Apple had originally intended for the upcoming Apple Watch to have a much stronger focus on health-related features, a new report by The Wall Street Journal reveals. Seemingly confirming early rumors, the report notes that Apple had wanted to position the Apple Watch as a “state-of-the-art health-monitoring device” that would be able to monitor blood pressure, heart activity, stress levels, and more. In the end, however, Apple found that such features either didn’t work reliably, proved too complex, or could have possibly resulted in “unwanted regulatory oversight.”
Apple reportedly began developing the Apple Watch four years ago as a device almost entirely focused on health and fitness. While it’s not uncommon for Apple to experiment and research different products and technologies, the report notes that the watch was “especially challenging” and in fact became known internally as a “black hole” project, sucking in company resources. Among other things, Apple experimented with sensors designed to measure skin conductivity, which showed promise for heart rate and stress monitoring, as well as ways to detect blood pressure and blood oxygen levels. However, these and other health sensor technologies available at the time reportedly failed to meet Apple’s standards and produced inconsistent results. The sensor data varied widely on different people due to things like skin conditions, body hair, and how tightly a person wore the watch. There were also concerns that if Apple interpreted the numbers to provide health or behavioral advice, the company may have needed FDA or other regulatory approval to be able to sell the Apple Watch. In the end, Apple had to settle for the more basic pulse-rate monitoring feature. Sources familiar with the matter, however, have noted that even though these features have been shelved for the initial Apple Watch release, it would seem Apple has not given up on them entirely and they may find their way into future models.