The Android fan and multi-platform user that I am is takes a back seat every time Apple announces a new product or software upgrade. After thinking about it for a few hours, sometimes days, I wonder what it would be like if I could give up my Pixel 6 Pro, Galaxy Watch 4 and Nothing Ear (1) buds and ditch my Pixelbook laptop, Xiaomi Android television, Nest speakers and Pixelbook laptop. I already have the iMac, iPad and other tools to make things happen. It would be so easy and seamless to join a unified ecosystem. My jealousy gradually dissipates when I remember how much iOS is not my daily driver and how boring it would be to use a single brand.
This time, though, I reckon there will be lingering envy, and it’s all because of the Apple Watch Series 8‘s new temperature sensor and the way Apple is using it to track female health.
Apple isn’t the first wearable maker to integrate a temperature sensor. The hardware is already in use by the Galaxy Watch 5, Oura Ring 3, and Fitbit Sense 2 (both newer versions), as well as older Fitbit Sense and Sense 2. However, Samsung isn’t doing anything with the sensor yet. Fitbit uses it to log your night-time temperature but doesn’t do anything with the data beyond that. Oura is the only company that uses it to monitor the cyclical temperature changes in female bodies each month.
The temperature sensors on Fitbit and Samsung wearables are already available, but they cannot be used for cycle tracking.
Apple is following Oura’s steps in making sure the temperature sensor is useful for anyone who wants to track their periods. And it’s doing it at a population scale that will far surpass Oura in mere months.
Apple Watch users will be able to view a graph showing their temperature over the days. This will allow them to make more accurate predictions about their period and provide retrospective notifications about when the most likely time for ovulation. All of this in a private, “you choose who sees your data,” implementation.
We still don’t know how well all of these features will work, but on paper, they’re all incredibly intriguing. As a woman, as well as a pharmacist, I found these features fascinating as I spent 10 years helping women with their period tracking, ovulation, and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
There has been no way to monitor what our female bodies are doing every day. Apple is making this information accessible to all.
I couldn’t tell you how many times I grabbed a calendar and tried to explain how cycles work to a woman who was fearing an unwanted pregnancy (or hoping to conceive), or how many consults I gave to women who were confused by PCOS-caused irregular cycles. I’ve recommended period trackers — specifically Clue — hundreds of times, and hoped that my patients would follow through on manually tracking their periods. However, unlike prescription medicine, I could not control the patient’s compliance.
If a gadget as widespread as the Apple Watch can automate part of the tracking, democratize this knowledge, and make sure everyone with female anatomy is more aware of what their body is doing and when, then it’s an indisputable win.
A few months back, I went through an irregular cycle that caused my hormones to go off the rails, and made me feel like I had no control over what was happening in my body. It was difficult to quantify and verify the state of my body’s disarray. No graph to look at and analyze, “Here, things are clearly not right, so better be ready for a few days/weeks of helpless hormonal turmoil.”
It doesn’t matter that Apple did this (more than once) before me; all that matters is that it has been done.
As a woman and a pharmacist, I don’t care that Apple is doing this (more or less) first; I just care that it’s been done. As a Pixel user, I’m very envious of iPhone users and I sure hope that the wearables on our side of the ecosystem divide will soon catch up.
Fitbit and Samsung are easy targets. Both have the hardware and Fitbit has years of data from its Sense range-up. Both of them should use this data for female health as soon as possible — after validating it in studies, of course. My Apple envy will linger in the background until then.