The Apple Watch’s ECG is finally available in Europe

The Apple Watch’s unique feature is finally available in Europe and Hong Kong
The Apple Watch is the world’s most popular line of smartwatches right now, holding about 50% of the global market. When Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 4 last year, there was one feature that stood above all. It wasn’t the larger display or the Digital Crown with tactile feedback.

Instead, it was the addition of ECG (electrocardiogram) capabilities without any additional hardware needed (besides the Apple Watch itself, of course). The feature allows the user to quickly and easily take an ECG and then, if need be, send the results to their doctor. Even without having the results looked at by a specialist, the device’s own algorithms would alert the user if they notice something out of the ordinary. Since then, reports are showing up regularly about how the Apple Watch helped one person or another notice an issue with their heart that was later confirmed by a cardiologist. This allowed proper measures to be taken a lot sooner than if the patient had waited until the problems became obvious.

Unfortunately, despite the Apple Watch being loved all around the world, the ECG functionality was limited only to the United States. Not anymore!

Select European countries and Hong Kong are getting ECG

Apple’s watchOS 5.2 is now available for all Apple Watch models and adds a couple of features for users in 19 European countries and Hong Kong. The more important one is ECG, which comes only to the Apple Watch Series 4. Here’s the full list of European countries that are getting the new feature:

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK.

Despite the ECG app and the Irregular Rhythm Notification (more on it below) being cleared for use in the European Economic Area, according to Apple, there are several countries that are part of the EEA and won’t be getting these features yet: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia.

The reason for that is unknown. It could be due to additional regulatory approval needed or, alternatively, those are just markets Apple isn’t as interested in right now.

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A more notable country that’s also missing from the expansion list, although not in Europe, is Canada. It was expected to be one of the first countries besides the US to get the ECG app, but it appears that Canadians will have to wait at least until the second wave of expansion.

ECG on a smartwatch, how does that work?

For those of you that are just hearing about the Apple Watch’s ECG, here’s a quick rundown. Electrodes inside the Apple Watch Series 4 measure the electrical impulses your heart is releasing when beating. To do that, the user must touch the Digital Crown (the rotating bit on the side of the watch) in order to close the circuit, creating an effect similar to a single-lead electrocardiogram.
After 30 seconds of measuring your rhythm, the ECG app will classify it as either AFib or sinus rhythm. If you get AFib as a result, you might want to get a consultation from your general practitioner or cardiologist. Of course, the results won’t be nearly as accurate as those taken by professional medical equipment, but the Apple Watch feature is far from a gimmick. Medical trials have shown that the wearable device is classifying the different heart rhythms with very high accuracy.

The watchOS 5.2 update is also bringing a health-related feature to older Apple Watches as well. Called Irregular Rhythm Notification, this feature is coming to Apple Watch Series 1 and newer models. It checks the user’s heart rhythm on regular intervals using the optical sensors of the device and sends a notification if five irregular rhythms are detected over the span of at least 65 minutes. 

To start using the new features, users have to enable them from the Health app on their iPhones. Obviously, the Apple Watch must be updated to watchOS 5.2, but to do that the iPhone itself must be updated to iOS 12.2.

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