Meanwhile, Apple doesn't monitor blood pressure via its device. What it does instead is to integrate with third-party, FDA-approved wireless devices like Qardio and Omron to integrate readings for these devices, so users can compare it to the other things they track, like steps and sleep.
So is Samsung really ahead of Apple? And if it is, why does that matter?
Tracking blood pressure outside of the doctor's office is a very big deal. Hypertension affects about one-third of Americans, and is linked with heart disease, strokes, kidney disease and all sorts of other complications when it isn't properly managed. So any company that can figure out a way to make it easier to measure without a cuff could crack open a massive multi-billion dollar market.
For that reason, most of the major tech companies are working on it, mostly in secret, including Samsung, Alphabet and Apple. Among these tech players, Samsung has been most open about its plans: "We are paying attention and we want to bring that capability (continuous blood pressure monitoring) to the wearable," Jack Ahn, its vice president of health strategy and R&D, told CNBC recently.
But that's easier said than done. Blood pressure is a dynamic measurement and that it's notoriously difficult to measure from the wrist via a smartwatch. There's also a lot of variation in the human body, so clinical studies often fail once they migrate from the lab to the real world. A lot of companies have tried and failed to do it.
Samsung has certainly made a step in the right direction, but it's not groundbreaking -- at least not yet.
A spokesperson for the company confirmed the following when asked by CNBC for more information:
- When users first set up the app, they set up a blood pressure reading measured by a cuff to get an accurate first read.
- The app uses the raw signal from the reading to calculate blood pressure.
- The device has an optical sensor to measure heart rate.
Samsung did not respond to a request for more information on whether the company integrates with third-party wireless cuffs, how often it needs to be calibrated to a cuff and how it validates accuracy. Thus far, it has not shared information on whether it has been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
But the tidbits it did share are revealing. Alexis Zervoglos, chief business officer for another company in the space, Qardio, has some ideas about how it will probably work.