During the last few years, there’s been a huge spike in wearables that can accurately monitor your heart rate. Most of these, though, give you just the superficial data and are unlikely to act as a catalyst for discovering (or monitoring) any serious health conditions, like Atrial Fibrillation.
While looking for the best smartwatch for AFib, I was a bit surprised at the lack of options. Nevertheless, I’ve managed to come up with three watches that will do the job. In this article, I will explain why the Apple Watch 6 is currently your best bet and what are the possible alternatives.
Best Smartwatch for AFib (Top 3 Reviewed)
Apple Watch 6
Picking the best smartwatch to detect AFib was pretty much straight-forward. Why? Because at this moment in time, Apple Watch is one of just three smartwatches in the US that have received FDA approval regarding its AFib-detecting feature.
Furthermore, the reliability of the Apple Watch in terms of successfully detecting and monitoring atrial fibrillation is research-backed. As many as 419,297 people participated in a study by doctor Marco V. Perez from Stanford University in California. All the participants had never been detected with AFib prior to the study. If an irregular pulse notification popped up on the smartwatch during what was described as typical use, a telemedicine visit was initiated. After that, an ECG (electrocardiography) patch was sent to the participant to try and identify atrial fibrillation.
During nearly 4 months of monitoring, 0.52% of participants were notified of an irregular pulse that might have been linked to AFib. Of 450 that returned the ECG patches, as many as 35% of them were confirmed to be AFib patients. In another test of 600 participants, the smartwatch detected the sinus rhythm classification with an accuracy of 99.6% whereas precision for AFIB classification was 98.3%.
Whereas Apple themselves suggest the watch might not always be able to correctly signal for AFIB, the above results are yet to be bettered by any other smartwatch currently on the market.
The ECG app is available in the Apple Watch 6, as well as two predecessors – Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch Series 4. To be able to use the ECG feature in older releases (Series 3, Series 2 and Series 1), you will have to additionally purchase a device called KardiaBand. If you are looking for a wearable AFib monitor, it’s a much better deal to simply purchase Series 6, 5 or 4 as the KardiaBand itself costs around $200.
More About Apple Watch 6
Since we have already settled what is the best smartwatch for heart arrhythmia, it’s worth telling you more about the latest release by Apple. Series 6 is considered to be the most feature-rich smartwatch on the market and it’s hard to argue that it does live up to the hype.
Let’s start from the exterior. The great thing about Apple Watches is that its design is so customizable. It doesn’t matter if you prefer an elegant or sports look of your watch – you can do both in this case. A huge selection of different bands, loops, and watch cases will make sure the watch perfectly matches your style. Many people buy different straps for different occasions (me included).
Apart from being a great AFib detection device, Apple Watch 6 comes with a plethora of other apps that can help you monitor your health. One of these is definitely the sleep tracker that gives you a great insight into your night’s rest. If you are physically active, there are tons of different apps to track your fitness progress as well. The GPS feature helps you track data such as distance traveled, average pace and calories burned.
When comparing Series 5 and Series 6, probably the most standout feature in the latest Apple release is the Blood Oxygen sensor. The app accurately measures the oxygen saturation of the user’s blood, further boosting the understanding of their overall wellness. Oxygen saturation represents the percentage of oxygen being carried by red blood cells from the lungs to the rest of the body.
If you have owned an Apple Watch before, you will embrace the fact that Series 6 enables the AOD (Always-On Display) mode. Apple users were crying out for it for years – and it has finally arrived with Series 5. No more awkward wrist movements to check the time.
Furthermore, if you decide to buy the GPS + Cellular version of the watch (listed in this article), you will be able to use it as a standalone device. This allows you to stay in touch with the world 24/7 even without your smartphone at hand. Last but not least, the model boasts a 50m water resistance which protects it from damage during occasional splashes.
Perhaps the only noticeable drawback of Apple Watches is that they are not compatible with Android devices. Some people think that 18h-24h battery life could be better, too.
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 3
The Galaxy Active 3 smartwatch is one I fancy the most looks-wise. It’s also the most suitable option on the list if you own an Android smartphone. Most importantly, after months of waiting, in September 2020 the brand received FDA clearance for its ECG monitor app. The said application is available in both the Galaxy Watch 3 model and the predecessor, Samsung Galaxy Active 2.
More About Samsung Galaxy Active 3
Just like the Apple product, the Galaxy Active 3 smartwatch gives you a free hand when it comes to how it looks on you.
Depending on your wrist size, you can select a 41mm or 45mm case. This is just my opinion but I think smaller cases look better on slender wrists whereas the bigger ones suit people with large ones more.
There’s also a vast selection of watch bands. Not only can you pick from different colors but also from different materials (ie. leather or stainless steel). The version of the watch you see here comes with a leather strap and a stainless steel case but there’s also a titanium variation available.
The AMOLED screen is made from Corning Gorilla Glass DX which is one of the most durable materials available for smartwatches at the moment. Apart from being tough to break, it provides superior optical clarity and sunlight readability.
Naturally, it Galaxy Watch 3 allows for the Always-On Display mode that so many smartwatch users crave for. The screen will display any data you wish for – from date to weather to step counter. Naturally, any notifications you enable will also be available for view from your wrist.
