ASUS might have pulled out of the Android smartwatch race after the ZenWatch 3, but it's not quite done yet with wearables. At Computex, the company surprised many by unveiling the VivoWatch BP, a follow-up to the original low-power VivoWatch from three years ago. We're looking at a handful of new features and improvements here, with the highlight being a built-in blood pressure monitor -- a rare feature in the smartwatch category. The only other recent direct competitor is the Omron HeartGuide, which is also due to launch later this year.
The VivoWatch BP won't win praise for its looks. While the previously monochromatic high-reflective display has now gained some color, it's also got a much thicker bezel to accommodate extra sensors on the front. The screen's position makes the bezel a little top heavy, too, which was something I noticed on the original model as well.
Unlike the HeartGuide, which uses an inflatable cuff, the VivoWatch BP's blood pressure monitor relies on both electrocardiographic (ECG) sensors and photoplethysmographic (PPG aka optical) sensors. There's no word on whether this implementation is any less accurate, but just to be sure, there's one of each type of sensor on both the front and back of the watch. To take a reading, simply unlock the watch using the button on the right, swipe to blood-pressure-reading mode, and keep your fingertip on the front-facing ECG sensor -- the silver circular dial to the left of the screen -- for 15 to 20 seconds.
The blood pressure is recorded along with other health data, including heart rate, sleep quality, de-stress index and activity data -- the watch can now automatically tell between normal activity and exercise for a more accurate tracking. When wirelessly synchronized, the watch's companion app will use its HealthAI algorithm to provide personalized health advice -- mainly by recommending the number of steps and sleeping hours you need daily -- to help reduce hypertension. In case you need extra guidance and motivation, the app also lets you share this data with your family or doctor.
As with any proper sports watch these days, the VivoWatch BP comes with GPS tracking, which was a sorely missed feature on the original version. Location data can be shared with family members, which makes a nice safety precaution for runners or elderly users, so long as the watch is connected to a phone. Another welcomed improvement here is the 28-day battery life under normal use, which is more than double the previous model's.
In terms of price and availability, the VivoWatch BP will cost $169, but as it's waiting for FDA approval, it won't be hitting the US until Q2 or Q3 next year. However, it'll be available in Asia by end of July this year. Given this model fixes most of the earlier pain points while offering a unique function, ASUS could have a hit in the healthcare-wearables game this time -- assuming the device passes all the relevant tests.
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