With virtually no sound but considerable wrist pressure, the Huawei Watch D measured my blood pressure as I sat at a booth at IFA 2022 in Berlin. That’s all, just some wearable technology performing a function typically unique to those handcuffs you use in the doctor’s office. It felt kind of uncomfortable and impossible.
Huawei introduced the Huwaei Watch D in May, but only recently managed (or is very close) to European approval for its use as a healthcare device. However, there is no information on the US FDA, and with Huawei’s limited profile in the states, I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. Earlier this year, no one was able to test it, but with regulatory approval pending, Huawei was ready to let me and others at the show test the new smartwatch technology.
To be clear, other wearables companies are working and starting to offer blood pressure measurement, but they are mainly doing it through IR sensors. Not the Huawei Watch D, however. It’s a real blood pressure cuff, albeit the size of a wrist.
There are, in fact, a number of surprising things about the device, some that have little to do with the blood pressure mechanism, but let’s focus on that for now.
Looking a lot like a regular smartwatch, albeit a little thicker, for health and fitness, the Huawei Watch D does a good job of hiding its pressure-reading abilities. Technology is really a two-part affair.
Inside the watch is an insanely small mini pump which, according to Huawei, is capable of pumping up to 49 kilopascals (kPa) of pressure. It attaches to a bladder or, as Huawei called it, a dual-layer airbag on the wristband, which can, when fully pumped, read between 40 and 230 kPa (if you’re at 230 or higher, this could be cause for serious concern. ).
There is no clock or band calibration. Instead, you start by measuring your wrists to see if you need a medium or large band (the watch will come in these two band sizes for just one watch size) and then each band has many adjustments for a comfortable fit. but not uncomfortable. in shape.
The watch itself is, with a rectangular dial and a bright, clear interface, quite attractive. One might expect a blood pressure reading watch to look more medical, but it’s also for exercise (supports 70 workouts) and other smartwatch activities. The sash is wider than a normal sash, and with that swath of inflatable balloons inside, a little thicker than normal as well. It’s not so much, though, that anyone else would notice or feel uncomfortable.
After my fitting, which took a few seconds, a Huawei representative slid the watch across my hand and across the top of my wrist before finding the correct position for the clasp.
I watched him navigate to the blood pressure reading app on the watch and then he told me to relax, put my arm across my chest and open my fist (ok, I was a little nervous – I’m a terrible patient).
He pressed the side button on the watch and, almost silently, the D watch’s bladder began to fill. As the pressure built, it felt like someone with a particularly strong grip had grabbed my wrist. It didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t super comfortable either (basically like a normal blood pressure machine).
After about a minute (perhaps less), the pressure was suddenly released, not slowly, but quickly and decisively.
My slightly high reading of 132/100 appeared instantly on the watch and, as the rep showed me, also on a Huawei phone. There, I got more details about my reading, including a slightly alarming mention of “hypertension (stage 2)”. As I just had a physical and had excellent blood pressure, I will attribute this to the nervousness and stress of being at the IFA.
You can also use the app to schedule blood pressure reading reminders.
Looking at that reading, I was, as my friends in the UK would say, shocked. Nothing about it felt cheap or inconclusive. The Huawei Watch D and its tiny blood pressure wrist cuff worked as advertised.
The other notable claim about this watch is that it can do this, ECG, heart rate measurement, workouts, smartwatch notifications and, according to Huawei, lasts for 7 days on a single charge. The company insists this is done with multiple readings on all sensors, including the blood pressure cuff. If true, that would be impressive.
The watch is also IP68 rated, meaning dust and water won’t be an issue.
Now to the bad news. While the Huawei Wach D is on the cusp of being certified for use in the European Union, other areas such as the UK have yet to approve. I don’t know if the watch will ever make it to the US, where it’s notoriously difficult to get medical devices from the FDA. Ask Apple, who are careful not to make actual medical claims about any of the Apple Watch’s features.
There is also no price or availability date in any markets yet.
It is unfortunate that what appears to be innovative wearable technology is still months or more away from general consumer availability and that large markets like the US may never see it. Huawei is going where no wearable company has gone before. This is true diagnostic capability in consumer wearable technology. I wonder if Apple will try this next.
Also, I would like to try the Huawei Watch one more time, when it is much calmer, to prove that my blood pressure is good, thank you very much.
IFA 2022 is Europe’s biggest technology fair, and is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and announcements, as well as our hands-on first impressions of the new TVs, wearables, audio devices and other gadgets on display.