The Apple Watch Series 6 marks the third watch to be released since September 2018. That date is important to note because it was when Apple first announced the watches would come with an ECG heart-testing feature — one that’s never arrived in Australia and has no expected date.
With each new Apple Watch release, a number of new features and enhancements are introduced. In 2018, a heart monitoring feature, the ECG, was introduced with the Apple Watch Series 4 and Apple COO Jeff Williams said at the time it was “working hard to bring [the ECG feature] to customers around the world”.
Apple did deliver on that promise for many countries, including those in the European Union, Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand.
But Australia remains in the pile that never quite got the feature despite having two further watches released since.
It’s something a number of Apple Watch customers hoping to use the feature are growing tired with. With no updates from Apple nor a timeline on when it might arrive, many have turned to trying to figure out the hold up themselves on Apple’s own discussion boards.
Users have pointed the blame at the government, its regulatory bodies and Apple itself but the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Apple needs to get approval from regulators to ‘switch on’ the ECG feature
A necessary step for the feature to be ‘switched on’ in the country is to get approval from Australia’s medical devices regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
Because of the nature of the feature — a test that monitors your heart’s condition and provides medical advice based on it — the watch needs to be registered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).
It’s subjected to testing to verify its claims to ensure Australians aren’t sold devices that promise something they can’t deliver.
Gizmodo Australia contacted the TGA to see whether Apple had made any strides to get the watch included on the register so that the ECG, and other medical features introduced in the future, might be accessible by Australian customers.
“As at 21 September 2020, there are no devices included on the ARTG relating to a watch or function manufactured by Apple,” a spokesperson for the TGA said to Gizmodo Australia.
While it declined to comment on whether an application was waiting in the wings to be processed, the TGA previously confirmed in June that it hadn’t received any applications from Apple regarding the watch.
“If Apple claims the ECG function in its Apple Watch has therapeutic benefit for wearers, the watch would need to be included in the ARTG in order to be legally supplied in Australia,” a TGA spokesperson told to Gizmodo Australia in June 2020, repeating the same statement it provided us back in September 2019.
“TGA has not received any applications for products manufactured and/or supplied by Apple, nor is there any Apple device included on the ARTG.”
Gizmodo Australia contacted Apple to understand if there was a timeline on when the feature would become available and if it had made any attempts to get it approved by the TGA but Apple declined to comment.
For now, it looks like the wait will continue for the many Australians hoping or expecting to get the ECG feature with their full-priced watches.