The Apple Watch 8 is expected to arrive on September 7 and it looks set to have a smorgasbord of new health tech if Apple’s new wearables operating system watchOS 9 is anything to go by. We’re expecting it to make full use of watchOS 9’s advanced sleep tracking technology and new exercise metrics such as heart rate zones and running power, which is a more accurate way of determining the energy expend during your runs.
However, one thing it’s unlikely to have is blood pressure monitoring. Smartwatches have grappled with this problem for ages: the existing sensor arrays can detect blood oxygen levels, skin temperature, heart rate, and more, but for a long time, blood pressure was the domain of specialized inflatable cuffs, traditionally slipped onto the upper arm.
IR sensors that are said to detect blood pressure are starting to make their way onto smartwatches, but they aren’t considered accurate enough to be used for medical purposes. Samsung’s, for example, requires regular calibration with a proper blood pressure monitor and doesn’t have the approval of health boards such as the US’ Food and Drug Administration.
At IFA 2022 this year, Huawei showed off the Huawei Band D to TechRadar's US editor-in-chief, which came complete with new blood pressure technology. Inside the watch is a small pump which inflates a dual-layer airbag contained in the watch’s band to the tune of 49 kilopascals (kPa) of pressure. This tightens around the wrist, delivering a blood pressure reading in the same way as a traditional blood pressure cuff, which is then displayed on the watch’s attractive face.
This focus on actual hardware beyond yet another laser sensor is a refreshingly old-school approach. For me, it harkens back to the days when you’d need to strap a hinged booklight-style torch on your Game Boy in order to see it better at night, and there’s something reassuring about such a physical gadget being attached to a smart device. Sure, we’re likely to get an accurate IR sensor to do the job in a few years, but for now, why not have a secret inflatable blood pressure cuff hidden in the watch’s band?
Apple is working on its own blood pressure technology, but reports from outlets such as Bloomberg indicate that we’re unlikely to see the technology until 2024 at the earliest. Apple tends to prefer to let its competitors innovate before fine-tuning and presenting versions that reflect Apple’s minimalist, user-friendly design philosophy. We don’t think inflatable sacs in an Apple Watch band will be arriving any time soon.
There is likely to be some headline-worthy stuff, however, in the shape of an Apple Watch Pro or Apple Watch Rugged Edition. A new, high-end watch designed to withstand robust adventuring has been heavily rumored to arrive with the Apple Watch 8.
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Matt is TechRadar's expert on all things fitness, wellness and wearable tech. A former staffer at Men's Health, he holds a Master's Degree in journalism from Cardiff and has written for brands like Runner's World, Women's Health, Men's Fitness, LiveScience and Fit&Well on everything fitness tech, exercise, nutrition and mental wellbeing.
Matt's a keen runner, ex-kickboxer, not averse to the odd yoga flow, and insists everyone should stretch every morning. When he’s not training or writing about health and fitness, he can be found reading doorstop-thick fantasy books with lots of fictional maps in them.