Apple adds heart monitoring to Apple Watch

Key Points
  • Apple launched a new Apple Watch with a completely revamped design.
  • The screen is 30 percent larger, and the speaker is 50 percent louder, the company said.
  • It also added a new health sensor that lets you take an electrocardiogram, or ECG, that measures the heart's rhythm, not just the heart rate.
Hands on with the new Apple Watch Series 4

Apple just announced a new Watch called Apple Watch Series 4.

The new Apple Watch comes with a larger, edge-to-edge screen, giving it the biggest facelift since its launch in 2014. The screen is 30 percent larger than the previous version, while the device itself has become thinner.

But the bigger focus was put on the new Watch's ability to play the role of a medical device. The new Watch comes with a new health sensor that lets you take an electrocardiogram, or ECG, that measures the heart's rhythm and notifies you if it detects the presence of atrial fibrillation. It is now able to detect falls and automatically initiate an emergency call, as well.

"The Apple Watch has become an intelligent guardian for your health," Apple COO Jeff Williams said.

Apple also announced that it's received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be used as a medical device. That was followed by an announcement by the FDA that it had worked closely with the company on the apps.

One of the apps uses electrocardiogram and is designed to detect the presence of atrial fibrillation, while the other is capable of screening for certain heart rhythm disorders suggestive of atrial fibrillation.

"Consumers are now empowered to take more control of their own health information to make better informed decisions about their medical care and healthy living," said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in a statement.

Jeff Williams, Chief Operating Officer of Apple, speaks about the the new Apple Watch Series 4 at an Apple Inc product launch event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, September 12, 2018.
Stephen Lam | Reuters

Fitbit stock dropped over 4 percent Tuesday following the Apple Watch announcement.

Former Google engineer Vic Gundotra, who now runs a heart-tracking start-up called Alivecor, said the new health features could potentially help Apple reach new market demographics, including those currently using Android-based smartwatches.

"Apple just gave every Android user a life-saving reason to switch to iPhone," Gundotra told CNBC.

The new Watch Series 4 starts at $399 and is available to order starting Friday. Apple is also dropping the Watch Series 3 price tag to $279.

Apple is the market leader in the smartwatch industry, accounting for 17 percent of the market in the second quarter of 2018, according to IDC. It shipped a total of 4.7 million units in the quarter, up 38 percent from the year-ago period. That's half a million more units sold than Xiaomi's and more than double the total sold by Fitbit.

The company's annual September event — held at the Steve Jobs Theater on Apple's campus — serves as the introduction to upgraded gadgets before inventory hits the shelves. This year's unveiling was expected to be impressive even by Apple's standards.

Correction: The Apple Watch Series 4 starts at $399.

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