It’s been five years since Tim Cook boasted that the Apple Watch 4 would be able to detect atrial fibrillation (or AFib to give it its more practical shorthand name) via a built-in electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor.
In the intervening years, Samsung, Google, Withings and Fitbit have all included sensors of their own, but Garmin — the popular choice of running enthusiasts worldwide — has oddly stayed out of the race. Until now.
The company has just released an ECG app which will analyse your heart rhythm and look for AFib. If the reading looks dicey, you can create a report in the Garmin Connect app to share with your doctor (while no doubt showing off your best 10k time for good measure).
Or you will be able to at some point, anyway. Currently, the app is only available on one wearable (the Venu 2 Plus) and in one country (the United States, of course). The plan is to roll this out to more watches and more countries over time – the former being easier than the latter, given each country requires approval from local government agencies.
Still, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved it, so hopefully others will rubber stamp it pretty quickly. Though despite this thumbs up from the medical establishment, like other similar solutions, it’s not intended to offer a definitive verdict on your heart. The watch will offer similar functionality to a single-lead ECG, while professional medical-grade equipment tends to be multi-lead.
Indeed, Garmin’s vice president Dan Bartel says that the app is best for spotting AFib in its early stages when it might be “difficult to detect” in a clinical setting.
That’s certainly better than nothing – it’s just odd that its taken this long for Garmin to catch up with its rivals. Hopefully we’ll see the feature coming to New Zealand in a variety of Garmin’s watches in time. Though no doubt there a vocal segment of the company’s marketing department insisting this cool new feature should be reserved for yet-to-be-released products instead…