Apple Watch ECG isn’t working? Here’s how to fix it

ECG isn't working on Apple Watch

Monitoring your heart health is a great feature for any fitness wearable, but what do you do if your Apple Watch ECG isn’t working?

In this article, we’ll talk about what an ECG is, why it’s helpful, and what to do if it stops working.

Suggested readings

What is an ECG? Apple Watch ECG app

First things first, ECG stands for electrocardiogram. This is a test that records the electrical impulses of your heart function.

Information from an ECG can give insights into your heart’s health by showcasing a good, normal rhythm or by detecting any irregularities that need to be addressed.

The ECG function is quite useful for a variety of reasons, but what do you do if your Apple Watch ECG isn’t working?

#1 Make sure the ECG feature is available in your country and that you are “of age”

The ECG app is not available in every country, unfortunately. This is mainly due to the fact that it is considered a medical device, and each country has its own regulations around this.

Head to Apple’s website to get a comprehensive list of countries where you can use the app.

Additionally, your country may restrict use of the ECG app to certain ages only. For example, in the US you must be 22 years or older to use the ECG app.

#2 Verify your watch model is compatible

The ECG app is not available on all Apple Watches. Double check that your Apple Watch is a Series 4 or later. At this time, Apple Watch SE models do not support ECG.

#3 Do you use your Apple Watch in standalone mode using Apple family setup? family set up Apple Watch

If you don’t use an iPhone with your watch and had a family member set it up as a standalone device using their iPhone, then the ECG app is not available for you.

Unfortunately, in standalone mode, many of the health related Apple Watch features are dependent on having a companion iPhone.

The current list of excluded health apps includes: Health data sharing, respiratory rate, irregular heart rhythm notifications, ECG, Cycle Tracking, Sleep, and Blood Oxygen.    

Once you verify that your country support Apple’s ECG function, that you use a watch model that supports it, and are not using an Apple Watch in standalone mode, move on to our next steps.

What to do when your Apple Watch ECG isn’t working

As with most technology, there is always the chance that you may find yourself in a scenario where your Apple Watch ECG isn’t working.

Below we’ve outlined some options to try in order to help resolve any issues that may arise with using the ECG app.  

Try these steps if your Apple Watch ECG isn’t working

Clean your watch’s back sensors and your skin

To get a good ECG reading, you want both your wrist and your Apple Watch to be clean and dry. Sweat, natural body oils, and even lotions can cause a poor recording.

And the obvious, remove any case you have around the watch, just to make sure it’s not your case that’s impacting the ECG app.

Keep still and hold, don’t press your finger

To take an ECG reading with your Apple Watch, you don’t want to press in the Digital Down. Using the Digital Crown to take an ECG on Apple Watch

Rather, lightly touch the crown button and make sure you keep your finger against the crown for the entire duration while your watch measures the ECG.

Some people report that they need to keep their finger toughing the digital crown for a long time before the app starts to run an ECG.

Plus, try to keep still during that reading. 

If you see the error Poor Recording, it’s generally do to two things: Poor ECG app reading on Apple Watch

  1. Not resting your arm on a stable surface, ideally a flat surface like a table.
  2. Moving too much during the actual reading.

Try another finger as ask someone else to try

If you can’t get a reading with one finger, try another. There might be something on your finger like glue or something else that’s interfering with getting a consistent signal.

If you still can’t get a solid reading, ask someone else to try it out and see if it works for them. If so, move the watch higher or lower on your wrist and arm or try using the opposite arm instead.

Try restarting both your watch and iPhone Restart by powering off Apple Watch or shut Apple Watch down

Sometimes, just turning it off and back on again does the trick. This is not a forced restart. You want to use the Slide to Power Off function on both your iPhone and watch.

Were recommend turning off your watch, then your iPhone. Once both are off, turn back on your iPhone and then your watch.

Check for iOS and watchOS updates

On the Apple Watch: Tap Settings > General > Software Update. Alternatively, use the Watch app > General > Software Update to update your watch.

Apple watch software update

To do this on your iPhone: Go to Settings > General > Software Update.

