Apple devices track your heart rate, steps, and how hard you exercise. In some cases, users said they saved their lives. Now Apple wants to make sure you don’t miss your meds.
Last Monday, during the Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple unveiled several software updates coming this fall that will change how iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and MacBook are used.
While many of these features will help Apple device owners stay organized and connected, the tech giant is also looking at new ways to get users to think about their health.
“We worked on the (Apple) Watch and realized that the watch was with you all along and thought there was a real opportunity and maybe even a moral responsibility to help people on their journey to health,” he said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, during an interview with USA TODAY. “We’re continuing to pull these threads and do more and more to empower people with information and help them lead healthier lives.”
The software updates for Apple devices will be available in public beta next month before being released worldwide in the fall. WatchOS 9 works on all Apple Watches Series 4 and later, while iOS 16 is allowed on all iPhones iPhone 8 and later.
Here’s a look at some of the new health features coming this fall.
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An app for medication
Medications is available on both WatchOS 9 for Apple Watch and iOS 16 on iPhone and allows users to keep a list of the medications they are taking.
Users can take photos of their medication with the iPhone camera, which captures the name, strength and shape and automatically adds it to the app. From there, users add details like dosage, timing, and pill shape.
iPhone and Watch owners can also set schedules and reminders to remember to take medications, as well as investigate potentially harmful interactions.
“It’s often difficult to remember when to take your medication,” said Sumbul Desai, Apple’s vice president of health. “Sometimes it’s even very difficult to know what drugs to take for and especially what interactions they might already be taking with.”
History of Atrial Fibrillation
Heart health notifications users receive on their Apple Watch include alerts for an irregular rhythm that can indicate atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that can potentially lead to conditions like stroke or heart failure.
Users will soon have the ability to track their “Afib history” to determine how often it occurs or identify lifestyle factors that may affect how often their heart has atrial fibrillation.
track sleep stages
The sleep app, which currently only tracks how many hours you’ve slept, will soon provide more details on how much time you spent in different sleep stages. You can track time spent in REM, core, and deep sleep on both iPhone and Apple Watch. The iPhone app also allows users to review their sleep patterns over time.
Of course, other apps and fitness trackers have been doing this for a long time. Williams said Apple has one of the largest sleep studies and data backed by polysomnography, a test used to study sleep, to ensure sleep stages are accurate.
“We’re not the first to deliver sleep phasing, but we’re really proud of how we’re doing sleep phasing,” Williams said.
New ways to track your workout
Fitness fans who love to run will find new ways to track their workouts. Not only do users get access to more detailed workout summaries, but they can also discover new ways to measure how they run, including the length of their strides and how much power they expend while running. Users can also check heart rate zones to quickly see how hard they are training.
Jay Blahnik, Apple’s vice president of fitness, said the Apple Watch can help accurately estimate the right heart rate zones based on age and the resting heart rate calculated by the device.
“A lot of people set up their zones, they do the calculations manually, and then they leave those zones as they were to begin with,” he said. “If you do this with the Apple Watch, they will be constantly updated every month.”
Also available: multisport workouts for triathletes, swim workout extensions, and custom workouts.
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.