Samsung's Galaxy Watch 3 supports ECG, but only in South Korea for now

The FDA just approved the ECG monitor, so it should come to the Watch 3 soon.

Chris Velazco / Engadget

Some of the biggest new features on Samsung’s just-announced Galaxy Watch 3 are focused on health. That’s not a huge surprise, given the success Apple has had by making its Watch into a device that can monitor your health in a variety of ways. Most notable is the electrocardiogram (ECG) feature, something Apple added to the Watch series 4 in 2018. It can record the electrical signal from your heart and use that to test for various medical conditions (though as always it should be mentioned they do not detect heart attacks). ECG isn’t available at launch, but Samsung says it’ll be available soon on both the Watch 3 as well as the Watch Active 2.

Samsung is also including blood pressure monitoring in the Watch 3, something not available on the Apple Watch. You’ll first have to hook it up to a blood pressure cuff for initial calibration, but after that it uses an algorithm to calculate systolic and diastolic pressures — this almost certainly will not be as accurate as a standard blood pressure monitor, but it could be useful in a pinch. Samsung says you should re-calibrate the blood pressure monitor once a month.

However, for starters these features are only available in South Korea. Samsung was waiting for FDA approval before bringing blood pressure monitoring and ECG to the US, but the company just said on its livestream that it recently received that approval. Hopefully, this means these features won’t come too long after launch.

There are a few new health features the Watch 3 has that’ll be available wherever the device is available: maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 Max) and SpO2 (relative blood oxygen) readings. But those features aren’t available at launch; Samsung says it’ll add them in a forthcoming software update at some point in Q3 of this year.

Update: 11:15AM: Samsung just said in its livestream that the FDA had just approved the ECG feature for the Watch 3; we’ve updated this story accordingly.