A lot of us spend time worrying about our health, trying to improve our health, or both. Apple's focus on health- and activity-related measurements with the Apple Watch and the Health App is an indication of how serious the company is about helping you and I become healthier. Qardio, a rather new entrant in the connected health market, has just released the US$99 QardioArm Blood Pressure Monitor that works with iOS devices and the Apple Watch, and the company did such a great job with the product that we're naming it an Apple World Today Top Pick for 2015.
There are a lot of connected, standalone, wired and wireless blood pressure cuffs on the market today. When it comes to connected devices, most people think about Withings' $129.95 Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor. The company was first to market with a wired version quite a few years ago, and that's the device with which I have faithfully tracked my blood pressure ever since.
The QardioArm Blood Pressure Monitor not only demonstrates a lot of medical technology know-how, but it looks great as well! The electronics are housed in a 1.5 x 2.7 x 5.1 inch (38 x 68 x 140 mm) package and the whole device weighs just .68 lb (310 grams) with batteries.
It will run for up to a year of normal use on a set of four AAA batteries, and best of all, it comes in seven different colors so you don't have to settle for boring black or white. Yes, you can get Arctic White if you must, but the other colors include Lightning and Imperial Red, Electric and Midnight Blue, Gold, and Racing Yellow. That's Lightning Red you see in the photo at the top of this review.
Whether your arm is 98-pound-weakling skinny or bodybuilder huge, the cuff will probably fit you -- it has a circumference range of 8.7 to 14.6 inches (22 to 37 cm).
I really like the way the device looks and the size of the device; QardioArm takes up less space on a desk than my iPhone 6s Plus, and its perfect if you want to take it with you on trips. But the big thing is how well it works...
One concern I've had about my rather old Withings Blood Pressure Monitor (it's so old that it has a 30-pin connector!) is how accurate it is. At least with the older device, there was no word on how accurate it was and I always found my professionally-measured blood pressure to be lower than what the Withings cuff measured.
Qardio notes that the QardioArm is clinically validated and has an accuracy of ±3mmHg or ±2% of the readout value and a resolution of 1mmHg for blood pressure. For pulse, it's accurate to within ±5% of readout with a resolution of 1 beat per minute. It measures in a range of 40 to 250mmHg for blood pressure and 40 to 200 beats per minute for pulse.
Once you install the free Qardio app on your iPhone or iPad, it walks you through your first blood pressure reading step by step. I found this to be very useful, as it described how to turn the device on (you undo the Velcro on the cuff and then pull on a tab to move the metal piece, which turns it on), pair, and then go through the first reading.
Starting up the QardioArm with the Apple Watch is fun -- Qardio tells you to use your left arm to take the reading, and if you wear your Watch on the left arm as well, you'll need to move your arm to a relaxed position once you've tapped the button. As soon as the reading is done, the BP and heart rate are displayed on the Apple Watch so you really don't need to use the iOS app.
That app, though, is well done. Each of your readings can be displayed on a chart that shows where it is in relation to the World Health Organization classifications. With two daily readings so far, mine is normal and on the border of optimal.
Want to check the blood pressure of friends or relatives? There's a "Visitor Mode" switch on the main QardioArm page that, when enabled, lets you take a reading without it being saved under your list. You can also create a QardioArm account for each person you'd like to track, then log into their account before taking and saving the reading.
I noticed when reading some of the reviews on Amazon that some people took issue with the need to create and register an account in order to use QardioArm. The company stores your data -- BP, heart rate, weight, sex, height -- in a secure cloud. If you don't want that information to be stored anywhere but on your device, then I suggest you look into another solution. Note that the Withings device also uses a secure cloud for data storage.
QardioArm also integrates well with Apple Health. With a few taps I was able to add the device to the list of sources for Apple Health, and now my blood pressure and heart rate readings are shared with the "official" app.
If you want to buy a QardioArm and you have Apple Pay set up on your iPhone, you're in luck. Just download the app, go to the overview screen, and tap Buy Now. Yes, you can purchase a QardioArm with Apple Pay! The device is also available at Apple Stores, and can be purchased at Target, Best Buy, and Walgreens, too. However, if you are a wonderful person, you'll buy it from Amazon for $95.98 and support Apple World Today in the process!
As a reviewer who has tried a lot of "connected health" products over the years, I am impressed with just how perfect this product is. Not once did I have issues with connectivity, the Apple Watch app worked like it should, the readings were exactly in line with what the sphygmomanometer at my doctor's office always shows, and this product looks good, too. If you ever do run into difficulties, QardioArm has one of the most comprehensive, well-written, and easy to understand user manuals (link to PDF) I've ever seen for a health-related device.
Qardio has a great product here, and it pleased me enough that I have named it an Apple World Today Top Pick for 2015.