Samsung adds heart rate sensor to its newest smartwatches

By Aditi Pai
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Gear 2 GoldSamsung announced two smartwatches over the weekend, Samsung Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, which are set to launch in April. The main differences between the two devices is Samsung Gear 2 comes equipped with a camera and the Gear 2 Neo does not.

The company made some general changes to its original smartwatch Galaxy Gear, such as switching operating systems, from Google's Android to Tizen and extending the phone's battery life. But Samsung also added another health-related feature -- a heart rate monitor. Like the original smartwatch, Samsung's latest offerings also come equipped with pedometer features.

According to the company, both devices offer personal fitness coaching, "allowing users to develop a customizable fitness routine and monitor their heart rate in order to improve their overall well-being". The specs indicate the device will track running and walking, cycling and hiking on a preloaded app. The user can also download a Samsung app for sleep and stress tracking.

On Samsung's original smartwatch, the company added three native fitness apps that launched with the device -- Azumio, RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal. The latter two had some of the largest self-reported user base counts last year, both in the tens of millions.

Over the course of the last year, Samsung appears to have ramped up its health and fitness offerings. When Glooko, maker of a cable and app that connect glucometers to smartphones, raised $7 million from various investors, including Samsung Ventures, Glooko CEO Rick Altinger told MobiHealthNews diabetes management via Glooko will be part of Samsung’s built-in S Health app in the future.

The company also received FDA 510(k) clearance for its S Health app in early January. The categorization of the clearance was as a cardiology signal transmitter which suggested that the clearance will allow S Health to interface with additional connected medical devices in the United States.

Samsung's S Health app originally launched for Galaxy S III users in the UK in the summer of 2012. At the time, it received data from Lifescan’s OneTouch UltraMini/UltraEasy Blood Glucose Meter via a USB connection. It also worked with Omron’s blood pressure monitors and one of its body composition scales via Bluetooth, and similar devices from A&D. That release never found its way to the US, possibly because of FDA clearance concerns.