Buying an Apple Watch 4 now for EKG and AFib features may leave you heartbroken

Don't confuse announcing with shipping.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

If you paid any attention whatsoever to last week's Apple announcement event, you know that Apple's biggest announcements were the atrial fibrillation and electrocardiogram-on-your-wrist features for the Apple Watch Series 4. But if your primary reason for buying the Series 4 is its new heart health capabilities, you might want to save your Benjamins, at least for now.

Like many of you, I'm a sometimes practitioner of the quantified self. I try to measure my exercise, my sleep, my steps, my weight (although, meh), and ever since I bought my Series 2 Watch, I've obsessively checked my heart rate.

Also: Why digital health's future depends on Apple finding a cloud partner

But Apple's new heart monitoring features step up what it calls "guardianship" quite a bit. Our own Jason Perlow recently had a heart scare that might have proven fatal were he not using a beta heart monitoring application on his Apple Watch. It got me thinking. When Apple announced the Series 4, I was ready to place an order as soon as they were available.

But then I got to reading the small print. The very, very, VERY small print. As it turns out, both the electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) and AFib monitoring features will not ship with the Apple Watch Series 4.

Wait. What?

You got it. Even though these were the big features of the recent Apple event, it turns out that the ECG feature isn't available for new Series 4 buyers. At least for now. Neither is the AFib feature.

If you carefully read through Apple's Watch Series 4 health page, you'll see "ECG app coming later this year" in very tiny print:


Gotta love that small print.

Likewise, if you read about how Apple Watch is "looking out for you," you'll find that it's not. Also in very tiny print are the words, "Irregular rhythm notification coming later this year."


This, too, is not available at launch time.

Exactly when is later this year? We don't know. All we can say is that "this year" ends on December 31. Speaking personally, I'm holding off on my purchase until these features are available. My Series 2 is just fine for now.

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