watchOS 8 Bluetooth’s Health device discoverability feature could benefit many Apple Watch users

Connect Apple Watch directly to health device using watchOS 8

Apple showcased its new watch operating system, watchOS 8, last month during the WWDC. The company announced numerous features that plan on making it to your Apple Watch with watchOS 8.

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watch OS 8 Bluetooth Health device discovery

Among these watchOS 8 features is a less talked about feature in the Bluetooth settings section. Apple has now included a new ‘Health Devices’ feature in the Bluetooth settings. The central idea behind this new feature is to allow health devices to connect with your Apple Watch directly.

Currently, most devices that you connect with your Apple Watch require you to use your iPhone. This new feature bypasses that step and allows for automatic discovery and connection of health devices.

Although Apple did not get into the details around this new feature during the WWDC event, the implications of this change could be huge.

watchOS 7 Bluetooth vs. watch OS 8 Bluetooth connection

The core Bluetooth feature on watchOS 7 today allows for Bluetooth connection when the app is in the foreground or during a background session. This works well when a person wants to focus on an app to get information from its accessory.

However, with watchOS 7, you cannot have a complication with information from an accessory. This complication is not updated with new data until users open up the app on their Apple Watch.

Some app makers, such as Sugarmate, have designed a clever way around this by taking advantage of the calendar complication on the Apple Watch.

Thankfully, with watchOS 8 new changes, device makers can design their apps to connect their Bluetooth accessory using background app refresh. This will now enable accessory makers to update their app complications with information from their accessories.

watchOS 8 uses a Bluetooth LE (low energy) connection to communicate with the accessory.

Potential for Dexcom G7 and Apple Watch direct pairing? 

For starters, take a look at the popular Dexcom app used by many to monitor their Blood Glucose measurements. Currently, once you attach the glucose sensor to your body, the embedded transmitter on the sensor communicates with your iPhone using Bluetooth.

Health Device Dexcom requires iPhone
Today, with G6, Dexcom requires users to have their iPhone with them to display data on Apple Watch.

Users then use the Dexcom app on their Apple Watch to monitor the blood glucose readings that are piped in from their iPhones.

This could easily change in the future with the new ‘Health device’ discoverability feature in watchOS 8’s Bluetooth settings.

The new Dexcom G7 transmitter and receiver are now powered with Bluetooth 5.2 / 5.1 instead of the older Bluetooth 4.0 / 4.2 that was common in the G6 platform.Dexcom G7 and Apple Watch

If the new Dexcom G7 could communicate directly with your Apple Watch, this would be a huge relief for many diabetes users who may not be required to carry their iPhone with them when they are out and about on a short walk or a bike ride.

The same holds for other Health devices that can directly communicate with the Apple Watch. You will no longer be required to carry your iPhone all the time.

Apple and Dexcom have worked together in the past, and the Dexcom experience on Apple products is considered much better than the Android experience by many users.

We reached out to Dexcom for comments but did not hear any confirmation around how the company plans to take advantage of this new Apple Watch feature.

In Summary,

This feature is new, and health accessory makers will also need to account for power-related issues since the accessory will now draw on more power to support direct integration with the Apple Watch. 

We may hear more about this when Apple unveils its Apple Watch Series 7 in the fall. The new Health Device Bluetooth feature is supported on older Apple Watch models. Given that this feature is pretty new, we look forward to seeing if Apple announces any key health device makers that plan on offering this feature in their updated apps.

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Sudz Niel Kar
I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products, have a BS in Computer Science and an MBA specializing in emerging tech, and owned the popular site AppleToolBox. In my day job, I advise Fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health and fitness-tech evolution and keeping a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships, and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch Ultra or Samsung Galaxy Watch and closely monitor my HRV and other recovery metrics.


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