If you’ve been hoping for more interesting updates with the Apple Watch Series 8, you may have to start tempering expectations. While it was initially thought that the next-gen watch would have a body temperature sensor, it seems that it doesn’t after all.
A body temperature sensor for the 8 Series has been the subject of a lot of rumors for some time now. Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman – who has a pretty good track record when it comes to Apple rumors – initially hinted that a body temperature sensor was coming in June. This was picked up by the the Wall Street newspaper in September for a potential fertility characteristic. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also predicted a body temperature sensor that same month. Overall, there were several good reasons to believe this was in the works.
However, in his last Light up newsletter, Gurman backed out. Speaking of the Series 8’s potential for body temperature sensing, blood sugar monitoring, and blood pressure capabilities, Gurman wrote, “Don’t expect all of this anytime soon, though. Body temperature was on this year’s roadmap, but discussions about it have recently slowed down. Blood pressure is at least two or three years away, so I wouldn’t be surprised if blood sugar monitoring didn’t hit until later in the second half of the decade. “
For blood pressure and blood sugar, this makes a lot of sense. While there have been a lot of advancements in non-invasive, cuff-less blood pressure monitoring in portable devices, the technology just isn’t here yet. The same goes for monitoring blood sugar. While the feature was prevalent for the Series 7 and in Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4, it never materialized. The technology exists in a nascent form – a prototype from Japanese startup Quantum Operation was shown at CES 2021 – but it’s far from ready for consumer devices. Of the speculated features, body temperature sensors seemed the most likely as they are already available in several other consumer wearable devices, including those from competitors like Fitbit. In fact, body temperature sensors in wearable devices gained a lot of attention in 2020, when researchers used them to try to determine if smartwatches could detect COVID-19.
Currently, body temperature sensors are primarily used for monitoring sleep and recovery, although portable fertility devices like Ava can integrate them as well. While Apple has added sleep and period tracking in recent years, it’s simpler. Adding a body temperature sensor would potentially help improve these particular features, especially if the company is considering adding fertility-related features, as noted by The Wall Street Journal. However, Apple has been known to sit on features that other device makers have already implemented until it is happy with its own version.
“Slowing down chatter,” as Gurman puts it, does not mean that a body temperature function is completely dead. However, that brings up another point: It might be unrealistic to expect Apple to introduce a revolutionary and industry-leading new feature on its smartwatch every year. It is true that since Series 3, Apple has been ahead of the competition when it comes to advanced smartwatch capabilities. Series 3 introduced cellular, Series 4 changed the design and added FDA approved ECGs, Series 5 added an always-on display, and Series 6 added a SpO2 (blood oxygen) sensor. However, the additions have been less interesting from the 6 Series onwards. Not only have SpO2 sensors been installed on smartwatches since 2017, but the 7 Series marquee feature was just a bigger screen as well.
The Apple Watch is the most popular smartwatch on the market today and Apple is ahead of 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 better battery life, but they both lag behind in smart features like cellular connectivity. Samsung comes the closest, but many of its health and fitness features aren’t as sophisticated. Technically speaking, there is no need for Apple right now to shake things up significantly in the short term – especially since it is already investing resources in more groundbreaking health research.
Advanced health features, especially nascent ones like non-invasive blood pressure and blood sugar, will take some time to be ready for consumers to use. And even when they are “ready”, they will likely have to go through the FDA clearance 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 use existing sensors. Case in point: Gurman also predicted that the 8 Series would see a rugged sports version and a new entry-level model. That said, maybe we would all settle down if Apple could finally figure out how to include multi-day battery life.