that are creating amazing products that conduct HRV analysis. It’s a tool that was originally only being used by pros like NASA, NFL teams, the Air Force etc. But it’s quickly making its way to the every day consumer thanks to products like Qardio, AIO Smart Sleeve, Whoop and Vivalink.
Tim Apple… I mean Tim Cook, stated the Apple Watch is the most logged smart watch in the world. Would be great if he could give all of those users a tool like heart rate variability to truly improve lives and overall health. Maybe next year…