What's new in iOS 14.3 for Apple Watch OS 7 – Bands™

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What's new in iOS 14.3 for Apple Watch OS 7

Posted by Elizabeth Sullivan on

The new HealthKit in Apple’s latest iPhone operating system offers some exciting features for both users and developers.

“We’re energized by the positive impact Apple Watch is having on our customers and are excited to deliver meaningful new tools that support their health, fitness, and wellness,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer.

Comprehensive Symptoms Tracker

Apple had already added in many more options around symptom tracking last time and now with iOS 14, it has taken a more comprehensive look around this feature. With iOS 14, Apple has provided users the ability to track more than 30 symptoms on their device.

Users may want to track a wide range of symptoms when it comes to monitoring their health data. Symptoms when tracked properly help you and your physician diagnose things properly.

Third-party developers can now read and write these detailed symptoms and build out visual dashboards on their apps. 

Cardio Fitness notifications

iOS 14.3 also indicates that, with watchOS 7.2, Apple Watch users will be able to receive new cardio fitness notifications. These will notify you if your cardio fitness level reaches a certain level that it could impact your daily activity. Apple explains:

Apple Watch can notify you if your cardio fitness reaches a level where you may experience limitations in your daily activity.

This is likely related to VO2 Max data, which Apple Watch currently monitors and displays in the Fitness app and in the Health app. In fact, alongside the introduction of the Apple Watch Series 6 in September, Apple teased that Apple Watch would soon add Low Cardio Fitness Notifications later this year. iOS 14.3 and watchOS 7.2 appear to include the basis of this functionality.

ECG Data Availability

We already know that ECG App on the Apple Watch can record heartbeat and heart rhythm in an accurate manner. This was introduced a few cycles back and has been a unique selling feature of the Apple Watch. When you check your ECG using the digital crown on your watch, the watch also automatically checks for aFib.

Starting with iOS 14 and watchOS 7, ECG readings can now be read by third-party apps. Apple not only offers the ECG status but also a list of associated symptoms. Developers can use the new HKElectrocardiogramQuery class to access ECG data

Now your iPhone or Apple Watch can record some of these mobility metrics during bouts of walking. Here are some of the elements that these new mobility metrics can measure and analyze:

    1. Walking Speed and step length – Walking takes some strength, balance, and coordination. Changes in any of these areas could impact your walking speed and length. By measuring your performance apps can decipher how you might be recovering from an illness or injury.
    2. Walking Asymmetry – Balance and coordination are measured by walking asymmetry and double support percentage.
    3. Stair Ascent and descent speed – These provide insight into your general cardiovascular health.
    4. 6MWT (Six-minute walk test distance) – This is a frequent clinical test to evaluate general mobility. Essentially the test measures the distance walked by a user in 6 minutes as a test for aerobic capacity and endurance in an individual. The more mobile and fit you are the higher is the number. It’s often used for Gait assessment in physical rehab centers. The test can prove helpful in diagnosing arthritis and joint issues, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, and stroke recovery. Apple is already participating in a study with Stanford health in using some of this technology with patients recovering from spinal cord surgeries.

The 6MWT will be available on the Apple Watch and is a weekly metric that uses activity clues within natural walking to estimate the results of a formal 6MWT test.

Walking Speed and step length metrics will be available also via iPhone. This will be available on an intraday basis and doesn’t require any GPS calibration on your iPhone.

These new metrics and associated data will be really beneficial for third party developers who are focussed on developing new HealthKit based apps. When looking for third party apps in this space, it is important to look for apps that work with HealthKit.