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 3 watches that should do the job. In this article, I will explain why the Apple Watch 5 is currently your best bet and what are the possible alternatives.
Best Smartwatch for AFIB (Top 3 Reviewed)
Apple Watch 5
Picking the best smartwatch to detect AFib was pretty much straight-forward. Why? Because at this moment in time, Apple Watch is the only smartwatch in the US to have received the 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. From 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 both in the Apple Watch 5, as well as the predecessor – 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 5 or 4 as the KardiaBand itself costs around $200.
More About Apple Watch 5
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 5 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 5 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.
If you have owned an Apple Watch before, you will embrace the fact that Series 5 is the first to enable the AOD (Always-On Display) mode. Apple users were crying out for it for years – and it has finally arrived. 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, unless you plan scuba diving, should be enough to protect against any damage.
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.
Withings Move ECG
If the Apple Watch is asking too much of your budget, then the Move ECG smartwatch by Withings is a great alternative to consider. In fact, this model is the first-ever hybrid smartwatch that allows users to take clinical-grade HR readings, allowing for the detection of AFib.
It’s hard to argue that the model is a low-risk purchase. At the same time, it’s worth mentioning that the smartwatch is still awaiting FDA clearance in the US after being given the go-ahead in Europe. According to Withings’ official website, it’s imminent. The version of the watch without the ECG feature is already available for purchase on Amazon. As soon as the FDA approval arrives, I will update the article with the ECG model of the watch.
More about Withings Move ECG
While we still have to wait a bit for it to officially take on Apple Watch in the race to become the best ECG smartwatch in the US, let’s have a look at what else this unique device has to offer.
Being a hybrid smartwatch, on the outside, it hardly resembles an actual smartwatch – which many will find appealing. The combination of the 38mm stainless steel case and a silicone band is solid. At the same time, I have some reservations about the plastic glass but I guess, at the price quoted, it’s hard to complain. Unlike the Apple Watch, the Withings model doesn’t offer interchangeable bands meaning that the classic all-black design will have to suffice.
The analog-style watch face is accompanied by a step-counter in the form of a sub-dial. Unlike other smart watches on this list, Withings Move ECG doesn’t show you any notifications, nor does it let you perform any sophisticated actions from the dial. All the health and fitness-related stats, including GPS, sleep quality and AFfib data, can be viewed on your smartphone. The good news is that it works perfectly well both with iPhones and Android mobiles.
The watch is water-resistant up to 50m, meaning you can easily take it for a swim. As far as battery life is concerned, you won’t have to worry about charging it like a regular smartwatch. Like most standard wristwatches, it’s powered by a button cell battery that should make sure of at least a year of hassle-free use.
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
The Galaxy Active 2 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. Similarly to the Withings model, the ECG feature of the watch is still pending approval from the FDA. The AFib-detecting app has been lately given the green light in Asia, and according to Samsung, the US will follow soon.
More About Samsung Galaxy Active 2
Just like the Apple product, the Galaxy Active 2 smartwatch gives you a free hand when it comes to how it looks on you.
Depending on your wrist size, you can select a 40mm or 44mm case. The former is made from aluminum whereas the latter is stainless steel. 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 silicone).
The AMOLED screen is made from Cornin Gorilla Glass DX+ which is a fairly durable material for a smartwatch. Naturally, it allows for the Always-On Display mode that so many smartwatch users crave for. Unlike the hybrid Withings model, Galaxy Active 2 presents a rather classic, fully smartwatch-like look. That’s why 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. Sleep tracker present in the previous two models is available with this one, too, as is the GPS that helps you track your fitness endeavors outside.
Galaxy Watch Active 2 is run by WearOS operating system, meaning it’s compatible both with Android smartphones and iOS devices. In fact, it’s one of few Android-operated smartwatches that can also answer and make calls when connected to an iPhone. 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 2 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 24 hours with most of the apps (including AOD) enabled. 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, the watch is suitable for recreational swimming sessions thanks to its 50m water-resistance.
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 and as of now, they are the only series to have been approved for use by the FDA. If Withings and Samsung are to be believed, we should expect both to get the green light in Q2 or Q3 of 2020.
Although it didn’t make my list of best smartwatches for AFib, Fitbit is a brand that provides more food for thought. In 2020, they have launched a massive study on the ECG features available in their watches (ie. Fitbit Versa or Fitbit Charge 3). Although there’s no Fitbit that detects AFIB itself yet, the company uses a third-party app called Fibricheck that has already become a huge hit in Europe. As of now, Fitbit waits for FDA to approve the software for use in the US.
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.