Mobile Apps To Measure Oxygen Levels | Are They Real?

Oximeter in Smartphones

An Oximeter is a device that measures the oxygen levels in the blood. However, some mobile apps claim to measure oxygen levels in your blood. You might have already received such messages on Whatsapp.

“Those who haven’t yet got a pulse Oximeter, and even others please install this app and measure oxygen level daily in this COVID time and if oxygen level falls below 90 please consult a doctor immediately”

This Whatsapp forward has been circulating for a while.

I strongly suspect that the developer companies of apps are behind these Whatsapp campaigns. If that is the case, a pretty good job by the marketing team!

But are these apps real? Do they even work? Let’s find out!

How Do Mobile Apps That Claim To Measure Oxygen Levels Work?

All these mobile apps work similarly to the concept of the oximeter. Now you might ask about an oximeter’s working. Let’s understand it first.

How Does an Oximeter works?

To measure the oxygen level in your body, an oximeter passes a beam of the infrared light through your finger. There is also an input to take readings of the changes of light absorption in the blood.

Mobile Apps To Measure Oxygen Levels

In short, a light beam allows the detector to read the changes in your blood.
To make this process simpler, two components are present – input and output. The output component will pass the light beam; the input component will take the readings.

This is how a common oximeter works to show the oxygen level in your body.

[In case you want to read more details, refer MDPI Research Paper]

Now the question is, do these mobile apps to measure oxygen levels really work?

The answer is – No.
But some high-end flagship smartphones can give nearby results. Others simply give random results.

Smartphones like Samsung Galaxy Note series actually support SPO2 sensors but they come with inbuilt oximeters. You don’t need to install a 3rd party application for that.

Why Mobile Apps Don’t Really Work To Measure Oxygen Levels?

  1. It’s not just about collecting readings. Medical devices and Biosensors are highly calibrated as per the medical standards. A smartphone camera sensor can simply not match it.
  2. The beam of light has to be red & infrared to calculate the oxygen levels. However, our smartphone cameras have normal white or yellowish flashlights.
  3. The majority of smartphones don’t have an infrared camera sensor. How will a normal camera take the readings from your fingertip?

Some reports are already out.

The apps are easy party tricks when you’re not sick: put your finger on the camera, get a normal oxygen reading. “You can see, I’m a normal human being, breathing normal air,” he says. But when someone actually has low oxygen levels, they’re likely to still give that normal reading. “They don’t work well when you actually need them to work well, which is when your oxygen levels drop,” Schrading says.

TheVerge Report

My Take On This

It’s fine to use this App for fun. But it is totally wrong to rely on mobile Apps for serious health purpose.

What if someone uses these apps to seriously monitor health issues and blood oxygen?

Why are these apps not even mentioning about the special hardware requirements anywhere? It seems that they work with literally any smartphone and give normal readings.

That’s how they are designed. Show normal results from 94-99 and make the gullible people fall for it.

This is what Trisha Greenhalgh said in one of his tweets.

One advice: When you are looking for serious health monitoring, don’t use smartphone apps, fitness trackers, or smartwatches. They are not calibrated according to the standards. It’s good to buy the actual device or simply visit a medical professional.

If you are about to buy an Oximeter for yourself, check them out:
[Dr. TrustFinger Tip Pulse Oximeter With Audio Visual Alarm | Amazon Link]
[Arcatron Smart Care Pulse Oximeter | Amazon Link]

It’s good to have a gadget but it’s a bad idea to be a doctor by ourselves. Let’s not degrade the value of medical professionals and their learning.

[You might also like | How To Disinfect Your Phone]

Kindly avoid forwarding such messages over social media. Not taking readings is still better than relaxing with the wrong readings.


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