Apple touted a few changes to heart rate tracking for Apple Watch during their September event. Some had expected these features to come solely to the new Apple Watch Series 3, but they actually come to everyone, courtesy of watchOS 4.

Check out our hands on video to see the new features for yourself.

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watchOS 4 brings several new heart-related features to Apple Watch owners. To start, there is a new real-time heart rate complication for your watch face. With nothing but a glance, you can see your last heart rate reading, and how long ago it was taken. So it may show 65 BPM, 8MIN AGO if you have the wide complication, or just the number if you have a smaller complication.

Then there are new measurements and notifications. Now when you launch the heart rate app, you have a couple options to choose between. You have Current, Resting Rate, and then any averages from recent workouts you’ve completed. Each of them will have a graph showing the results throughout the day, and a large, easy to read metric of that value.

Apple is also implementing an optional notification for users. If you have been inactive for the past 10 minutes, but Apple Watch detects a higher than normal heart rate, the app will let you know. They use a combination of the activity your watch records, and matches it to your heart rate readings to trigger these notifications. Of course, this isn’t something everyone is interested in, and in fact, you must turn it on manually from the heart rate app.

All of this health data collected from the watch is also written back to the Health app on your iPhone. The watch is useful for collecting it, but the small screen makes it difficult to discern everything that it displays with much accuracy. You can also learn more about the notifications for abnormally high heart rates and opt to enable it.

Lastly, Apple is launching the Apple Heart Study later this year. They are working collaboratively with Stanford and the FDA to organize this study for all Apple Watch and iPhone users. The study will be available as an app in the App Store for users to download. The goal will be to help watch for heart arrhythmias and irregular heart beats such as atrial fibrillation, possibly being able to help inform people of an undiagnosed heart issue.

Apple clearly sees the value of the Apple Watch as a health monitoring devices. They’ve implemented features such as HealthKit and ResearchKit to help collect vital health data and provide that biometric feedback to doctors and patients. Recently, Apple has also done a lot with diabetes, frequently featuring apps and devices like One Drop and Dexcom.

Will you be participating in the Apple Heart Study when it launches later this year? Let us know down below in the comments.

  • englishmike

    Any idea why I can’t see resting heart rate on my iPhone or health app?

    • Andrew O’Hara

      Which Apple Watch do you have? It requires a Series 1, 2, or 3 (Not the original Apple Watch) and watchOS 4.

      • englishmike

        AH!!! Thanks a lot

  • jacjustjac

    It’s too bad that Apple can figure out GPS and cellular but still can’t give us an always on display or continuous heart rate.

    • Out of curiosity why those two features? Personally I think it makes sense to shut off the display when I’m not looking at it and when you’re exercising you do get continuous heart rate monitoring. Or do you mean you want continuous heart rate monitoring when your sitting in a chair watching a movie (and if so what’s the point of that)?

      • jacjustjac

        Hi John, thanks for your curiosity. With it’s OLED display, the Apple Watch has great viewing angles, and it would be nice to check the time at a glance without having to make a gesture or tap the screen with my other hand. An always on Power-Reserve style mode would be perfect for this.

        As for continuous heart rate vs. exercise, I am a figure skater, coach, and a ballroom dancer. Unfortunately none of these activities fall within a specific repetitive movement the watch can quantify. I learned early on to never put my watch in workout mode, and just let it count my movements in general. Still, I almost always hit my goals on a work day. I also wear my watch to sleep and use the excellent HeartWatch and AutoSleep apps to see my heart rate as I sleep. But getting a reading once every 8 or so minutes does not satisfy my curiousity!

        Lastly, continuous heart rate and an always on time display are two reasons I can’t recommend an Apple Watch to my Fitbit wearing friends, who are so far happy with their bands.

      • Interesting, I guess the display being off when I’m not looking at it never bothered me, but I could see where it would be a nice option to have. As far as the heart rate sensor goes, it’s too bad that Apple doesn’t have the battery life to allow for “all day workout” tracking as that would give you the always on heart rate tracking. I’m impressed to hear that FitBit has continuous all day tracking of heart rate, I hadn’t heard that before.

        I was actually going to get a FitBit until I found out they aren’t often that accurate when it comes to reading heart rate when you’re active (which sort of defeated the entire point for me personally). So while I liked the FitBit initially, ultimately I went with the accuracy of the Apple Watch instead.

        Here’s to hoping we get more battery in the future 🙂

      • jacjustjac

        Cheers to that! I can understand Apple went for more accurate heart rate monitoring (that probably uses more energy) during exercise, but the fact that Fitbit can last for 7 days with an always on light shining onto your skin is a little disappointing, even taking into consideration the drawbacks.

      • Twistedzeus

        I’m using a series 2 Nike edition I am actually very disappointed since the iOS 4 update, my watch was use check my heart rate every 10mins ish and I could keep a decent track of it within the health app. I am paraplegic waist down and I feel like I’ve lost out with the new update I haven’t even had a reading for the resting rate yet and the only time my watch checks my heart rate is when I ask it or during a workout. I have tried resetting my watch and I’m still only getting current rate and resting rate which doesn’t work:( anyone know if I’m doing something wrong. Cheers, jay

  • Wow, I really got lucky with this. I installed the watchOS beta day one and got into a weird situation where my watch wouldn’t respond to any inputs anymore. I contacted Apple and they had me send in my watch to downgrade the OS and sent me back a brand new series 1 for free!

  • Kyria

    I would love to participate in the study, i have been diagnosed with inapropriate synus tachicardia and i have random arrithmias that will take mu breath away, my heart beat can go from 180 to 40 (using a Garmin tracker) in a matter of seconds and it will never happen when i am wearing the holter, i get all the symptoms of a heart attack and luckly nothing happens, when i tell my doctors they based their answers on the data from the tests, and of course each test comes clean; i have also been diagnosed with vasovagal syncope. I would like prove to my doctors that i really have arrithmias and they should be more proactive, that is why this study will help me and apple!