Apple Watch is now fulfilling its promise to let people take EKGs of their heart and notify them of any irregular heartbeat thanks to watchOS 5.1.2 software update that is now available.
Apple announced the heart features in September, but didn't make them available until Thursday with watchOS 5.1.2. The new features have been given clearance by the US Food and Drug Administration and are for US customers only.
The watch can intermittently check the wearer's heart rhythm in the background and send a notification if it detects irregular heart rhythm. That can point to atrial fibrillation, a condition that can increase the risk of stroke and other complications. Apple says the watch will notify users if it detects an irregular rhythm on five checks over at least 65 minutes.
When symptoms appear, users can also take an EKG, or electrocardiogram, and share that with doctors. This feature is available for the latest, Series 4 version of the watch. The app, called ECG, comes as part of a free software update for the watch, which also brings new Infograph complications for Mail, Maps, Messages, Find My Friends, Home, News, Phone, Remote apps.
The irregular heart notification is available for older models, too, starting with the "Series 1" model in 2016. It doesn't work with the original, 2015 model.
Apple is adding medical features to make the watch feel more useful to people. A fall detection feature launched in September. It claims to be able to tell the difference between a trip and a fall — and when the latter occurs, it will suggest calling 911 (or the equivalent outside the US). If it receives no response within a minute, the watch will automatically place an emergency call and message friends and family designated as emergency contacts.
watchOS 5.1.2 release notes:
This update includes new features, improvements and bug fixes:
New ECG app on Apple Watch Series 4 (US and US territories only)
Allows you to take an electrocardiogram similar to a single-lead electrocardiogram
Can indicate whether your heart rhythm shows signs of atrial fibrillation—a serious form of irregular heart rhythm—or sinus rhythm, which means your heart is beating in a normal pattern
Saves ECG waveform, classification and any noted symptoms in a PDF on the Health app on iPhone to share with your doctor
Adds the ability to receive an alert if an irregular heart rhythm that appears to be atrial fibrillation is detected (US and US territories only)
Enables direct access to supported movie tickets, coupons, and rewards cards in Wallet when tapped to a contactless reader
Receive notifications and animated celebrations when you achieve daily maximum points in a day during an Activity competition
New Infograph complications for Mail, Maps, Messages, Find My Friends, Home, News, Phone, Remote
Manage your availability for Walkie-Talkie from Control Center