The Apple Watch 4 could finally allow for third-party watch faces

Code discovered in the most recent version of watchOS has suggested that Apple is preparing to allow developers to make their own watch faces.

The code, which was first spotted by 9to5Mac, was discovered in the most recent developer build of the software, version 4.3.1, reads: “This is where the 3rd party face config bundle generation would happen”.

This strongly suggests that third-party developers will soon be able to configure their own third-party watch faces, leading to a potential explosion in the amount of options available to users.

However, it’s currently unclear when this functionality might arrive or what form it will take. It could come as an update to the existing Apple Watch 3, or it could come in an all new Apple Watch 4. watchOS 5 is expected to be unveiled at WWDC 2018 in June.

Medical grade monitoring tech

Third-party watch faces aren’t the only thing getting people excited about the Apple Watch 4. The new wearable could also have medical-grade monitoring tech to identify abnormalities with a wearer’s heart before they escalate into serious problems.

Apple’s wearable has been increasingly tightening its squeeze on the wearables market, moving 18 million units in 2017 for a year-on-year increase of 50%. Such news is surely going to make the Cupertino company happy.

While the Apple Watch Series 3 is already loaded with some solid heart monitoring technology, and has been credited with saving people’s lives by detecting heart defects such as pulmonary embolisms, the data it collects can’t meet medical certification for more in-depth heart monitoring such as those found with electrocardiograms. These are commonly known as EKG or ECG tests, carried out by clinicians.

However, according to a report by Bloomberg, Apple is working on putting EKG-grade sensor tech into its future smartwatches.

The next-generation Apple Watch could perform EKG tests by having a wearer squeeze the watch body from which minor electric currents will be fired up the person’s arm and chest to the heart; working much in the same way as sensors placed on the skin in current EKG tests.

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The data gathered could then be used by doctors to gain more insight into their patient’s heart health without the need to carry out their own EKG testing, and potentially allow for heart problems to be tackled a lot earlier.

Such a feature could further bolster the potential for the Apple Watch to save lives rather than just be a fancy smartwatch for iPhone fans.

Of course, Apple will need medical approval for such technology which can take some time, so such EKG sensors may not be developed in time for the next Apple Watch.

But it’s worth noting that medical firm AliveCor has the KardiaBand, a medically certified Apple Watch band which can collect EKG information that doctors can use to aid their heart diagnosis.

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Apple’s shift towards medical applications would be in line with moves by rivals, such as Fitbit. The Fitbit Ionic, the company’s most recent fitness smartwatch, includes a Relative SpO2 sensor, designed to detect the user’s blood oxygen levels. However, while the sensor is in place, Fitbit hasn’t actually made use of it but has discussed potential medical uses such as detecting sleep apnoea.

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