I never quite got the appeal, or purpose, of the Apple Watch. To me, the iPhone is the single greatest device of all time, and the Watch just seemed like a smaller, less capable, and less convenient version of the iPhone.
However, there is one aspect of the Watch that does interest me, and that is the heart rate function.
I like to monitor my heart rate while exercising, and for years I have done so wearing a chest strap and pairing it with my phone as a way to track my heart rate. A chest strap is much cheaper than the Apple Watch, plus it is more accurate for using during a workout.
However, this past year the Apple Watch made two major announcements that made me take notice, and to seriously consider buying one.
The first announcement was that Apple had teamed up with Stanford Medicine to launch an Apple Watch heart app that looks for deadly atrial fibrillation. It alerts users when they experience irregular heart rhythms, and can actually get them help. Since I have occasional a-fib, this seemed like it would be quite useful.
The second announcement, and highly related to the first one, is that the Food and Drug Administration finally approved AliveCor’s Kardiaband EKG reader. The reader also monitors for atrial fibrillation (AFib), but via an accessory. The Kardiaband fits into a slot on the Apple Watch band, letting users get an EKG reading discreetly just by touching the band’s integrated sensor. It’s the first medical device accessory for the Apple Watch.
I’ve done some research on the app and the reader, and they both seemed like they would be quite useful, given my medical history. A few months ago I even tried to see if my cardiologist could say that the watch was medically necessary, given my heart condition. Getting such an approval would enable me to use my Health Care Flexible Spending Account to pay for it. Unfortunately, that conversation didn’t go the way I hoped.
So now if I wanted the Apple Watch, I had to justify paying about four times more for a watch than I ever have before. As fate would have it, I had a routine check-up with my cardiologist this past week, and I asked her once again about the Apple Watch and its heart monitoring capability. She showed me her Apple Watch and told me that she was never a watch person, but once she got the Apple Watch she became a big fan. She also told me that it is quite good at doing an EKG to test for a-fib. While she didn’t come right out and say that I should definitely buy one, I did get the sense that she highly recommended the watch. At that point, I was sold.
So I went to an Apple store today to pick one up. I had not wanted the higher priced model that came with cellular capabilities, since I figured I always have my phone with me. However, the strap I wanted only came with the higher priced model, so I ended up getting the cellular watch.
Since I’m still not quite sold on the value proposition of the Watch, I made sure to ask about the return policy, and was told told that I have 14 days to return it.
I plan to test the Watch as thoroughly as I can over the next two weeks (although hopefully I won’t end up testing its a-fib detection capability).
In the few hours I have had it, it has been cool to be able to just push a button and get my current heart rate, without having to wear a heart strap. It was also cool using Siri to send messages via the Watch – the voice recognition seemed quite accurate. I also answered a phone call using the Watch, and had the conversation through the Watch. Since I was still tethered to my iPhone, I did not need the cellular capability to do either the messaging or the voice call.
And while all those features are quite cool, except for the heart rate detection, those other things I can do with my iPhone. Hence the need for this two-week testing period to see if I can justify the expense of the Watch.
I’ll let you know what I’ve found after two weeks. In the meantime, if anyone has any thoughts on the pros and cons of having a Smart Watch, I’d love to hear from you.
This is Dick Tracy signing off until tomorrow…