Samsung gets FDA clearance for irregular heart rhythm notifications

The feature should eventually be available on the Galaxy Watch 5 (left) and Watch 4 (middle and right) lineups. | Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Samsung announced today that it received clearance from the Food and Drug Administration for a forthcoming irregular heart rhythm notification feature for its Galaxy Watches. This is meant to work alongside its FDA-cleared EKG feature and first arrive on its upcoming Galaxy Watch 6.

Functionally, it’s more similar to Fitbit’s passive AFib monitoring feature that was introduced last year than the EKG spot-checks Apple introduced with the Series 4 in 2018. Unlike the EKG measurements, these irregular heart rhythm notifications don’t require the user to do anything. Once enabled, the Galaxy Watch will monitor for irregular heart rate rhythms in the background and will only alert users once a certain number of consecutive measurements are found to be irregular. Those users will then be prompted to take an EKG.

The feature will be part of the forthcoming One UI 5 Watch update, which Samsung first announced late last week. In its press release, Samsung says that it’ll come “first to the upcoming Galaxy Watch devices later this year” before expanding to previous editions — presumably the Galaxy Watch 4 and 5 lineups. Samsung plans to open up a One UI 5 Watch beta later this month to existing Galaxy Watch 4 and 5 users, but it’s unclear whether this will be included as part of the beta. The Verge reached out to Samsung for clarification but didn’t immediately receive a response.

Overall, the new feature slots nicely into Samsung’s goal to position the Galaxy Watch devices as more holistic health tools. That said, it’s clear that Samsung is still playing a bit of catch-up.

Most of the One UI 5 Watch updates — like personalized heart rate zones and improved emergency SOS — are attempts to close the gap with other smartwatch makers. The same holds true here. As mentioned, Fitbit introduced a similar feature last year. Apple also introduced an FDA-cleared AFib History feature with watchOS 9, which allows people with irregular heart rate rhythms to track the amount of time they spend in AFib.

It’s not surprising to see Samsung hype up its tech right now. The pressure is on. The Pixel Watch has been selling like hotcakes, to the point where it’s No. 2 in the market, and the Pixel Fold will likely only add to that pressure. Although Wear OS 3 has had a rocky start, we’ll likely hear some updates about the platform at Google I/O this week. The Android smartwatch space hasn’t been this compelling in a while. Seems like now is as good a time as any to subtly remind folks that the next-gen Galaxy Watches are on the horizon.

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