Virtually silent but with significant pressure on the wrist, the Huawei Watch D took my blood pressure while I was sitting in a booth at IFA 2022 in Berlin. That’s all, just wearable technology that performs a function that’s typically the only job of the cuffs you wear in the doctor’s office. It felt halfway between uncomfortable and impossible.
Huawei unveiled the Huawei Watch D back in May, but it has only recently received (or is about to receive) European approval for its use as a healthcare device. However, there’s no word on the US Food and Drug Administration, and given Huawei’s limited profile in the States, I don’t expect that to happen any time soon. No one got a chance to try it earlier this year, but pending regulatory approval, Huawei was willing to let me and others at the show test the new smartwatch tech.
To be clear, other wearable companies are working on it and starting to offer blood pressure measurements, but they’re doing it mostly through IR sensors. Not the Huawei Watch D, though. It’s a real, albeit wrist-sized, blood pressure cuff.
In fact, there are a number of surprising things about the device, some of which have little to do with the blood pressure mechanism, but let’s focus on those for now.
The Huawei Watch D looks a lot like a standard, albeit slightly thicker, health and fitness smartwatch and hides its pressure-sensing capabilities well. The technology is really a two-part affair.
Inside the watch is an insanely small mini pump that Huawei says can pump up to 49 kilopascals (kPa) of pressure. It’s connected to a bladder, or as Huawei called it, a two-layer airbag in the watch strap, which when fully inflated can read between 40 and 230 kPa (if you’re at 230 or more, that could be a cause for serious concern).
There is no watch or band calibration. Instead, you first measure your wrists to see if you need a medium or large band (the watch comes in those two band sizes for just one watch size), and then each band has many adjustments for a comfortable, but not uncomfortable, fit.
The watch itself is quite attractive, with a rectangular face and a bright, clear finish. You might expect a blood pressure monitor to have a more medical look, but it’s also designed for exercise (supports 70 workouts) and other smartwatch activities. The band is wider than a regular band and also a bit thicker than normal with that strip of inflatable bladders inside. However, it’s not so much that anyone else would notice or that it feels uncomfortable.
After my adjustment, which took a few seconds, a Huawei representative slid the watch over my hand and onto the top of my wrist before finding the correct clasp position.
I saw him navigate to the blood pressure monitor app on the watch and then he told me to relax, put my arm in front of my chest and unclench my fist (okay, I was a bit nervous – I’m a terrible patient) .
He pressed the watch’s side button and almost silently, the watch’s D-band bladder began to fill. As the pressure increased, it felt like someone had grabbed my wrist with an extra strong grip. It didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t super comfortable either (basically like a regular blood pressure machine).
After a minute or so (maybe less) the pressure suddenly eased, not slowly, but quickly and decisively.
My reading, a slightly high 132/100, appeared immediately on the watch and, as the representative showed me, on a Huawei phone as well. There I learned more details about my reading, including a somewhat alarming mention of “High Blood Pressure (Stage 2)”. Since I just had an exam and had great blood pressure, I put it down to the nervousness and IFA stress.
You can also use the app to schedule blood pressure reading reminders.
As I stared at this reading I was, as my British friends would say, stunned. None of it felt cheap or inconclusive. The Huawei Watch D and its tiny blood pressure cuff worked as advertised.
The other notable claim about this watch is that it can do EKG, heart rate tracking, workouts, smartwatch notifications and, as Huawei claims, last 7 days on a single charge. The company insists this is done with multiple readings across all sensors, including the BD cuff. If true, that would be stunning.
The watch is also IP68 certified, which means dust and water are not a problem.
Now for the bad news. While Huawei Wach D is close to being certified for use in the European Union, other regions like the UK have yet to approve it. I don’t know if the watch will ever make it to the US, where it’s notoriously difficult to get medical devices through the FDA. Ask Apple, which is careful not to make any real medical claims about its Apple Watch capabilities.
There is also no price and availability date in any market yet.
It’s unfortunate that what appears to be game-changing wearable technology could still be months or more away from mainstream consumer availability, and that major markets like the US may never see it. Huawei is going where no wearables company has gone before. This is a true diagnostic capability in consumer wearable technology. I wonder if Apple will try that next.
Also, I’d like to try the Huawei Watch again when I’m much cooler to prove my blood pressure is okay, thank you.
IF 2022 is Europe’s biggest tech show and TechRadar is in Berlin to bring you all the latest news and announcements as well as our hands-on first impressions of the new TVs, wearables, audio devices and other gadgets at the show.
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