Technology

Apple Watch Series 8 may not have a body temperature sensor after all

If you were hoping for more exciting updates with the Apple Watch Series 8, you may have to start tempering expectations. While it was initially thought that the next-generation watch would have a body temperature sensor, it appears that’s not the case after all.

There have been rumors of a body temperature sensor for the Series 8 for some time now. Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman – who has a pretty good track record when it comes to Apple rumors – first hinted that a body temperature sensor would be coming in June. That was repeated by The Wall Street Journal in September for a potential fertility trait. Renowned Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also predicted a body temperature sensor that same month. All in all, there were several good reasons to believe this was in the pipeline.

However, in his last Switch newsletter, Gurman has declined. Speaking about the Series 8’s potential for measuring body temperature, blood glucose monitoring and blood pressure capabilities, Gurman wrote: “Don’t expect it soon, though. Body temperature was on the roadmap this year, but lately the chatter has waned. is still at least two to three years away, while I wouldn’t be surprised if glucose monitoring doesn’t happen until later in the second half of the decade.”

For blood pressure and blood glucose, this makes a lot of sense. While much progress has been made in non-invasive, cuffless blood pressure measurement in wearables, the technology just isn’t there yet. The same applies to the blood glucose measurement. While the feature has been rumored for the Series 7 and in Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4, it never materialized. The technology exists in nascent form — a prototype from Japanese startup Quantum Operation was on display at CES 2021 — but it’s far from ready for consumer-grade devices. Of the notorious features, body temperature sensors seemed the most likely, as they are already available in several other consumer wearables, including those from rivals like Fitbit. In fact, body temperature sensors in wearables received a lot of attention in 2020, when researchers used them to determine whether smartwatches could detect COVID-19.

Currently, body temperature sensors are mostly used for sleep and recovery tracking, although fertility wearables like Ava may include them as well. While Apple has added sleep and menstrual tracking in recent years, they are on the simpler side. Adding a body temperature sensor could potentially help improve these specific features, especially if the company plans to add fertility-related features, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. However, Apple is notorious for using features that other device manufacturers have already implemented until it is happy with its own version.

“Slowing down chatter,” as Gurman puts it, doesn’t mean a body temperature function is completely dead. However, it raises another point: perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect Apple to introduce a new groundbreaking, industry-leading feature on its smartwatch every year. It’s true that since the Series 3, Apple has outdone the competition when it comes to advanced smartwatch capabilities. The Series 3 introduced cellular, the Series 4 changed the design and added FDA-approved EKGs, the Series 5 added an always-on display, and the Series 6 added an SpO2 (blood oxygen) sensor. However, the additions were less buzz-worthy from the Series 6. Not only have there been SpO2 sensors on smartwatches since 2017, but the Series 7 marquee was simply a bigger screen.

Right now, the Apple Watch is the most popular smartwatch on the market, and Apple has a long lead over the competition. Wear OS watches are in the midst of a complicated transition to a new unified platform with Samsung. Fitbit and Garmin may have advanced health features and a better battery, but they both lag behind smart features like cellular connectivity. Samsung comes closest, but many of its health and fitness features aren’t quite as polished. Technically there is no need for Apple right now to drastically shake things up in the near term, especially as it is already investing resources in more groundbreaking health research.

Advanced health features, especially emerging ones like non-invasive blood pressure and blood glucose, will take some time to be ready for consumer use. And even if they’re “done,” they’ll likely have to go through the FDA approval process. In the meantime, it’s more than likely that future Apple Watch updates will focus more on design, incremental hardware upgrades, and software updates that take advantage of existing sensors. Example: Gurman also predicted that the Series 8 would get a rugged sports version and a new entry-level model. That said, maybe we’d all be happy if Apple finally figured out how to record multi-day battery life.