ABC News, September 13, 2018
Michael Liedtke, AP Technology Writer

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[...] Apple CEO Tim Cook has long aimed to emphasize the health- and fitness-tracking abilities of the smartwatch. The original version featured a heart-rate sensor that fed data into fitness and workout apps so they could suggest new goals and offer digital "rewards" for fitness accomplishments.

Two years later, Apple called its watch "the ultimate device for a healthy life," emphasizing water resistance for swimmers and built-in GPS for tracking runs or cycling workouts. In February, the company announced that the watch would track skiing and snowboarding runs , including data on speed and vertical descent.

The latest Apple Watch version unveiled Wednesday is pushing the health envelope even further — in particular by taking electrocardiograms, or EKGs, on the device, a feature given clearance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Apple said. The watch will also watch for irregular heartbeats and can detect when the wearer has fallen, the company said.

EKGs are important tests of heart health that typically require a doctor visit. The feature gained an onstage endorsement from Ivor Benjamin, a cardiologist who heads the American Heart Association, who said such real-time data would change the way doctors work.

"This is enormous," Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen said of the Apple Watch's EKG feature. It could turn smartwatches "from something people buy for prestige into something they buy for more practical reasons," he said.

It could also lead some health insurance plans to subsidize the cost of an Apple Watch, Nguyen said. [...]

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