Samsung brought a handful of new features to the s9 this year of course, and one of the more interesting changes has to do with the optical sensor on the back of the device. The sensor’s primary function is a health indicator of sorts, it allows you to monitor your heart rate which is nothing new, Samsung phones have been able to do that for a while, but what no phone has even been able to do up to this point is monitor a person blood pressure, and coupled with a new research app in the google play store, that’s exactly what you can do now with the S9.
The App is called My BP Lab and Samsung partnered with the University of California San Francisco to make this all possible but also to allow the university to conduct research on the topic of smart phones being used as these sort of medical devices and how they improve accuracy for the future. So when you download the app and first set everything up, you’re going to have to go through a bunch of screens that let you know all the details about the study, what you can expect from the app, and you also need to enter some personal information about yourself, although I didn’t find it particularly invasive which is a good thing. After you have the app all setup, you need to set a baseline heart rate reading and you can do this a couple of ways. The most accurate way obviously is to use the proper medical devices like an arm band or cuff or a machine, or if you happen to know maybe your heart rate reading from your last doctors visit, you can also manually enter it in which is what I did. You want to be as accurate as possible of course and I’ll show you what that’s important in just a second.
Now in order to actually take your blood pressure, it’s really straightforward you just need to sit comfortably in a chair with your arm up above your heart and then just cover the sensor around back with your finger, you just have to lay it down and make sure it’s covering completely and the app will tell you if you’ve done it properly, and after just a few seconds, it’ll capture your current blood pressure reading. It’s surprisingly quick, and depending on how you initially setup the app, you’ll get your reading in 1 of 2 ways. If you were able to setup a true initial blood pressure reading, like 120/80, you’ll be able to get a true numbers reading from the app. If not, after the second time you take your blood pressure, you’ll get a percentage change reading compared to your last measurement, which isn’t as helpful as a numbers reading but still might be relatively useful for some people I’d imagine.
The app encourages you to take your blood pressure twice a day, every day and you’ll be able to map how things are going over time, but more importantly a person could potentially check their blood pressure in an instant in order to monitor any drastic changes and I think that’s how this app would be most useful. I can’t necessarily comment on its accuracy aside from the fact that the blood pressure reading it measured for me was within a couple percentage points of what I know to be my approximate blood pressure, so it wasn’t giving me anything crazy and I think for most people it’ll be a solid tool for casually monitoring their health. I hope UCSF gathers enough data in their study to really nail down the accuracy of something like this and especially seeing how useful an Apple Watch is in monitoring health, id imagine we’ll see every day tech items be incorporated more and more into the realm of health monitoring.