Watch out Apple – Garmin is about to borrow one of your best features

Man checking sports watch while running in wood
(Image credit: Getty)

A new leak suggests that higher-end Garmin watches will soon get a bundle of new health-tracking features, including one that's one of the Apple Watch's key selling points since 2018.

The info comes via the anonymous author of the5krunner (opens in new tab), who has proven reliable in the past when it comes to upcoming Garmin tech. Several new wellbeing tools are apparently in the works, the most interesting which is a new electrocardiogram (ECG) app, which will detect signs of atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart rhythm). This is a feature already present in many other smartwatches, but it's been a long time coming for Garmin.

Back in 2021, Garmin launched a clinical trial (opens in new tab) for its own ECG software, to ensure that it could detect and differentiate between atrial fibrillation and normal sinus rhythm. The study found that results from the software agreed with a doctor's interpretation of the results measured using a gold standard 12-lead ECG – a resounding success.

Things then went quiet until January 2022, when Garmin launched the Venu 2 Plus. As DC Rainmaker (opens in new tab) explains, the watch didn't allow users to monitor their heart rhythm at launch, but its software did include a tool for running diagnostics on the watch's ECG sensor. 

Now, it seems that sensor is finally about to be unlocked. According to the5krunner's source, higher-end Garmin watches (which may include the Fenix 7 and Enduro 2) will soon be able to detect signs of atrial fibrillation. The watch itself won't be able to diagnose a condition, but if it gives an alert, you may choose to have it investigated by a doctor.

The leak suggests that the ECG function will require you to place two fingers on your watch's metal bezel, and wait quietly while it takes a reading. This rules out watches in the Instinct series, including the newly released Garmin Instinct Crossover, which have resin bezels.

SpO2 alerts and more

The new leak claims that your Garmin watch will also be able to give you low SpO2 alerts, which warn you if your blood oxygen saturation drops particularly low during the night. Most Garmin watches released in recent years have an SpO2 sensor, so this could come to many more devices than the ECG app. Again, this might be nothing, or may be a sign of a condition like sleep apnea, which is worth investigation from a physician.

The5krunner's source suggests that you'll also be able to tweak the intensity of workouts partway through using your watch's touchscreen, so you can push yourself harder or dial it back without restarting.

You may also be able to create a full backup of your device, including stored data and settings, and restore it at a later date, which will be useful when you upgrade your watch or if you need to carry out a factory reset for any reason.

This all sounds very interesting, and we look forward to learning more. We're keeping our ear to the ground and will bring you more details as soon as they emerge.

Cat Ellis
Editor

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).