(Credit: Apple)

Apple Watch Series 4 owners who've been waiting for the much-anticipated ECG app could get their wish in time for the holidays.

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Apple will release the ECG app with the next update to WatchOS, specifically WatchOS 5.1.2, according to MacRumors, citing its review of an internal Apple Store training document. Version 5.1.2 is currently in beta. Apple has previously said that the ECG app would debut later this year. So if all this information is correct, a December launch for the app seems a safe bet.

Apple has increasingly been positioning its popular smartwatch as a health tool to monitor your heart rate and other vital signs and alert you of any potential risks or abnormalities. This year's Apple Watch Series 4 can already detect serious falls and contact emergency services if needed. The ECG app is the next step as it will measure the electrical conductivity of the heart to make sure its rhythm is normal. Such a feature could help not only people with known heart conditions but those for whom a heart condition may be lurking.

"Apple Watch Series 4 enables customers to take an ECG reading right from the wrist using the new ECG app, which takes advantage of the electrodes built into the Digital Crown and new electrical heart rate sensor in the back crystal," Apple explained in a news release in September. "With the app, users touch the Digital Crown and after 30 seconds, receive a heart rhythm classification. It can classify if the heart is beating in a normal pattern or whether there are signs of Atrial Fibrillation (AFib), a heart condition that could lead to major health complications. All recordings, their associated classifications and any noted symptoms are stored in the Health app in a PDF that can be shared with physicians."

The training document obtained by MacRumors indicates that the ECG app is regulated and available only in regions cleared for its use. Apple previously said that the app was granted a De Novo classification by the FDA, an alternate type of classification based on the riskiness of a device. As such, the app will initially be available only in the US. But Series 4 watches sold globally will include the app as its approval expands.

Of course, one question about such an app lies with its accuracy. What happens if the ECG app comes up with a false reading, thereby worrying people who may not actually have a heart issue? Apple's training document addresses this topic by telling store employees to caution customers that the app is "not intended to be a diagnostic device or to replace traditional methods of diagnosis," and that it "should not be used to monitor or track disease state or change medication without first talking to a doctor."

The ECG app will be available only on the Series 4 watch. But WatchOS 5.1.2 will offer notifications about irregular heart rhythm on all watches from the Series 1 through the Series 4, according to MacRumors.

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  1. Apple will release its ECG app with the next release of WatchOS, according to an internal Apple document viewed by MacRumors.
  2. Designed to monitor the electrical activity of your heart, the app could alert you to any abnormal heart rhythms.

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Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books - "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time" and "Teach Yourself VISUALLY LinkedIn."