COVID-19 could convince Apple to put pulse oximeter in Apple Watch

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Apple Watch Series 5 LTPO screen
An Apple Watch pulse oximeter could potentially warn of COVID-19 infections.
Screenshot: Apple

Apple Watch Series 6 will be able to take blood-oxygen readings, according to an unconfirmed report. Word of this upcoming feature has leaked before — and COVID-19 makes adding it a bit more urgent.

The source for this rumor also claims the 2020 Apple Watch will usher in numerous other new features as well.

An Apple Watch pulse oximeter in 2020

A post on Twitter by Nikias Molina claims that Apple Watch 6 will include a pulse oximeter. This measures the amount of oxygen carried by red blood cells. Some runners find this information useful, but the coronavirus pandemic brought sudden attention to the feature.

COVID-19 affects the lungs, and a drop in blood oxygen level might be used as an early warning that someone is infected. Also, people treating themselves at home could use a pulse oximeter to determine if they need to be hospitalized.

This feature might not be exclusive to Apple Watch 6. People have been pointing out for years that the Apple Watch’s existing heart rate monitor also could act as a pulse oximeter.

Molina isn’t the first to claim inside info on this topic. In March, 9to5Mac supposedly found a reference to blood oxygen saturation readings buried in iOS 14, which is expected to debut this autumn at the same time as Apple Watch Series 6.

More new Apple Watch Series 6 features

Molina’s tweet also includes a list of other enhancements coming with Apple Watch Series 6. All of these features have been in previous rumors about the wearable, but those eagerly looking forward to the next-gen smartwatch probably won’t mind a hint of confirmation.

He mentions sleep tracking. This has been an anticipated Watch feature for a very long time. In fact, some solid evidence Apple is finally planning to enable it leaked in October.

Molina’s mention of “Mental Health Abnormalities Detection” is almost certainly related to a recent leak on efforts to let Apple Watch monitor the wearer’s stress levels, and give advance warnings of panic attacks. That feature supposedly isn’t coming for years, though.

Predictions that Apple Watch Series 6 will bring better performance began last year. That’s after Series 5 was released with the same CPU as its predecessor, making it no faster. The S6 chip mentioned by Molina supposedly will give the wearable a bump in speed.