Apple Watch Series 4: CEO Tim Cook Details Backstory for Its EKG Feature

The wearable has pivoted.

After Apple’s September 12 product launch it became clear that the company is steering its Apple Watch Series 4 toward becoming a sleek health tool rather than a flashy timepiece. On Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed some of the backstory that led to this product pivot.

“We were getting notes from many customers over the years with our pervious watches that they found they had a heart problem,” said Cook on Good Morning America. “The watch would notify them that their heart was elevated despite not exercising and they sought medical treatment and the doctor told them, ‘If you would not have sought help, you would not be here.’”

He explained that this led Apple to integrate an electrocardiogram monitor (EKG) and a system that will notify the wearer if they are at risk of a heart condition, known as atrial fibrillation (AFib), that increases stroke and heart failure. The debut of these cardiovascular health features notably coincided with the company’s decision to stop shipping software updates to its discontinued $10,000 Apple Watch Edition, a sign that the tech giant wants to cement its smartwatch as being more than just a luxury product.

Apple COO Jeff Williams unveils the Apple Watch Series 4 at the September 12 iPhone keynote.

Apple isn’t the only company that seems to sense that the future of wearable tech is wellness. Samsung’s newly announced Galaxy Watch also includes an array of health features, including sensors that track your heart rate and coach you when you need to calm down. There’s also obviously the Fitbit, which from the beginning was about helping users track their workout progress. The new Apple Watch bundles these capabilities with advanced heart rate detection and the ability to beam that data straight to your cardiologist. This makes it a bit more health-focused, rather than fitness-centric.

“All you do is put your finger right on the crown and hold it for 30 seconds and it performs an EKG and you can send those right to your doctor,” explained Cook.

Apple Watch Series 4: How Reliable Is Its EKG?

Apple Watch’s EKG system will be capable of much more accurate heart measurements than the previous photoplethysmography (PPG) tech used in the Series 3. But people have already questioned some of the hype, including the team at Politifact, which took a break from poking holes in political boats to point out that other over-the-counter EKG tech has been available for years (with some very subtle distinctions).

Two FDA documents have also revealed that this device is definitely not a solve-all for cardiovascular issues.

New face of the Apple Watch Series 4.


The agency approved the Series 4’s EKG and “Irregular Rhythm Notification Feature,” but also states that they are both “not intended to provide a diagnosis”, “not intended for use by people under 22 years old,” “not intended for use in individuals previously diagnosed with AFib.”

So while retrofitting the Apple Watch with state-of-the-art health tech is beneficial to consumers, it’s important to keep in mind that it still is also a marketing tactic. The Series 4 can monitor your heart much more effectively than its predecessors, but it doesn’t mean it’s a catch-all, health warden for all.

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