In the weeks leading up to the launch of the Apple Watch 7 reveal, the internet rumor mill was hard at work churning out theories about its new health and fitness features. It would have a radically different design, theorists suggested, and be capable of measuring blood pressure, blood glucose, blood alcohol – all non-invasively.
Looking back, it’s no surprise that these turned out to be overly ambitious. Apple has registered patents for blood pressure tracking using actuators embedded in a watch’s wristband, but there’s nothing more concrete so far. Some smartwatches and fitness trackers (such as the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2) can estimate changes in blood pressure using the same optical sensor that tracks your heart rate, but it’s only a rough guide and can’t replace a conventional monitor and cuff.
There’s promising research that suggests blood glucose monitoring could come to smartwatches eventually using either spectroscopy (which uses lasers to identify different chemicals), or a method pioneered by UK company Nemuara Medical (opens in new tab) that uses a mild electric current to draw molecules through the skin, but again it’s not yet ready to be implemented in a commercial device.
In fact, the Apple Watch 7’s new health features are very modest – but nonetheless very interesting, particularly to casual cyclists.
Saddle up and ride on
One of these new tools is fall detection during cycling activities. The Apple Watch 4 and later can already detect hard falls and alert the emergency services if you don’t tap the face to indicate that you’re OK.
With the Apple Watch 7, the same thing will happen if you fall off your bike. If the watch detects that you’re moving after you take a tumble, it will wait for you to respond to the alert on-screen. If you’re immobile for a minute, it will call the emergency services automatically, then send a message to your emergency contact.
It’s a feature you’ll already find on sports watches from the likes of Garmin and Coros, but it’s good to see it being extended to more general-purpose smartwatches for the safety of more casual riders. This feature also goes well with the watch’s new face, which is topped with more crack-resistant crystal, and is rated for resistance to dust as well as water.
The Apple Watch 7 also offers improved calorie calculation for e-bikes. We’re not yet sure exactly how this will work, but we expect it will use a combination of your historic heart rate during workouts, resting heart rate, current heart rate, and pace to work out how much effort you’re putting into your battery-assisted ride.
E-bikes are increasingly popular, particularly for city riding, but most smartwatches and fitness trackers assume that all cycling happens on a conventional bicycle. The Apple Watch 7 acknowledges that e-bikes are a valid form of exercise, and more accurate calorie counts may help encourage owners to saddle up rather than hopping in their cars for short journeys.
There are lots more tools Apple could add to help cyclists, such as more workout tracking options and fitness tests, but for commuters and weekend riders, the Apple Watch 7 could be the perfect choice.
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