Apple has a habit of stealing headlines, but when it announced the Apple Watch Series 4 it was the electrocardiogram (ECG) that stole people’s hearts. Well, measured them.
Forget a basic beats-per-minute rating, Apple said, this wrist-worn device would detect atrial fibrillation. That is, worrying, irregular heartbeats.
A week earlier, before any of this was known, a company called WIWE got in touch with me. Its mobile ECG was, it explained, a “clinically validated, business card sized wearable to assess one’s risk for arrhythmia, afib-stroke and sudden cardiac arrest”.
WIWE vs Apple Watch ECG: how they work
The crucial thing to understand about ECG measuring is that it needs a stable recording of the user in a relaxed state over a period of time.
Apple’s approach is to ask users to take 30-second recordings with their arms resting on a table or their legs. It will then monitor the signal received via the built-in heart-rate sensor and your finger resting on the Digital Crown. It will analyse those results before hopefully give you the all-clear – but possibly tell you that you need to see a doctor.
The WIWE mobile ECG is a credit-card-sized device with two sensors. Again, it asks you to sit (or lie down) in a relaxed position, but this time it’s using your thumbs rather than your wrist. The evaluation also takes a minute rather than 30 seconds.
Problems with the Apple Watch ECG approach
I asked WIWE what concerns it had about Apple’s approach. Whilst keen to emphasise that it was impressed by the Series 4 as a whole, its statement went on to say that Apple’s “ECG feature leaves something to be desired”. In particular, it highlighted drawbacks such as
- Dubious contact quality due to hairs on the wrist and any movements of the finger on the sensor
- Confusion over other forms of arrhythmic cases, eg because young people often have non-threatening “respiratory sinus arrhythmia” this could be misdiagnosed
- Depth of existing trials
Naturally, there’s an element of “well they would say that wouldn’t they?”. But it’s difficult to argue with any of those three points.
Using the WIWE mobile ECG in practice
Using the WIWE is pretty darn simple. Download the app, pair the card via Bluetooth, start your measurements. Note that you aren’t restricted to one person: you could use the WIWE for members of your family or keep one in, say, your sports club to whip out and check on someone.
It’s credit-card sized but I wouldn’t want to keep this in my wallet: it measures 6.3mm thick. Still, it’s incredibly portable and keeps its battery well. I only needed to charge it three weeks into use, during which time it took around a dozen measurements.
After you’ve taken your measurement, there’s a short wait while the app processes your results. You’ll be given a rating across three areas: ECG (electrocardiogram), AR (arrhythmia/atrial fibrillation) and VH
Green is fine, amber means slight deviations and red signifies significant deviations. Zoom to about three minutes in the video below and you’ll get the idea.
Analysing your WIWE results
If there’s one area where WIWE could improve its products, it’s analysis of the results. You jump from simple colour-coded buttons that we can all understand to such levels of jargon that only a doctor would read past the first sentence.
True, there are bits of information that a layman can comprehend. We all understand that low blood oxygen levels are bad and high blood oxygen levels are good, so tracking those over time are perhaps useful.
But analysing graphs like the below are beyond me (well, maybe I can cope with the middle one), despite the text below and pop-up guides.
So what can you do with all this information? In short, look out for too many reds in your summary of results (see below) – but don’t rush to your doctor if you see one. If there’s a pattern over time, then it’s time to book that appointment.
What’s great, though, is that you can export the results to your doctor. Hopefully, they’ll have a better idea of what those graphs and technical terms mean than I do.
The WIWE mobile ECG verdict
This is an interesting product. Quite possibly a life-saving one, because used correctly it could diagnose problems before physical symptoms become obvious. Perhaps it will also put your mind at rest if you’ve been worrying about your heart.
In stark contrast to the Apple Watch, it’s also available now. Indeed, until the end of this week (due to a World Heart Day promotion), it’s 229 Euros rather than 289 Euros.
Another advantage over the Apple Watch: it’s been clinically tested and has a 98.7% accuracy rate. While the Apple Watch has been tested, it’s yet to undergo clinical trials.
So should you buy the WIWE mobile ECG? If you’re concerned about your heart rhythms, then I’d say it’s money well spent.
Now read this: Is the non-sporty smartwatch dead?
We’d rate the WIWE mobile ECG over the Apple Watch Series 4 any day of the week