Apple recently announced at a virtual event that its new Series 6 Apple Watch will inhabit a blood oxygenation sensor, a first for the Apple Watch. As Apple did with the ECG, the company is launching a set of partnered research studies using the new capabilities of the Watch. Additionally, WatchOS7 will use existing sensors to measure a lower range of VO2 Max values.

With Apple Watch Series 6, you can measure your blood oxygen right from your wrist,” Apple COO Jeff Williams said. “The new health sensor in Series 6 shines red and infrared light onto your wrist and measures the amount of light reflected back. Advanced algorithms use this data to calculate the color of your blood, which indicates the amount of oxygen present. The new blood oxygen app lets you take a measurement in just 15 seconds. The Series 6 also captures periodic background readings and stores them in your health app. So if you wear your Apple Watch to bed, it can record background measurements while you sleep.”

This new sensor does round out the Apple Watch’s health tracking capability, but it is far from groundbreaking. Fitbit added SpO2 more than two years ago and Withings added VO2 Max around the same time and even that put it a year behind Garmin.

But because of its huge reach and multi-function nature of Apple Watch, the company can afford to play the role of fast follower with its health sensors – especially if the final product ends up effective and easy to use.

And there’s reason to believe Apple has improved on the formula. A press release on Apple’s website offers some additional details about how the sensor will function, adding that it employs four clusters of LEDs “to compensate for natural variations in the skin and improve accuracy.” This looks like a nod to criticisms that came to light last year about devices like the Fitbit not working as well for people with dark skin.

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