Integrating Temperature-Based Ovulation Tracking on Android and Other Wearable Devices is Hard to Get Used to Defining Birth Control
When the new Apple Watch was unveiled this fall, it came with an intriguing feature: the ability to estimate whether someone had ovulated by measuring their temperature from their wrist. Apple said that the feature could help people understand their bodies, or help people know the optimal time to try to get pregnant. It also warned that this information should not be used as a form of birth control. Problem is, Apple says one thing and people do another.
Fertility tracking is a birth control method used by religions that ban contraceptives and is even promoted by the Catholic church. More people are interested in fertility-awareness methods as they push against the pill as the default method of birth control. There are significant side effects of hormonal birth control and sometimes it can cause death. Some health providers argue that experiences of ovulation, which can block birth control, can have health benefits, but not all medical professionals agree.
That skepticism, and an overall lagging investment in women’s health care, has fueled a boom in femtech. But the mobile apps that lead this market, such as Natural Cycles and Daysy, serve a niche customer base and have their own costs. The Daysy is a $320 device that takes body temperature and analyzes it to make a prediction about when an individual will become pregnant. Natural Cycles is an app that calculates likely fertility based on temperature inputs and has an annual subscription fee of $99. The Apple watch is similar to the ovulation tech that was used by the US army during World War II.
It is not clear if this is an improvement over the previous ones, but it is an improvement over the previous ones when you consider it took the company until 2020 to add basic period tracking. Apple and Garmin were the first companies to add period tracking. Conversely, temperature-based period tracking on wearables isn’t a widespread feature just yet. The fact that Samsung managed to roll something out less than six months after Apple — that’s progress.
When asked by The Verge to clarify the new features in this integration, Samsung said that it’s primarily to help people view their cycles in an easy, convenient, and holistic way — which includes retrospective ovulation estimates and period predictions.
The company also noted the feature has received approval from South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, complies with Europe’s CE marking requirements, and is registered with the FDA. FDA registration isn’t the same thing as clearance or approval. The FDA database is where the product has been registered. But since Natural Cycles’ algorithm has received FDA clearance, Samsung only needs to register the Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro as supported devices. The feature will be available in 32 countries, including the US, in Q2 2023.