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Your Samsung Galaxy Watch might get a big health upgrade

 Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Press Images.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Press Images.

Samsung has just announced an update for its Galaxy Watch series that looks set to bring it in line with the likes of Fitbit and Withings later this year.

In a press release, the company revealed that the Samsung Health app will soon “detect signs of sleep apnea using a compatible Samsung Galaxy Watch and Phone” thanks to the feature finally getting approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

While this isn’t a new ambition for Samsung (the company previously received approval from South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety in October), the sign off has allowed the company to provide a vague timeline for the feature’s release in the United States. Samsung says that it will land in the third quarter of 2024 — which means at some point between July and September.

While that release date suggests it will be a launch feature on the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Watch 7, what’s less clear is which other wearables will be compatible. Samsung does say it will be “available on the Galaxy Watch series” which implies more than one model — though it’s possible that’s the company’s way of avoiding namechecking a product that doesn’t officially exist yet. We’ll have to see.

In any case, it’s a welcome new health feature. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition that prevents patients from breathing properly while asleep, which can lead to poor sleep quality and daytime fatigue if untreated. Worse, as Samsung points out, when untreated it can “compound the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias and stroke.”

The update should detect “moderate or severe forms of OSA”, allowing Galaxy Watch owners to “seek medical care to reduce the possibility of health-related complications”.

It sounds like the feature will kick in passively, requiring users to simply track their sleep twice in a 10-day period for more than four hours at a time. Samsung does say it’s limited to those over the age of 22 who have yet to receive a sleep apnea diagnosis, however.

Samsung isn’t the only company aiming to track sleep apnea from the wrist. Fitbit introduced the feature with its Ionic smartwatch in 2017, and Withings followed suit in 2020. It’s also rumored that the Apple Watch X will introduce the feature when it arrives in September.