Apple devices track your heart rate, your steps, and how hard you work out. In some cases, users said they saved their lives. Now Apple wants to make sure you do not skip your medications.
Last Monday, during the Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple detailed several software updates coming this fall changing how you use an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and MacBook.
While many of those features will help Apple device owners stay organized and in touch, the tech giant is also looking at new ways to get users thinking about their health.
“We were working on the (Apple) Watch and realized the watch was with you all the time, and thought there’s a real opportunity and maybe even a moral responsibility to help people on their journey on health,” said Apple chief operating officer Jeff Williams during an interview with USA TODAY. “We continue to pull on those threads and are doing more and more in the area of empowering people with information and helping them live a healthier life.”
The software updates for Apple devices will be available in public beta next month before releasing globally in the fall. WatchOS 9 will work on all Apple Watches dating back to the Series 4, while iOS 16 is eligible on all iPhones going back to iPhone 8.
Here’s a look at some of the new health features coming this fall.
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An app for medications
Available on both WatchOS 9 for Apple Watch and iOS 16 on the iPhone, Medications allows users to maintain a list of the medications they take.
Users can snap photos of their medication using the iPhone camera, which captures the name, strength and form and automatically adds it to the app. From there, users add details such as dosage, timing and pill shape.
iPhone and watch owners can also set schedules and reminders to remember to take medications, as well as study any potentially harmful interactions.
“It’s often hard to remember when to take your medications,” said Sumbul Desai, Apple’s vice president of health. “Sometimes it’s even really difficult about knowing what medications to take for and, in particular, what they may be interacting with that you may already be taking.”
Atrial fibrillation history
Among heart health notifications users receive on their Apple Watch are alerts for an irregular rhythm, which may suggest atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that can potentially lead to conditions like stroke or heart failure.
Users will soon have the option to track their “Afib history” to identify how often it happens or spot lifestyle factors that may influence how often their heart is in atrial fibrillation.
Tracking stages of sleep
The Sleep app, which currently just tracks how many hours you slept, will soon provide more detail about how much time you spent in different stages of sleep. On both iPhone and Apple Watch, you can track time spent in REM, Core and Deep sleep. On the iPhone app, users can also check their sleep patterns over time.
Of course, other apps and fitness trackers have been doing this for a while. Williams said Apple had one of the largest sleep studies and data backed by polysomnography, a test used to study sleep, to help make sure sleep stages is precise.
“We aren’t the first ones to deliver sleep stages, but we’re really proud of how we are doing sleep stages,” Williams said.
New ways to track your workout
Fitness buffs who love to run will find new ways to track workouts. Not only will users gain access to more detailed summaries of workouts but can discover new ways to measure how they run, including the length of their strides and how much power they use when running. Users can also review heart rate zones to quickly see how hard they’re working out.
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 sort of leave those zones the same as they were right from the very beginning,” he said. “Doing this with Apple Watch, they will constantly update every month.”
Also available: multisport workouts for triathletes, enhancements for swimming workouts, and customized workouts.
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @ brettmolina23.