Blood pressure is a very critical thing for all humans. This critical thing is now becoming a concern for many people in today’s world. The number of patients with metabolic diseases including hypertension is rising. Actually, both low and high blood pressure are dangerous and cases of both are on the rise. So, it is very crucial to keep BP in a healthy range and we should check it regularly. To address that demand, Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Galaxy S9/S9+ have a special sensor that can measure BP. We have been using the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Blood Pressure measuring feature since the start and in short, we describe it as one of the best features of a smartphone.
Low and high blood pressure is dangerous but most people have hypertension or high blood pressure. High BP is called the silent killer because people don’t feel symptoms until it’s too late. Moreover, many times the reason for blood pressure (BP) change is also not diagnosed easily. So we should be very careful regarding that. Many people are suffering and they need to monitor their BP regularly. The market has machines for that but they are not portable. This is where mobile phone companies are coming to play.
For a long time, Samsung flagship phones have come with optical heart rate monitors at the back. Samsung flagship smartphones from S Series and Notes series used to only have a heart rate sensor at the back till Galaxy S8. Then from Galaxy S9 and S9+, the company started putting BP measuring sensors as well. Then they also continued this in Galaxy Note 9.
The optical heart rate monitor can measure heart rates or BPM. This is available through the S Health app. But the blood pressure measuring feature is available through a separate app. Currently, at the time of writing this article, Samsung S Health doesn’t have the BP monitoring feature. We need an application named “My BP Lab” to use this feature.
My BP Lab App Details and Background
Just after the announcement of the Galaxy S9 and the Note 9, enthusiasts started reporting on the availability of the BP measuring feature. However, the feature needed a special app and it was not pushed by Samsung because it was not a fully certified feature. But it is a very unique and interesting feature where lots of Ph.D. experts and scientists were doing the study. So we needed to experience the feature.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 blood pressure measurement function can only be activated with “My BP Lab”. The special app, “My BP Lab” is only available in certain regions. So we downloaded the app from the USA store and sideloaded it into the phone. You can also sideload to use the app in your country. This is a special app developed in partnership with Samsung. Sage Bionetworks is the publisher of this app, and UCSF is doing the study. Blood pressure measurement is a feature that is coming from the collaboration between UCSF and Samsung.
How does it work?
This feature requires special hardware. That is why other phones can’t provide BP measurements. Even older flagship phones like Galaxy S6, Galaxy S7, Galaxy S8, and Galaxy Note 8 which have heart rate sensors can’t do this. We may have seen bulky cuffs and electronic machines to measure blood pressure but Samsung has developed a new tiny sensor. This changes the market and game a lot.
So, Samsung Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9+, and Note 9 have a special optical sensor at the back. This sensor measures pulse and blood volume change to get the result. Using those data, the app works. Users need to place their index fingertip on the sensor, and then the sensor throws a special light and takes data.
The app and sensors work well but the University of California San Francisco publicly states that this is not a medical device, and it can’t be used for diagnosis. It is still in the development and study phase. The article on the site of the University of California San Francisco states that My BP Lab studies blood pressure and stress of the users or participants. So your data helps scientists understand more and improve the app better.
Using Galaxy Note 9 Blood Pressure Measurement Feature
My BP Lab is just available in the USA, India, and a few other countries. Users of other countries need to sideload this by downloading the .apk file. After downloading and installing, we need to sign up before using the app. Signing up requires personal information and some verification using email. At first, it asks to enter the baseline reading of the user’s blood pressure for calibration.
Users can feed data from their physical measurement devices such as a Sphygmomanometer or simply cuffs. However, most of us have the knowledge that normal reading is 120/80. So we can input that as well. Actually, correct reading for healthy humans is a very complex topic but it is a general reading for a healthy person. So we just use 120/80. Some healthy people may also have different BP in a normal state. In that case, do use calibration using a physical cuff. Do note that BP changes with age.
Users who input data such as 120/80 from their other instruments can get a numerical reading while measuring blood pressure in the app. However, if you don’t have an instrument to fetch data, the app can initially be used to measure the baseline. But in the future, it only shows a change in percentage according to the baseline. This is not very helpful because we need numerical reading. So we recommend entering the baseline using a measurement device. The baseline is important because different people can have different base pressures. If you are sure of having 120/80, use that at the start.
Experience and Test
Many people have normal BP reading of 120/80. So we also entered 120 Systolic and 80 Diastolic pressure. After that, we started measuring the pressure at different times for different people and in different situations. We measured it in a resting position, after running, walking, and in stressful situations. The app is not flawless because the measurement is a bit hard sometimes. Users need to place their fingertips very carefully against the optical sensors. It doesn’t measure if hands are cold or placement is wrong, and if users move too much. Initially, we faced too many errors and we got frustrated. But slowly, with new app updates and practice, the experience improved.
Benefits and Experience
The app clearly says that it can’t be used for diagnostic use. But we can use it to be alert and that is crucial. The number of patients with heart disease including blood pressure is on the rise. This feature can be a lifesaver because patients or people don’t have to use instruments all the time. We carry phones all the time with us and Samsung’s BP measuring feature gives measurement within a minute. People can see their changes and be alert and take precautions.
In our test, using the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 for blood pressure measurement was satisfactory. The reading may not match the reading on traditional medical devices but the reading from the phone is quite close. In our experience, the tests were satisfying and good enough to be used. My BP Lab notifies users to check their pressure twice a day but most notably at night. It also stores all past data so that we can study the trend. It is beneficial for people who are on medication. All we see here is a very positive thing because it makes users alert every time because they have the power to check their BP at all times.
Many patients are negligent and may eat and go out of diet by consoling themselves that their BP is in a good state. Many people don’t have instruments at home and the skill to use a Sphygmomanometer. So people might skip going to the doctor and clinic but if a phone helps to measure in an instant, this problem goes away. The measurement may not be absolute but it does show the change in pressure which can surely alert users about their health.
Current State of Development and Future
Smartphones are very close to us and they are with us all the time. If good mobile phones have health-related sensors, hardware, software, and features, it can be very beneficial. People can always check their status and this can encourage them to take medications and exercise on time. The small-looking feature can be a lifesaver for many people.
Our Samsung Galaxy Note 9 blood pressure measurement review is actually based on My BP Lab 2.0. The app is now discontinued as of December 31, 2021. When it was working, the app was in constant development but the data it gave was very near to exact measurement. Thus the data and measurements were always helpful for knowing the health status. It was told that the sensor and app would be continuously improved.
As of now, Samsung has dropped the BP measuring, heart rate, and SpO2 sensor from flagship smartphones. Just after Note 9, none of the phones are having them. This is because all those functions are now available on the Galaxy Watch. We understand that this is a business decision and companies want people to buy smart watches. That is why Apple also has attractive features such as the ECG on Apple Watch.
Currently, My BP Lab says that the new version of My BP Lab 3.0 will come in mid-2022. However, it has not come and we believe both Samsung and My BP Lab have killed the most brilliant feature in a smartphone. Now users can’t use the sensor on phones to measure BP. So this great feature is currently disabled and it is disappointing.
This was a study and developing technology and it was very positive. The technology can potentially improve one day and bring full-fledged diagnostic level BP measuring features to phones. We are positive that one day Samsung or some other company will bring a new version of the app and better blood pressure measurement feature to smartphones. So stay with us to get updated and read the review of the new version and development.