The Apple Watch ECG feature is finally coming to Australia

Irregular heart rhythm notifications are also on their way.

The Apple Watch has always been one of (if not the) best smartwatches on the market, but if there was one thing letting it down, it was the lack of certain health features only available in other countries. Namely, the ECG feature and irregular heart rhythm notifications. While going without these features might not be a dealbreaker for some, it was certainly annoying that we Aussies were missing out. Well, after years of back-and-forth with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which finally approved these features back in February, Australians are set to get access as early as next week.

Man using the Apple Watch ECG feature

Apple’s watchOS 7.4 update is expected to drop around the same time as iOS 14.5 from April 26. According to the release notes, the update will bring support for both the ECG app and irregular heart rhythm notifications to Australian and Vietnamese users. It will also give users the ability to unlock their iPhone (X or later) while wearing a mask with their Apple Watch and to stream audio and video content from Apple Fitness+ workouts to AirPlay 2-enabled TVs and devices.

What does the ECG feature do?

ECG stands for electrocardiogram, a medical diagnostic tool used to measure electrical activity abnormalities in the heart. It can detect irregular heart rhythm, indicate blocked or narrowed arteries, show if you’ve had a previous heart attack and even determine how your heart disease treatment (e.g. pacemaker) are working.

Obviously, a wrist-based ECG isn’t going to be quite as accurate or advanced as the ECG machines found in hospitals and GP’s offices, it is still considered a medical tool (hence the need for TGA approval) and can alert the user if atrial fibrillation is detected (arrhythmia).

How do I run an Apple Watch ECG test?

Once your Apple Watch has been updated to enable the ECG feature, you’ll be able to run 30-second tests from the dedicated ECG app. First, however, you’ll need to set it up in the Health app on your iPhone. Once you’ve opened the app, click the ‘Browse’ tab at the bottom of the screen, then ‘Heart’, then ‘Electrocardiograms (ECG)’ and finally ‘Set Up’. After setup is complete, you’ll be able to run an ECG right from the app on your Apple Watch. Here’s what you need to do.

  1. Ensure your Apple Watch fits snugly and is on the left or right wrist (as chosen at setup).
  2. Open the ECG app on your Apple Watch.
  3. Rest your arms on your lap or a flat surface.
  4. Using your opposite hand, place (but don’t press) your forefinger on the Digital Crown.
  5. Hold still for 30 seconds while the reading takes place.
  6. Tap ‘save’ to note any symptoms, then tap ‘Done’.