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Samsung Is Activating Its Smartwatch ECG Feature Today, but There's a Catch

Illustration for article titled Samsung Is Activating Its Smartwatch ECG Feature Today, but Theres a Catch
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

Samsung may have first made an ECG-capable smartwatch with the Galaxy Watch Active2, but it wasn’t until earlier this summer that it actually got clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to enable the medical-grade feature. That announcement came in dramatic fashion at its Unpacked event in August, where the company unveiled yet another ECG-capable smartwatch, the excellent Galaxy Watch 3. Still, even with clearance, we didn’t know exactly when the ECG feature would be available on either watch. Well, the answer is today.

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“Beginning September 23, users will have access to yet another next-generation feature, as on-demand electrocardiogram (ECG) readings come to Galaxy Watch 3 and Galaxy Watch Active2,” Samsung said in a press statement. “This tool recently received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and will soon be available through the Samsung Health Monitor app when connected to a compatible Galaxy smartphone.”

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It appears that Samsung’s ECG app will operate similarly to Apple’s. After opening the Samsung Health Monitor app, you’ll be advised to put your arm on a flat surface and place your finger on the top button. The watch will identify you as having either a normal Sinus Rhythm or atrial fibrillation. Once the reading is done, you can log symptoms like dizziness or fatigue. (Atrial fibrillation is often unaccompanied by symptoms.) You’ll also be able to send a PDF report to your healthcare provider.

The catch here is that, at least for now, the ECG app will only be available on Samsung Galaxy phones with Android Nougat or higher—meaning, if you have one of these watches paired to a non-Samsung Android phone or an iPhone, you’re out of luck. That’s only sort of surprising. While Samsung’s smartwatches are among the best currently available for Android users, Samsung is like Apple in that it likes to push its own ecosystem. As a result, some features are only available to Samsung phone owners. It looks like, for the time being, ECG is one of them.

Illustration for article titled Samsung Is Activating Its Smartwatch ECG Feature Today, but Theres a Catch
Image: Samsung

Gizmodo reached out to Samsung to see if this feature might eventually make its way to non-Samsung Android phones. In response, a Samsung spokesperson said, “We’re always looking to address consumer feedback, however we cannot speak to additional phone compatibility outside of Galaxy smartphones at this time.”

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While it’s great that Samsung’s ECG app is finally here, it is majorly disappointing that not all Android users will be able to access it. That means currently, in the U.S. only Apple and Samsung smartwatch owners have access to any sort of on-the-wrist ECG. The Galaxy Watch 3 felt like a real win for all Android users, but leaving non-Samsung Android users out of this update takes the shine off that a bit. Hopefully, Samsung will fix that going forward.

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For non-Samsung Android users, the only FDA-cleared ECG smartwatch is the newly launched Fitbit Sense. However, Fitbit only just got clearance, meaning the ECG feature on the Sense is not live yet. You’ll have to wait until next month before it’s available. The good news is that Fitbit is platform-agnostic. Provided that there aren’t any delays, this means you’ll have at least one FDA-cleared ECG smartwatch option, regardless of what phone you use.

Consumer tech reporter by day, danger noodle by night. No, I'm not the K-Pop star.

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DISCUSSION

brokenmachine
Broken Machine

Apple’s max heart rate for atrial fibrillation is 120bpm. This is somewhat useless for me as I get it during exercise. I have plenty of “inconclusive readings” in my history that obviously show a lack of sinus rhythm.

Wondering what the Samsung limit will be.