Apart from being a great wearable AFib detector, the smartwatch comes with many other neat features. The sleep tracker present in the Apple Watch is available with this one, too, as is the GPS feature that helps you track your fitness endeavors outside.
Similar to the new Apple release, Samsung Galaxy Active 3 allows the user to track blood oxygen levels – a feature not available in the predecessor. Another new addition is the fall detection app, useful especially for seniors and their carers.
Galaxy Watch Active 3 is run by WearOS operating system, meaning it’s compatible both with Android smartphones and iOS devices. Nevertheless, to explore the full potential of this awesome watch, it’s recommended to use it with an Android phone.
Just like in the case of the Apple Watch, Galaxy Active 3 model can function as a standalone device. Thanks to the support for LTE, you can leave your phone at home and still enjoy most of its essential functions from your wrist.
Battery-wise, you can expect the watch to run for about 2 days with most of the apps (including AOD) enabled. That’s a considerable improvement on the predecessor, Galaxy Watch 2, which could stay alive for around 24 hours at best. With more efficient use, the smartwatch can last even for up to 4 days. In both cases, the battery life is more impressive than in the Apple model.
Last but not least, thanks to its 50m water-resistance, the watch is suitable for occasional splashes of water (ie. rain, shower or hand-washing).
Priced out of buying any of the two models above? Fitbit Sense comes to the rescue. Granted, the smartwatch doesn’t come at a bargain-basement price. But it will still set you back considerably less than the newest releases from Apple and Samsung.
After the release of Fitbit Sense in September 2020, the brand has secured the long-awaited FDA approval for the ECG feature. Currently, Sense is the most advanced smart wearable released by the American company.
More About Fitbit Sense
Whereas the list of possible design variations with the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Active is pretty much endless, currently Fitbit’s latest release is available in two standard colors – black and white.
There’s no option to choose between different case sizes, either. Fitbit Sense case measures 40,5mm in diameter. Still, it’s perfectly suitable for all wrist sizes.
When it comes to bands, there are two different sizes available – S and L. The small one, dedicated to those with slender wrists, measures 140-180mm. The large size can fit a wrist with a diameter of up to 221mm. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to pick from different strap materials and the only one available is silicone.
Similar to the Apple and Samsung products, Fitbit Senses uses an AMOLED screen, made from Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Durability-wise, it’s very similar to what’s on offer with the Apple Watch and Galaxy Active 3.
Naturally, the AOD display mode is available. There’s a wide range of alerts you might wish to be notified about, such as text messages, emails, or social media updates.
On top of the fully capable ECG app, Fitbit Sense comes with a plethora of other features – many of which weren’t available in the preceding model, Fitbit Versa 3.
Apps-wise, the three most important improvements on the previous Fitbit releases are:
- Skin temperature checks
- EDA sensor – measures the stress levels in your body
- High and low heart rate alerts
Whereas the device is able to measure the blood oxygen levels (SpO2), the measurement takes place only once every 24 hours – once you’re asleep. Being perfectly honest, it’s much of an insight.
Crucially, Fitbit Sense is compatible with both iOS and Android smartphones. Just like Galaxy Active 3, it’s powered by WearOS. Along with the Galaxy model, it’s one of the Android-operated smartwatches that can answer and make calls when connected to an iPhone.
Unfortunately, Fitbit Sense doesn’t offer the LTE/cellular support which is available in both the Apple Watch 6 and Galaxy Active 3. To make use of all the perks it comes with, you will have to stay connected to your smartphone.
When it comes to the battery, Fitbit Sense has a strong upper hand on the previous two picks. The smartwatch can last at least 6 days on a single charge. It’s also equipped with a fast-charging module that can fully recharge the battery in just 12 minutes.
There are no surprises on the water-proofing front. Like in the case of two other AFib smartwatches, the water-resistance rating of this one is also rated at 50m.
Is There Any Other Smartwatch That Detects AFib?
As you can see, the choice of watches that detect AFIB, at least at this moment in time, is not that big.
Apple Watches have been the first to introduce ECG apps that can help detect AFib. Slowly but surely, though, more brands join the list of being approved by the FDA – as proven by the Samsung Galaxy 3 and Fitbit Sense. For sure, we can expect the number of wearables with a proper ECG feature to grow considerably in 2021.
Although not as popular as Apple or Samsung, Fitbit is a brand that provides more food for thought. In 2020, they launched a massive study on the ECG features available in their watches (ie. Fitbit Versa or Fitbit Charge 3). While these two smartwatches don’t detect AFib on their own, they use a third-party app called Fibricheck that has the capability to do so.
AFib Smartwatch a Helpful Tool – Not a Substitute
Whereas the heart rate monitor feature in smartwatches is absolutely fine for fitness dorks to track their activity levels while working out or going through the day, not all HR sensors display precise data. And that’s where things can get tricky, especially for people who have been diagnosed with a heart condition or there’s a strong suspicion they might have one.
If you belong to any of these two groups and would like to keep track of your wellbeing in more convenient ways than by manually checking your pulse, using a stethoscope or Holter monitor, then getting the right smartwatch sounds like a plan.
At the same time, it’s wise not to treat even the best wearable AFib monitors as full-on substitutes. We must remember that, even though most of the time they do provide reliable data, they are not medical equipment. If you’ve been diagnosed with AFib or showing symptoms, make sure to be in touch with a cardiologist.