How to monitor your heart rate using your smartphone

By | April 8, 2021

The Google Fit software recently received an upgrade from Google. This upgrade effectively turned the mobile into a health tracker, allowing users to monitor their heart rate using only the camera on their handset. The function is currently only available on some Pixel models, but Google plans to expand it to a broader range of smartphones in the future. The aim of this article is to teach you how to use your mobile to monitor your heart rate. You’ll also understand how the whole thing works in the process.

Disclaimer: Any heart rate data collected by the use of Google Fit or another software recommended in this article cannot be confirmed to be correct. For accurate diagnosis, always obtain the assistance of a qualified health practitioner. The aim of this article is to highlight some low-cost solutions for keeping track of your vital statistics on a daily basis.


Having said that, it’s important to keep in mind that calculating the heart rate has been performed manually since the dawn of time. Simply place your index and middle fingers just below the base of your thumb over your extended forearm. Alternatively, you can get your heart rhythm by softly pressing down on the side of your neck above the carotid vein with the same two fingers until you detect a pulse.


The equation is simple: count the number of pulses over the next 10 seconds and multiply that number by 6, which gives you the beats per minute result (bpm).


There are, however, more realistic and straightforward ways to build your own archive of health data using nothing but your smartphone. In reality, the Google Play Store and Apple App Store also have a range of applications designed specifically for that purpose.


The best fitness trackers in the market

There are also smart devices, such as smart bands and smartwatches, that connect to your phone through Bluetooth and have earned Anvisa certification, indicating that they can perform an electrocardiogram (ECG). The Apple Watch Series 4, Series 5, and Series 6, as well as the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 and Galaxy Watch 3, are among the notable wearables that have earned this certification. A heart rate tracking option is now available on newer fitness bands.


What do you mean by heart rate?

The amount of times your heart beats in a minute is known as your heart rate. The average heart rate in most stable adults is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. When we are alive, our hearts pound harder and carry more blood to our bodies, which raises our heart rate. During periods of discomfort, fear, or enthusiasm, the heart rate will also rise. And, as you would imagine, our hearts pound more steadily when we are calm.


How to measure your heart rate using Google Fit

Google announced the addition of heart rate and breathing tracking capabilities to the Google Fit app in February. Until recently, the feature was only available on Google’s Pixel line of smartphones. Google’s long-term goal is to incorporate those features into the Google Fit experience for all Android-powered smartphones.


On a Pixel smartphone, monitoring the heart rate with Google Fit is as easy as using the rear camera and its LED light, where your heart rate is measured based on an approximation of your finger’s color. That’s all there is to it; no other gadget or wearable technology is needed.


To start, put your finger on the back camera and gently press it down while remaining still. The machine will then continue to use your finger to take your pulse.


You can see if your finger is correctly aligned by looking at the clock. If Google Fit starts counting, the actual heart rate will be shown in a graph at the right. For whatever explanation, the use of my left hand produced better results in my experiments than the use of my right, with the whole process taking about 30 seconds.


Google says that the software creates a rough overview of the blood flow by monitoring small variations in finger coloration, similar to other services. In order to produce relevant data, Google Fit’s algorithms can take into account variables such as lighting, skin tone, and age.


More details about Google Fit’s heart tracking that you may be interested in:


To function, the service does not need a data link.

To protect your privacy, all data is captured in real time on the computer itself. Nothing is transferred to the cloud. You will be asked at the end of each calculation if you want the results to be saved in Google Fit to create a long-term archive.

Google makes it clear that heart tracking via Google Fit is only meant to be used for fun. If you have cardiovascular disease, make sure you visit a doctor so you can get the best outcomes.

How to monitor your heart rate on the Apple Watch

Apple’s official method for monitoring the heart rhythm is to use the Apple Watch. In the future, you’ll almost certainly need to buy another smartphone or focus on third-party applications that follow Google Fit’s methodology.


In addition to heart rate tracking, Apple Watch Series 4 and later versions started to provide the option of conducting an electrocardiogram (or ECG) test on yourself. As opposed to merely depending on your smartphone’s sensor, this approach is claimed to be more reliable.


The optical sensor in smart gadgets, such as exercise wristbands and smartwatches, calculates an average number based on the difference in light reflected against your face. When your heart beats harder, more blood is injected into the blood vessels, resulting in less transmitted light being detected by the sensor. Light is transmitted back to the sensor in the intervals between the heartbeats, when there is slightly less blood pressure.


This optical sensor is used by the Apple Watch to monitor heart rate and send warnings when the pattern detected indicates an abnormal heart rhythm (also known as atrial fibrillation). Apple does, however, note that for a correct diagnosis, one should contact a doctor or medical provider.


Electrodes are used in the ECG to calculate the electrical activity that happens when the heart grows and contracts. An electrode is situated in the crystal at the back of the Apple Watch, and another is located in the optical crown. When we press our finger against the crown, a closed circuit is formed between the left and right arms, allowing the system to continue measuring heart rate for the next 30 seconds.


A standard ECG records the electrical activity of the heart using 12 electrodes located on the stomach, arms, and legs as a baseline. The Apple Watch’s machine, on the other hand, is capable of detecting an erratic heartbeat, which may indicate something more sinister. If you want to learn more on this, check out Cnet’s special article from 2019.


