Apple Watch Will Lack Key Health-Monitoring Features in April Debut

When the Apple Watch goes on sale in April, it won't include many of the health monitoring features that were promised when it was first unveiled in 2014, according to a report.

Apple Watch, smartwatches, wearables

When the Apple Watch hits the consumer market in April, the smartwatch will be missing previously touted key health-monitoring features due to problems getting the features to work and potential regulatory issues.

Instead of a state-of-the-art smartwatch with capabilities to monitor blood pressure, heart rate, stress factors and other health issues, the pending Apple Watch won't have any of those features at its debut, according to a Feb. 16 report by The Wall Street Journal.

Some of the omitted health features "didn't work reliably" while "others proved too complex," reported The Journal. "And still others could have prompted unwanted regulatory oversight," according to anonymous sources who told the newspaper that they know about the situation.

"Development languished because much of the health-sensor technology failed to meet Apple's standards," the sources told The Journal. "Apple tinkered with sensors that measured the conductivity of skin, a concept used in polygraphs to gauge stress," but the features "didn't perform consistently on some people, including those with hairy arms or dry skin. Results also varied, depending on how tightly the person wore the Watch."

Apple's experiments with ways to detect blood pressure or the amount of oxygen in the blood proved to be inconsistent, and the company worried that if it "interpreted the numbers to provide health or behavior advice, the company likely would have needed approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or other regulators," the news story reported.

While the health-monitoring features won't be in the initial version of the Apple Watch, there are still hopes to include them in future versions, the sources told The Journal.

Without those health-monitoring features, which would have brought new possibilities to the burgeoning smartwatch marketplace, "that left Apple executives struggling to define the purpose of the smartwatch and wrestling with why a consumer would need or want such a device," The Journal reported. "Their answer, for now, is a little bit of everything: displaying a fashion accessory; glancing at information nuggets more easily than reaching for a phone; buying with Apple Pay; communicating in new ways through remote taps, swapped heartbeats or drawings; and tracking daily activity."

But those features are certainly a far cry from the initial promise of the Apple Watch, which was originally touted to be a mobile health-monitoring device, a timepiece and a device connecting to a user's Apple smartphone, all in one.

Apple did not immediately reply to a Feb. 17 email inquiry from eWEEK seeking comment about the missing Apple Watch features.

Apple Watch will arrive for consumer purchases in April, which is a bit later than previous rumors that had hinted at a March release, according to earlier eWEEK reports. The April launch target was announced by Apple CEO Tim Cook on Jan. 27 as part of the company's record-breaking first-quarter 2015 earnings call, which touted $74.6 billion in revenue and $18 billion in net profits for the first fiscal quarter of 2015 due to a surge in demand for Apple's latest iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones. Cook said at that time that the development of the upcoming Watch was "right on schedule" and that his expectations regarding the wearable device "are very high."

The watch, which must be used with an iPhone to get full usability, will start at $349, though additional pricing information has not yet been announced. Apple Watch is expected to arrive in three versions: a sport version in polished or black stainless steel, a standard anodized aluminum model, and a luxury edition in rose or yellow 18-karat gold.