PSA: Family Setup Prevents Relatives From Using Blood Oxygen Monitoring on Apple Watch Series 6 Models, Regardless of Age
Family Setup offers helpful tools for parents and kids, with Schooltime and Downtime features that offer controls over when and what kids can do with their Apple Watch. For older adults, it provides access to tools like fall detection, automatic emergency calling, and health features without the need for them to have an iPhone.
However, if you were thinking of getting an Apple Watch Series 6 for a relative in your Family Setup circle so they could take advantage of the Blood Oxygen monitoring feature, think again.
Apple states that the Blood Oxygen app is not available for use by people under 18 years old, and in fact the app will refuse to launch if it detects that the user's birth date in the Health app is less than 18 years ago. But the Blood Oxygen app will also be automatically disabled if you set up an unpaired Apple Watch Series 6 using Family Setup, regardless of the intended user's age.
Besides being a Health-related feature, Apple has not explained why the Blood Oxygen app is not available on an Apple Watch configured using Family Setup, but the company has been eager to stress that the blood oxygen monitoring on Apple Watch is not intended for medical use, including self-diagnosis or consultation with a doctor. Indeed, Apple states that it is only designed for "general fitness and wellness purposes," which leaves its usefulness quite open to interpretation.
Oxygen saturation, or SpO2, represents the percentage of oxygen being carried by red blood cells from the lungs to the rest of the body, and indicates how well this oxygenated blood is being delivered throughout the body. A healthy person usually has blood oxygen levels in the mid- to high 90s. But if someone has a health condition like lung disease, sleep disorders or respiratory infections, these levels can dip between the 60s to the low 90s.
Until more research is conducted, however, Apple is likely to continue to limit the use of the Blood Oxygen app in situations where it thinks the measurements might be relied upon as early indications of medical conditions or disease, such as in a Family Setup context.
The good news is that Apple is joining forces with researchers to conduct three health studies that include using Apple Watch to explore how blood oxygen levels can be used in future health applications, including how they may help manage and control asthma and heart failure, and how they could serve as early signs of respiratory conditions like influenza and COVID-19.