Apple’s WatchOS 9 has some great new medical and fitness features, but Series 3 owners will miss them

Apple Watch owners will soon be able to store larger chunks of their medical history to track heart conditions and update doctors, according to the latest updates applied to the watch’s operating system in WatchOS 9.

However, the upgrades don’t apply to those who buy the most affordable watch model, the Series 3. This is due to the technical requirements of the entire WatchOS 9 upgrade, which Apple will only allow with the high-end models that have been on sale recently, including the Series 4, 5, 6, SE and the current flagship 7.

The new AFib History feature, initially available in the US but likely to be rolled out later in Europe, aims to create a medically useful profile of a person’s potential heart problems by measuring the frequency of abnormal heart rhythms, also known as atrial fibrillation (AFib ), over a longer period of time.

Apple says users who have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation can turn on the Atrial Fibrillation History feature to access information that includes an estimate of how often a user’s heart rhythm shows signs of atrial fibrillation. According to Apple, this should provide deeper insights into the AFib state. Users will then also receive weekly notifications to better understand frequency, as well as a detailed history in the Health app, including lifestyle factors that can affect AFib, such as sleep, alcohol consumption and exercise.

The feature has been cleared for use by the US FDA regulator and will likely require similar approval in Europe.

Apple adds that users can also download a PDF with a detailed history of their atrial fibrillation and lifestyle factors, which can then be shared with doctors and other healthcare professionals.

Alongside this, Apple is adding a new app called Medications that will allow people to keep track of what medications or supplements they are taking. The app, which works with the Health app and can also be viewed on iPhones, allows setting schedules and reminders.

Apple insists that all of this sensitive personal health data remains encrypted when it’s on the device and backed up to iCloud.

Otherwise, the WatchOS 9 update packs a slew of new fitness features that should interest runners, swimmers, and those who exercise regularly.

There are new metrics like stride length, ground contact time and vertical oscillation added to the training views. They are also displayed in the fitness app summary and in the health app.

You can also compete against your best or last score and get notifications on how your pace compares to other achievements.

Swimmers can now better calculate their stroke count combined with the time it takes them to swim a length of the pool.

And the Workout app has been updated to use the watch’s digital crown to switch between workout views. “Heart rate zones” can now also be created to monitor the intensity of a workout, while there are new alerts for things like pace, power, heart rate and cadence.

And triathletes now get a new multisport workout that automatically alternates between each swim, bike, and run sequence.

There are also a few new watch faces in WatchOS 9, including Lunar, Playtime (by artist Joi Fulton), Metropolitan, and Astronomy.

As far as sleep tracking goes, WatchOS 9 is another step towards the more sophisticated sleep trackers from Fitbit and Garmin, with more detail from its heart sensor and accelerometer to REM and deep sleep. The Sleep app helps with comparison charts for things like heart rate, breathing rate, and sleep duration in the Health app.

All of this won’t be available for the Series 3 model, however, which Apple is still selling. It’s unusual for an entire software update to completely skip a product that Apple is still shipping. Apple’s WatchOS 9 has some great new medical and fitness features, but Series 3 owners will miss them

Fry Electronics Team

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