Apple Watch Series 6 Blood Oxygen feature can provide a useful indicator of wellness

Apple on Tuesday announced Apple Watch Series 6, introducing a revolutionary Blood Oxygen feature that offers users even more insight into their overall wellness. Apple Watch Series 6 delivers many notable hardware improvements, including a faster S6 System in Package (SiP) and next-generation always-on altimeter, along with its most colorful lineup yet, featuring a beautiful palette of new case finishes and bands. watchOS 7 brings Family Setup, sleep tracking, automatic handwashing detection, new workout types, and the ability to curate and share watch faces, encouraging customers to be more active, stay connected, and better manage their health in new ways.

The Blood Oxygen sensor employs LEDs, along with photodiodes on the back crystal of Apple Watch Series 6.
The Blood Oxygen sensor employs LEDs, along with photodiodes on the back crystal of Apple Watch Series 6.

Brian X. Chen for The New York Times:

The feature is particularly timely with the coronavirus, because some patients in critical condition with COVID-19 have had low blood oxygen levels.

I had a day to test the new $399 Apple Watch to measure my blood oxygen level. The process was simple: You open the blood oxygen app on the device, keep your wrist steady and hit the Start button. After 15 seconds, during which a sensor on the back of the watch measures your blood oxygen level by shining lights onto your wrist, it shows your reading. In three tests, my blood oxygen level stood between 99 percent and 100 percent.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with this information. So I asked two medical experts about the new feature. Both were cautiously optimistic about its potential benefits, especially for research. The ability to constantly monitor blood oxygen levels with some degree of accuracy, they said, could help people discover symptoms for health conditions like sleep apnea.

“Continuous recording of data can be really interesting to see trends,” said Cathy A. Goldstein, a sleep physician at the University of Michigan’s Medicine Sleep Clinic… A healthy person will usually have blood oxygen levels in the mid- to high 90s. When people have health conditions such as lung disease, sleep disorders or respiratory infections, levels can dip to the 60s to the low 90s, Dr. Goldstein said.

Blood oxygen monitoring may be more useful for people who are already known to have health problems, Dr. Weiss said. For example, if someone with a history of heart failure saw lower saturation levels in their blood oxygen during exercise, that information could be shared with a doctor, who could then modify the treatment plan.

The information could also be used to determine whether a sick person should go to the hospital. “If a patient called me and said, ‘I have Covid and my oxygen level is at 80 percent,’ I would say, ‘Go to the hospital,”’ Dr. [Ethan Weiss, a cardiologist at the University of California, San Francisco], said.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple Watch’s revolutionary Blood Oxygen feature will become even more valuable with time, as research studies discover new ways to utilize it for health and wellness.


  1. This really seems like a solution in search of a problem…

    “Gee, we might be able to put sensors in this thing to measure blood oxygen levels. Why not? Maybe some medical researchers can figure out what it’s good for…”

    Sounds like the reasoning to me.

    1. I think so too about the article. On the other hand, I have a low O2 level and also snore when sleeping. I’m looking forward to having a means to see what my oxygen level is at night when I am snoring. I have limited insurance options so, this may be an affordable means to determine whether I have an oxygen deficiency when I sleep.

    2. PulseOx is actually a pretty important indicator for a lot of people to follow. Start with asthmatics who really need to be aware of their oxygen levels. Then add in the heart patients (CHF) and others who need oxygen. While the finger meters are a God send for many it does not provide a warning when the PulseOx is moving to a dangerous level.

      While I don’t need a new Watch in order to get PulseOx but my Granddaughter will need one before going off to college (when the college opens up). She has a problem with asthma and has hit the hospital many times over the years. At university she will be active in different ways than current online studies and she’s not going to remember to have the finger meter with her at all times. The watch will be a blessing for people like her. And her “group” will include tens of millions of patients.

  2. My Garmin Fenix 6X Pro has blood oxygen monitoring, but before I bought the Fenix I used one of those inexpensive Fingertip Pulse Oximeters after I work out on my cross-training machine. It’s encouraging to have hard workout and see that my blood oxygen levels have barely dropped from 99% to around 97% or so. It’s a good measure of how well you are breathing and reminds you take deeper breaths when exercising.

    1. does an athlete need an electronic nanny to remind him to breathe?

      face it, the watch is primarily sold as a fashion item for people enthralled with the latest baubles.

      Apple … dumbing down the populace one overpriced electronic Chinese gadget at a time……

  3. If it can do 10 minute intervals during a night of sleep, then it will help catch many people with sleep apnea that have no idea they have it. A huge life saver and without going to a sleep lab where most patients never fall asleep with the 200 wires and electrodes and sensors connected to them.

  4. It will become even more valuable when apple improves the total s***show of bad battery life on the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch 5 I got, the battery life is beyond atrocious. I get better battery life on my now ancient Apple Watch 2. The one thing they DIDNT tout about the Apple Watch 6 was battery life. And with new things like the oxygen sensor, I suspect battery life could be even worse.

    I’m going to wait to see if it’s better, if so I will buy, if anything to stop using the disaster Apple Watch 5 with it’s atrocious battery life. (and yes, I checked with apple, they say the device is fine, and that it’s battery life is good–which it’s not, but within apple’s definition of ‘good’).

    The joke is that apple finally added sleep tracking, and at least the Apple Watch 5 will never in a million years last long enough for you to sleep through the night. Apple REALLY REALLY REALLY needs to improve battery life on the Apple Watch. For it at least to last 3 or 4 days between charges. None of this tracking will work well if you cant get through more than 24 hours.

    1. You have a faulty watch battery. I put my series 5 on at 0530hrs in the morning. By the time my day is done, say 1930hrs, with a full day of activity to close ALL my rings, I am at roughly 58 – 60% battery life left.

      I put it on the charger for an hour and a half to get back up to 100% so I can wear it to bed. From bed – 0930 – 0500hrs, it tracks my sleep with no issues.

      I wake up at 0500hrs with it showing about 82% and put it on the charger while I shower and get dressed.

      When I take it off the charger – charging for 30 minutes – it’s at 98% for the day and my day starts all over again.

      There is nothing wrong with (my) Series 5 battery. . . .

      1. You’re not very good at reading. I checked with apple, they say the battery is normal. It’s rated for roughly 18hrs which means you cannot get through a single 24hr period without charging. Perhaps you think charging every 12hrs i.e., twice a day, is hunky dory, but I do not. The battery life on the series 5 is garbage. I’m praying they improved it on the series 5, but since they didn’t mention it, I’m not holding my breath.

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