Fitbit: why our smartwatches don't have an ECG monitor yet

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Fitbit unveiled four new products for its lineup of trackers and smartwatches last week, but none of them are set to compete with top-end devices like the Apple Watch 4.

Last year's Apple Watch 4 had a variety of upgrades, but perhaps the most exciting feature was the ability to detect atrial fibrillation - a heart condition that can cause an abnormal or fast heart rate and can lead to heart failure.

Fitbit has previously confirmed that it is working on a version of the technology for its trackers, but James Park, the company's CEO, has now revealed to Wareable why this hasn't yet been included on one of its products.

Park said there are two reasons. First, there's the fact that it has to be approved by the FDA in the US before it can be introduced, so the company can't currently offer a clear timeline. Secondly, he also confirmed that he wants the technology to work differently to Apple's when it is unveiled.

"I think for us it's making sure that it’s really clinically relevant. It’s not just about alerting people, but making sure that there’s a good next step," Park told Wareable.

"I’m a big fan of these technologies and early detection coming out, but if you read some of the criticisms it’s about the number of false positives, the unnecessary raising of people’s anxieties. 

"And if you look at some of the use cases, you’re being told if you have AFib today this is not for you, or if you’re under 65 don’t really use it." 

Exactly how the company will be approaching it differently remains to be seen, and that's unlikely to be something we'll find out the specifics of until Fitbit is ready to bring the feature to a new product.

Park continued, "For us our strategy its not been about getting the latest features out there first, so when you see us launch FDA-regulated features like [sleep] apnea or AFib, we’ll be taking a different approach." 

So don't expect to see the feature coming to a smartwatch you buy in the next couple of months - that includes the new Fitbit Versa Lite - but it may be a feature we see debut on the Fitbit Ionic 2 when that's officially unveiled.

James Peckham

James is the Editor-in-Chief at Android Police. Previously, he was Senior Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones and the mobile space for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones and other portable gadgets. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He once fell over.