Apple Watch leads in bringing beneficial health monitoring features to market, but there’s one feature Samsung’s newest smart watch promises that we haven’t seen from Apple yet. Samsung’s newly unveiled Galaxy Watch Active will be able to measure blood pressure in a future update.

Samsung isn’t sharing many specifics about blood pressure tracking on its latest Galaxy Watch Active yet. Just that the feature is coming later next month through a research app called My BP Lab backed by UCSF:

New to the Galaxy wearable line, Galaxy Watch Active puts smarter blood pressure tracking on your wrist. Starting March 15, users can download My BP Lab, the research app jointly developed with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), directly to Galaxy Watch Active to monitor blood pressure and keep better track of their physical health every day.

Samsung adds that blood pressure tracking will be launched in five countries: U.S., U.K., Canada, Singapore, Australia, and Germany.

Samsung doesn’t mention the feature on its product page for the new Galaxy Watch Active, only in the press release, but a version of the My BP Lab app that’s already available might tell us more about how the feature works.

The phone version of the app uses an optical sensor (camera) to take measurements, but a traditional blood pressure cuff is still needed to ‘calibrate’ the sensor. It only tracks changes over time without an initial calibration. From the smartphone version of the app’s description:

Note, the optical sensor needs one blood pressure measurement from an external blood pressure cuff in order to ‘calibrate’ the sensor. If you do not have a blood pressure cuff, that’s okay! You can still use My BP Lab to track your percentage change in blood pressure from your baseline measurement instead of showing blood pressure values.

Tech specs for Samsung’s new watch don’t mention any new hardware beyond the heart rate monitor so it’s possible the same limitations will apply — or maybe the watch will work in another way? We’ll see next month.

It’s too early to judge the quality of Samsung’s blood pressure monitoring feature on its latest watch, but it’s probably only a matter of time before we see a similar feature on the Apple Watch if the measurement method is actually reliable.

Apple Watch Series 4 introduced a major new heart monitoring benefit with its built-in electrocardiogram feature in the U.S. and fall detection around the world. Apple Watch also detects low heart rates and high heart rates that can be signs of heart conditions.

Want to measure blood pressure with your Apple Watch or iPhone today? Bluetooth blood pressure cuffs from Qardio and Omron (this is the model I use) can pair as health devices and share data with Apple’s Health app.


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