Samsung’s latest smartwatch, the Galaxy Watch3, is a handsome and well-crafted wearable. And it has one health-related feature that is incredibly timely and puts it ahead of its Apple rival.
Unlike the Apple Watch, the Galaxy Watch3 can measure blood oxygen levels. It’s rumored that this feature which will be added to Apple’s timepiece this Fall, though almost certainly only for Apple Watch Series 6, not earlier models.
But Samsung’s watch has this capability now. So, why is it so timely?
Well, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to worry us, blood oxygen is a metric worth knowing about. In some cases, people who have contracted Covid-19 have found their blood oxygen levels suddenly drop.
In most people, blood oxygenation levels are normally between 95 and 100%. So, when it falls below, say, 92% it can lead to hypoxia, which is dangerous. In some cases, patients who either test positive or are presumed positive for coronavirus but aren’t sick enough to be admitted to the hospital are sent home with a pulse oximeter and instructions to use it three times a day.
The feature on the Galaxy Watch3 can achieve the same effect as a pulse oximeter. It’s straightforward, if not quite foolproof, to use on the watch. Tap the Home button on the Samsung Galaxy Watch3 – that’s the lower one of the two on the right edge – and choose Samsung Health. Then use the rotating bezel (possibly the nicest mechanic on the Watch3) until you reach the Blood Oxygen tab. Tap this and you’re given the opportunity to measure your blood level.
Touch the button marked Measure and within seconds you’ll have the result. Well, that’s the plan. As it turned out, I had to give this four goes before I got a result. Samsung has a useful help screen with details of how to hold your wrist, which way up and so on. Oh, and don’t talk while you’re doing it.
However, once you’ve mastered it, it’s straightforward and it’s arguably a keen addition to the watch’s capabilities. Note that the feature is not yet available in every country, though at launch you can expect to see it in the U.K. where I can confirm it’s working, for instance. You will need to ensure you have the latest software on board, which you can check in the Samsung Galaxy Wearable smartphone companion app.
It’s not the only excellent health feature on board. Samsung Health also has tabs to track your sleep – something the Apple Watch also lacks in terms of native apps, though at least this is coming to Apple Watch Series 3 and later this Fall in watchOS 7. If you want to try it now, the watchOS 7 public beta is now available. Want to try it? Click here for details.
There’s also support for VO2max, which measures your maximum oxygen uptake during a workout. And ECG/EKG measurements, already live in South Korea, will come to other countries later, too.
There are also tabs for menstrual cycle tracking, one for recording your water intake and a heart rate measurement tab. Those aren’t that unusual in terms of smartwatch features, but there’s also one for Stress.
Tap the Measure button in Stress and you’ll be rewarded by a pointer on a scale between serenely relaxed (the blue end of the color chart) and super-stressed, which is colored fiery red.
Not happy with your result? The watch can guide you to de-stress with its breathing exercise and after that you can take the stress test again.
The breathing exercise is good, though not as slick as the Breathe app on the Apple Watch.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch3 does not have blood pressure monitoring or ECG capabilities, at least not yet and at least not everywhere. But it has the capabilities to do this, it merely needs the appropriate clearances and approvals. When it has them – and I believe it’s likely only a matter of time – it’s proof that Apple no longer has the world of important health monitoring to itself.