The Apple Watch’s SpO2 sensor that allows its wearer to measure oxygen levels in the blood was impressive when it first came out, but it may be more accurate than initially marketed.
According to a recent study, the Apple Watch’s blood oxygen reader is comparable to medical pulse oximeters. Although Apple Watches shouldn’t be used in place of official medical devices, it’s good to know that the readings they’re displaying are accurate enough to be reliable, according to Engadget.
First reported by 9to5Mac, the study was published this month in the Journal of Digital Health and sought to compare a “commercially available smartwatch” with a medical-grade pulse oximeter.
The watch used in the study was the Apple Watch Series 6, the first Apple smartwatch to include a SpO2 sensor, which is over two years old at this point.
The results of the study showed that the Apple Watch “can reliably detect cases of low blood oxygen saturation with a SpO2 of less than 90% when compared to a medical pulse oximeter.” To reach this conclusion, the study used 24 healthy participants, each wearing an Apple Watch Series 6 on their wrist and holding a Masimo Radical-7, a common pulse oximeter, on the middle finger of the same hand.
The participants then performed various breathing exercises to manipulate their blood oxygen levels to see how the Apple Watch performed when compared to the Masimo Radical-7. By the end of the tests, there were 642 blood oxygen readings for comparison.
To repeat: If you are looking for a completely accurate reading of your blood oxygen level, it is still best to use an appropriate medical device.
But the study results show that Apple’s wearable technology is definitely moving in the right direction to provide accurate medical information.
In addition to the SpO2 sensor, Apple Watches provide alerts about irregular heartbeats that may indicate atrial fibrillation, medication reminders, and sleep tracking.
Although Apple doesn’t claim that any of its devices can be used as a physical medical reader, the features that have been added to Apple Watches, in particular, are extraordinarily useful for those looking to monitor their bodily functions and see conversations with healthcare providers.