Wear an Apple Watch an just live longer and healt By Kenny Yeo

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Wear an Apple Watch an just live longer and healt By Kenny Yeo

Forget notifications and cellular connectivity. The real reason why you might want to wear an Apple Watch is that you might live longer and healthier.

Apple has announced a new Apple Watch every September for the past two years and this year was no different. Alongside the new iPhones, Apple also unveiled its latest generation smartwatch, the Apple Watch Series 4. The new Watch has a larger display, a more powerful processor, more accurate sensors, and better all-around health features.

Early Apple Watches focused on features. What can it do other than telling the time? Does it have a built-in GPS? Can it play music? Can I surf the web with it? Can I use it to make phone calls? But these have gradually taken the back seat as Apple focuses on health and fitness.

One of the first things Apple did to enhance the Watch’s health capabilities was improving its ability to track fitness activities. Apple achieved this with a combination of software and hardware updates. For example, in 2016, Apple Watch Series 2 added 50 meters water resistance and the ability to track swimming workouts. Last year, Apple introduced GymKit in watchOS 4. GymKit allows owners to sync their Watches with compatible gym equipment, so they can have a more complete set of workout data. This year, the latest watchOS 5 adds yoga and hiking to its ever-growing list of workouts.

"Over the few short years of the Apple Watch's existence, Apple has astutely shifted the focus of the Watch to health and fitness."

Another area that has been a focal point for Apple is heart health. The Apple Watch always had a built-in heart sensor but it has gotten more powerful and useful over the years. watchOS 4 included a revamped Heart Rate app with more information about your heart’s health. The Heart Rate app shows all-day heart rates, including your walking average, resting, and maximum heart rates. But most important of all, it can even detect and alert users if it senses abnormal heart rates.

There have been instances where the Apple Watch’s enhanced heart rate tracking has proved itself useful. In August this year, an Australian man’s Watch notified him that his resting heart rate had shot up to 130 beats per minute. That’s more than double the healthy average. A trip to the doctor revealed that he had a hole in his heart and required surgery.

The Apple Watch Series 4 is able to do something that no other smartwatch in the market can - it can take electrocardiograms. It does this using electrodes built into the case back of the watch as well as its crown, and it only takes 30 seconds. The only caveat is that this feature won’t be available at launch and it will only be available in the US until further notice. Still, it is easily one of the new Watch’s most exciting features.

There’s further proof that Apple’s focus with the Apple Watch lies in personal health. One of the rumored long-term goals of the Watch is to enable the tracking of glucose levels using non-invasive methods. Traditionally, users have to prick themselves to get a reliable glucose level reading. If Apple is successful, it would make the Watch an invaluable tool for users suff ering from diabetes.

Beyond watchOS 5 and Apple Watch Series 4, Apple has other health initiatives that are worth mentioning, like ResearchKit. ResearchKit is an open-source framework for medical research. It allows medical researchers to tap into the power and wide user base of both the Watch and the iPhone to advance medical studies. An example is EpiWatch, an app that uses the heart rate sensor and accelerometers on the Watch to measure changes when epileptic seizures occur.

Over the few short years of the Apple Watch’s existence, Apple has astutely shifted the focus of the Watch to health and fitness. What better way to get people to wear your watch than the promise that wearing it might help you live a longer and healthier life? There is evidence to suggest that Apple wants to build the ultimate health tool, and the Apple Watch Series 4 is only the next step in that direction.

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