Keep your Digital Crown clean 

If your Apple Watch ECG isn’t working as accurately as it should (or at all), it may be due to difficulties with the sensor.

If the Digital Crown is being impeded by a buildup of dust or other debris, it may not be able to sense your finger when attempting to record your ECG.

Turn your watch off, then try running some warm water over the Digital Crown. Open the app again and see if cleaning it did the trick.

Delete and reinstall the ECG app

Sometimes, if your Apple Watch ECG isn’t working, you may just need to start from scratch.

To delete the ECG app from your watch Apple Watch delete the ECG app

  • If your Home screen is in list view, swipe left on the ECG app, then tap the red delete button (trash can.)
  • For grid view, go to your Home Screen. Lightly press and hold the ECG app until the delete button (x) appears. Tap the x and choose to Delete App. 
    • If you press the app too hard, choose Edit, then tap the Delete button.

To reinstall the ECG app

  1. Open the App Store app on your watch.
  2. Chose Search and say, type, or scribble in Apple ECG app or Apple ECG app utility. Apple Watch App store search for Apple ECG app
  3. If needed, scroll through the results to locate the ECG app. Make sure it is the Apple branded app. Apple Watch App Store reinstall ECG app
  4. Tap the iCloud symbol to reinstall.

Contact Apple Watch Support Get Apple to look at your Apple Watch via its support team

If all else fails, it may be time to contact Apple Support to see if they can resolve the issue.

Contact Apple Support especially if you watch is under warranty. It may be a hardware issue which needs repaired or even replaced.

How to set up and use the ECG app Apple Watch set up the ECG app

In order to use this feature, you must have an Apple Watch with the electrical heart sensor. As a reminder, this feature is available on Apple Watch Series 4 and above. 

To install the ECG app on your Apple Watch

  1. Open the Health app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap Browse > Heart > Electrocardiograms (ECG) > Set Up ECG App.
  3. Follow the steps on-screen.
  4. After this initial set up is complete, open the ECG app on your Apple Watch and take your first ECG–make sure your watch is snuggly fitting your wrist or arm.

You can take an ECG any time that you’d like, but especially if you’re feeling symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat or ongoing palpitations. Your Apple Watch may also send you an irregular rhythm notification if it detects this.

To take an ECG using your Apple Watch

  1. Wear your Apple watch snuggly on your wrist or lower part of your arm. You cannot take an ECG when the watch isn’t on your body. 
  2. Open the ECG app on your Apple Watch.
  3. Rest your arms comfortably, and with your opposite hand, hold your finger on the Digital Crown on the watch.
    1. Try to keep still while it’s reading. Don’t move too much.
  4. The recording takes 30 seconds.
  5. After recording, you receive a classification for your results where you can choose to Add Symptoms if desired then tap Save > Done.

Once saved, open the Health app to review your ECG results. ECG details in Apple Health app

Your results may give you additional information to show if your heart is beating normally, if you’re experiencing atrial fibrillation (an irregular pattern), or if it is beating slower or faster than normal.

These details can be very helpful to alert you if you should have a conversation with your physician and caregivers.

You can also share your health information including ECGs with family members and healthcare providers using Apple’s Health Sharing feature, including setting up notifications that automatically provide your family, friends, and healthcare team with your latest updates.

Want to delete an ECG recording?

You can also delete an ECG result via the Health app.

Open the Health app on your paired iPhone and choose Browse > Heart > Electrcardiograms.  Tap on the ECG you want to remove. Scroll down all the way to the bottom and select Delete Recording.

Final thoughts about what to do if your Apple Watch ECG isn’t working

Being able to monitor your heart’s health is a really nice feature, especially if you have a reason to.

Overall, most users have reported very few issues with using the ECG app. However, we hope that if you do find that your Apple Watch ECG isn’t working, we’ve given you some troubleshooting tips to try and resolve the issue.

I am an occupational therapist and kinesiologist with a long history in the health and fitness industry. Plus, I'm also an avid cyclist with a passion for writing and travel that have helped shape my interest in the fitness tech world. You can catch me in a nearby cat café planning for my next road route or bucket list destination!

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