The Galaxy Watch Active 2 and Galaxy Watch 3 (which costs about US$355 on Amazon) are two Android-based alternatives to the Apple Watch. Fitness trackers such as the Mi Band 4, Mi Band 5, Fitbit Charge 4, and related versions are also available for heart rate tracking.


I used the findings of my electrocardiograms collected on the Apple Watch Series 4 as a starting point when making this list. I don’t have a portable blood pressure cuff, so I can’t make an accurate comparison.


Heart rate monitoring apps for Android and iOS

My filtering process for the applications in this article was straightforward: I selected those with the highest scores in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store after downloading and checking them for seven days. On both Android and iOS systems, I’ll list the top three applications that had the best experience.


Important: To run, all of the apps on this list need camera access.


When it comes to wearable gadgets, Cardiio is without a doubt the best software on this list. Measuring your heart rate is as easy as placing your finger over the iPhone’s main camera, which is placed on the rear. You will create a map of additional observations and similarities in relation to the service’s median results by adding additional details about yourself, such as your weight and age.


You will also get an understanding of how your heart rhythm contributes to your current fitness and stamina. Additional packages are included in the premium form, and you can also subscribe for only seven days of physical exercise. As I previously said, Cardiio is at the very top of this chart.


Another useful aspect is the reporting history, which can be viewed in CSV format with your doctor or healthcare provider if you wish to compile the results and share them with them. The software has also been merged with Apple Health, although it is now only available for iOS.


It’s also worth remembering that this app’s growth and analysis into the efficacy and accuracy of this form of service began in 2016.


The Cardiio app is available for iOS in the App Store.

Instant Heart Rate

Instant Heart Rate is a suitable choice for those who do not wish to purchase a dedicated heart monitor. The procedure is the same: put your finger on the mobile camera and hold it steady until the number of beats per minute is seen.

The software can also track any changes in the hue of your fingertip and provide real-time data on your heart rate. Instant Heart Rate is now used by more than 35 million people, according to the organization behind it. You may not need to build an account to use this service. However, there will be a recommendation to sign up any time you open the app.


This app is unique in that it is available on both Android and iOS platforms and allows you to name each test. You can export reports in the paid edition of the program. Both Apple Health and Google Fit are assisted by Instant Heart Rate.


The Instant Heart Rate app is available for free from the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.



Cardiograph’s inclusion seems to be somewhat inconsistent. Why am I saying this? On Android, the service runs fine, but on iOS, it’s a whole different matter. As a result, if you own an iPhone, I do not suggest installing this app. Cardiograph for Android, on the other hand, helps you to calculate your heart rate, save the data for future reference, and compare yourself to those who are doing the same. This software is easy to access and helps you to share accounts with others, making it suitable for family use.


To use your mobile to check your heart rate, simply put your finger in front of the camera and wait for the results. You can create a PDF with the day’s results and send it via instant messenger, but the same information may also be communicated in a written message.


Cardiograph is compatible with Wear OS (formerly Android Wear), which allows you to monitor the heart rate using a smartwatch’s heart rate sensor.


From the Google Play Store, get the Cardiograph app.


Heart Rate Monitor.Beat BPM

The Heart Rate Monitor.Beat BPM app is incredibly user-friendly. You can scan your records and track your improvement after checking your heart rate with the iPhone’s main camera.


You would need to apply to the service if you want to get insights and recommendations. This software, on the other hand, is appropriate if the aim is to establish a monitoring routine in a very realistic manner.


From the Apple App Store, get the Heart Rate Monitor.Beat BPM app.


Heart Rate Monitor

Following in the footsteps of Heart Rate Sensor.Beat BPM, Heart Rate Monitor is incredibly convenient to use, allows for an infinite range of measurements, and also allows for free data transfer to CSV format.


This app supports five heart rate zones: extreme/peak, aerobic, fat burning, warm up, and rest.


From the Google Play Store, get the Heart Rate Monitor app.


Finally, I do not consider using the following apps: Cardiograph Heart Rate Monitor, Heart Rate Monitor Pulse Checker: BPM tracker, and Heart Rate Monitor (iOS). This is attributed to the fact that the user experience with these programs was either incomplete due to a weak user interface, or the monitoring findings were too far off the mark to be taken seriously.


Is it worthwhile to invest in heart rate tracking apps?

As you’ve already found in this post, none of the recommended gadgets or applications are 100% accurate. Regardless of your decision, keep in mind that the effects of heart rate monitoring can always be interpreted by a healthcare or medical provider using appropriate equipment, particularly if you have cardiovascular disease or are a high-level athlete.


Our goal is to show you what choices are available on the market while also showcasing the advancements of digital wellness. When I talk about my experience with these apps and the Apple Watch Series 4, I want to emphasize that I use them to build a personal database with the ability to add fast notes for potential study, especially when it comes to anxiety and stress levels.


Finally, I’d like to share the details of a report about the Cardiio software for iOS that was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) in 2016 and quoted in Harvard Health Publishing the same year.


Cardiio was used in combination with the iPhone camera by researchers to spot atrial fibrillation in over 1,000 patients. As a result, they were able to detect irregular heartbeats in 92.9 percent of patients who already had the disorder, and they accurately detected 97.7% of patients who did not.


This does not mean that you can fully focus on automated solutions; but, if you do not have convenient access to those health facilities, you should still speak to your doctor to see if this is a feasible choice for you. After all, anything is better than zero.


So, how do you feel about this list? Do you use a related app to keep track of your heart rate on your phone? Is there anybody else you meet who has this capability?


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