When Apple released their Apple Watch heart rate monitor in Apr 2015 and Apple Watch series 2 in Sep 2016, it was a big news not only for Apple fans but for those who care about fitness tracking and health-oriented capabilities.
apple watch heart rate monitor running
There are still many questions asking about heart rate monitor on Apple Watch. It’s easy to understand because heart rate monitor is a very important function for a so-called fitness devices since it facilitates you to exercise in your targeted heart rate zone as advised. In this review, I will try to give you all the information you need to know about this iWatch.
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Does the Apple Watch have a heart rate monitor?

apple watch heart rate sensor
Yes, it does. Apple Watch is a smart watch with so many functions that some may not know that it does measure your heart rate. You can find its built-in heart rate sensor on the back of the watch. Along with other data, it helps Apple Watch estimate how many calories you’ve burned. As long as you’re wearing your Apple Watch it will check and log your heart rate by itself every ten minutes. You can find the information right on Apple website.

Where is the heart rate monitor on the Apple Watch?

It’s surprising that many people don’t know there are 3 ways they can get the data from Apple Watch heart rate monitor.
You can check your heart rate manually using the Heart Rate Glance. Here’s the steps:

  • From the clock face, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access Glances.
  • Swipe left and right until you find Heart Rate glance.
  • Apple Watch will measure your heart rate and then display it after a few seconds.

Apple Watch heart rate monitor accuracy
With this feature, Apple Watch works like a touch-type heart rate monitor when you need to touch the screen to get a reading. Many people mistake that Apple Watch can’t provide continuous heart rate data while it actually does. But you need to be in a Workout mode.

Select a Workout mode such as Outdoor run or Cycling, then you can see your heart rate change reflected right in the clock face. With this function, Apple Watch can be compared with any other continuous-reading heart rate monitors. Actually, Apple Watch measures your heart rate throughout the day for every 10 minutes. Open the Health app then you can see these background heart rate measurements.

Is Apple Watch heart rate monitor accurate?

Apple claims that the Apple Watch is the most accurate wrist-based heart rate monitor to date. What’s the truth about Apple Watch heart rate monitor accuracy?

Apple says that its device tracks user’s heart rate using a method called photoplethysmography. It might sound difficult to understand but basically it uses Optical sensor. Apple Watch uses green LED lights to calculate the number of times the heart beats each minute but the green LEDs kick on only when they’re needed. The heart rate sensor uses infrared light for the rest of the work to measure your heart rate in the background (data you see in the Health app).

Optical sensor has some disadvantages in accuracy when compared with ECG sensor. So theoretically, Apple Watch cannot be as perfectly accurate as chest strap heart rate monitors that use ECG sensor such as Polar H7 or Garmin Premium.

However, there are a lot of experiments carried out by Apple Watch users to compare it with other heart rate monitor such as Mio Alpha or Chest strap heart rate monitor. Some results showed that they returned a same data and that the Apple Watch is incredibly accurate.
Apple Watch heart rate monitor
Nevertheless, some complained that the Apple Watch registered inaccurate readings during some specific kinds of exercises: weightlifting, crossfit. One claimed that “when I exercise with free weights or strength train, it grossly underestimates, and consistently does this – possibly by exactly half? Not sure. Have tried tightening strap, adjusting strap. No improvement.”

Lastly, Apple admits that for rhythmic movements, such as running or cycling, the heart rate monitor gives better results compared to irregular movements, like tennis or boxing. But I think for a smartwatch, such heart rate monitor’s accuracy is acceptable. In case you still crave exact data, whenever exercise you can use an external chest strap and connect it with your Apple Watch via Bluetooth to take readings.

Is is safe to wear Apple Watch heart rate monitor?

Some people have this question, especially Mom-to-be. They are not sure if it’s ok to be shot every 10 minutes by infrared LEDs into your skin all day. The answer is you are already exposed to simple sunlight which has far more infrared radiation of much broader frequency ranges, even get the exposure indoors in many cases.

Patients of intensive care use these types of monitors for days or weeks and this has happened for quite a long time. So feel free to use Apple Watch all day even when you sleep.

Apple Watch heart rate app

Apple Watch heart rate app
If you have used Apple products, then you will not be surprised to know you can just track your heart rate data using Apple apps. Third party apps can’t access HealthKit data when your iPhone is locked which ultimately means features like heart rate tracking is off limits.

This maybe one of the reasons many people still prefer other Heart rate monitors and don’t want to switch to Apple Watch heart rate monitor since they can choose their preferred apps and their past data was already stored in those apps. However, you can still look for apps that help analyze your heart rate measured by the Apple Watch, such as Cardiogram app helps you understand what your heart is telling you.

Apple Watch Heart Rate Monitor vs Fitbit Heart Rate Monitor

Apple watch vs Fitbit Blaze
Apple Watch is often compared with Fitbit trackers, especially Fitbit Blaze. This is my review comparing Apple Watch with Fitbit Blaze that you might want to check.

The two smartwatch use photoplethysmography to measure your heart rate or we can simply understand they are using optical sensor. And there’s no winner in this accuracy battle because some people will say Apple Watch is more accurate, while others choose Fitbit. They both have some troubles with high intensity training. When you up the intensity, the data displays a little bit laggy and seems not to be as accurate as the chest straps.

Both measure your heart rate 24/7. The difference is the Fitbit Charge HR, Fitbit Charge 2, Surge and Blaze store heart rate data at 1-second intervals during exercise tracking and at 5-second intervals all other times. On the other hand, the Apple Watch logs your heart rate only every ten minutes during the day and just record your heart rate continuously when the Workout app is turned on.

You can check current price of these models in Amazon:

Apple Watch Activity Tracking Feature

This smartwatch helps you track steps, calories, floors climbed and active time. It has 3-axis accelerometer, gyro sensor and an altimeter to track elevation. There’s no built-in GPS, so you’ll need to piggy back your iPhone to track runs and hikes. For beginners, activity tracking features of Apple Watch is good enough to motivate you to exercise more.

Currently Apple Watch hasn’t supported to monitor your sleep. This function is predicted to be added soon in the next version.

Apple Watch Notification Feature

With the Apple Watch, you get all the notifications you could want including third party apps, plus you get the bite-sized bits of real time information from your favourite apps – and perhaps even more importantly, you can control which notifications you see.
Apple watch heart rate monitor smart notificatin
To complete a barnstorming smartwatch performance there’s music playback control, and storage onboard to download music from iTunes/Apple Music for offline playback. You can also answer calls from Apple’s smartwatch and use Siri too add appointments to your calendar.


Apple Watch is a smartwatch but it has almost full functions of a fitness tracker that is ideal for workout beginners who wish to improve their health. Though it doesn’t offer sleep tracking but its beautiful design together with smart notification feature balance out. If you’re a fan of Apple and want to get healthier, don’t hesitate to equip yourself with this smartwatch soon.

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