This week’s Power On newsletter from Bloomberg’s well connected Apple specialist Mark Gurman is a must read for fans of health sensors — if such a fandom exists. It seems that Apple will be adding a new one to the Apple Watch Series 8, but won’t be introducing a couple of long rumoured new ones to the second generation of AirPods Pro.
Let’s start with the bad news first, so this piece doesn’t end on a total downer. The first generation of AirPods Pro is now nearly three years old and well overdue for an upgrade which will come later this year. “It’s about time,” Gurman writes. “If you purchased the original AirPods Pro when they launched at the end of 2019, your batteries may be nearing end of life—or at least their reliability is slipping.” Which is cheering for those who spent NZ$400 on them, but there we are.
While the AirPods Pro 2 will likely benefit from three years’ worth of R&D when it comes to sound quality (lossless audio seems likely, given it’s one of Apple Music’s key advantages over Spotify), we apparently won’t be getting the long rumoured fitness sensors for the ears.
“Over the past few months, there have been rumors about this year’s model gaining the ability to determine a wearer’s heart rate or body temperature,” Gurman writes. “I’m told that neither feature is likely to arrive in the 2022 upgrade, though both enhancements have been explored inside the company and could arrive one day.”
Right, that’s the bad news out of the way, on to the good.
The Apple Watch Series 8 will apparently be getting the line’s first new health sensor since 2020’s blood oxygen monitor. It’s a temperature sensor, and will likely be present on both the vanilla Apple Watch 8 and the long-rumoured rugged version for extreme sports fans. The refresh of the cheaper Apple Watch SE probably won’t benefit, which is hardly surprising given the need to upsell.
The idea is that your watch will be able to tell you whether you have a fever — something which might, say, be useful for those facing a global pandemic where abnormally high temperatures are an early warning sign of infection. For example.
But you won’t be able to get a direct temperature read out, apparently. Instead, it will just tell you it believes you’re overheating and should get a second opinion from either a doctor or, failing that, a dedicated thermometer.
That’s presumably thanks to the difficulty of getting an accurate temperature reading from the wrist. Apple will instead be leaning on algorithms to extrapolate overall body temperature, and while that may not be accurate enough to be confident with a numeric celsius readout, it could still be enough to know for sure that you’re looking a bit peaky and need a good lie down.
Otherwise, Gurman says, the Apple Watch Series 8 won’t be hugely different from the Series 7, which in turn wasn’t that different from the Series 6. We may get an improvement to the screen, however: “I’m hoping they’re brighter,” he says, which sounds like it’s based more on optimism than insider info.
We’ll find out for sure in September, when Apple CEO Tim Cook will likely be showing off the new watch alongside the iPhone 14. Just three short months to go…