The Fitbit SpO2 function is launched, surpassing Apple in blood oxygen monitoring

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  • Fitbit has begun to implement a new feature in some of its devices that monitors the variation of blood oxygen levels, which can be used to detect changes in breathing during sleep.
  • The function could help Fitbit to further compete with Apple, the world leader in the portable device market, whose smartwatch does not support this capability.
  • Fitbit devices that support blood oxygen monitoring include its Versa line of smart watches, the Ionic watch and the Charge 3 exercise band.
  • Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.

Fitbit has silently enabled blood oxygen monitoring on some of its devices, a feature that could help users detect changes in breathing while they sleep. The owners of Fitbit devices in Reddit first noticed the change, and since then the company has confirmed the update of Business Insider and several other outlets.

The line of Versa smart watches from Fitbit, its Ionic sports watch and the Charge 3 bracelet have always included hardware that is capable of estimating the variability of blood oxygen levels. But the company only started activating this function last week by displaying a visible graph in the Fitbit application, which shows how the level of oxygen in a user’s bloodstream varies during sleep.

The company said it began providing the function to a small number of users, but that all Fitbit owners with a device that supports blood oxygen monitoring could access these statistics by the end of the month.

Nor is Fitbit the only one that adds blood oxygen monitoring to its devices; Companies like Garmin and Withings also offer this feature.

The addition of blood oxygen monitoring could help Fitbit further distinguish itself from Apple, which is currently the world leader in sales of portable technology devices. The Apple Watch does not support this blood oxygen measurement function, but the Series 5 model has some health-oriented capabilities that Fitbit lacks.

Such features include the ability to take an electrocardiogram, detect when the user has suffered a severe fall and notify users if they are exposed to high levels of sound for prolonged periods of time.

This new update is the latest in the competition between Fitbit, which Google acquired in November, and Apple to offer more health-focused features on its portable devices. Apple accounted for 35% of the global portable technology market as of the third quarter of 2019, followed by Xiaomi, Samsung and Huawei, according to International Data Corporation. Fitbit, comparatively, represented only 4.1% of the market during the same period of time.

Although Apple offers some features that are not found in Fitbit devices, the health technology company, now owned by Google, tracks an area that Apple Watch does not have: sleep monitoring. Fitbit devices are able to monitor sleep by default, allowing them to provide statistics on how much time you have slept and how much time you have spent at specific stages of sleep.

The Apple Watch does not control sleep natively and, instead, requires users to download a third-party application. That could change this year. According to Bloomberg, Apple is testing sleep tracking for its future watches.

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