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Masimo’s W1: A Game Changer in Watch Industry

Accurate health data, $499 retail price

As I watched my alma mater The Ohio State University last month battle desperately against Michigan in their annual football game, I felt my pulse rate rising.

When I checked my watch, sure enough the pulse rate was 103, much higher than the normal 75ish range.

Luckily, the watch showed my oxygen level was near 100, meaning my heart and lungs were working normally and I wasn’t physically sick, although I was mentally anguished at the loss that my beloved Buckeyes eventually suffered.

I’ve been testing the Masimo W1 watch for the past three months. I must say, it’s an audacious product that could very well change an industry.

Founded by med tech engineer and entrepreneur Joe Kiani in 1989, the Irvine-based Masimo Corp. (Nasdaq: MASI) is best known for making high-level equipment that hospitals routinely use to monitor oxygen and blood levels. Kiani is the co-inventor of modern pulse oximetry.

The company is taking a bold step by putting that technology on its watch to sell to consumers, competing against tech giants Apple and Samsung, as well as a host of other copycats in this emerging space of wearable technology.

Kiani is excited to bring the first wearable device that offers accurate and continuous health measurements to consumers.

“The SET® technology we invented for hospitals transformed patient monitoring, saved lives, and reduced the cost of care. Based on the feedback we have received from those who have tested Masimo W1 during the limited market release phase, we believe this watch will improve lives,” said Kiani, Masimo’s CEO and Chairman, in a company press release.

Wall Street isn’t totally convinced about the pivot; last week, the company held its annual investor day to make its case (see story, page 3).

The Comparison

The Masimo W1’s advertising features users such as athletes who want to make better informed health decisions.

I can foresee it also being an attractive way for doctors and nurses to monitor patients who recently left hospitals after surgery, or as a way for adult children to remotely check on the health of their elderly parents.

During my review, I compared the Masimo W1 to my usual watch, a Samsung Galaxy Watch3. My wife has gone through three Apple Watches; the latest version often sits unused, which says a lot about its usefulness.

To start, Masimo’s wristband is the best I’ve ever experienced as it stretches much more nicely than the Galaxy’s, where the band has broken numerous times.

Both watches provide step monitoring that appears similar in count.

The Samsung watch has a far better battery life that lasts about two days, or twice the amount of time for Masimo’s.

Samsung’s app is also more user friendly and is better at providing data such as history of heart rate, steps walked and sleep trends.

Masimo reps tell me the company is constantly updating its app, which I did see in the three months of reviewing the watch.

The Edge

The measurement app clearly sets Masimo apart from its competitors.

In addition to oxygen level and heart rates, the W1 provides data like the number of breaths you take in a minute and the relative strength of your pulse.

One of the best features is the Hydration Index that indicates whether a user is getting enough fluid, something my wife often must remind me about. The index is based on a Masimo creation 15 years ago called PVi that has allowed clinicians to assess fluid responsiveness of mechanically ventilated patients.

Both the Samsung and Masimo watches offer an electrocardiogram test, commonly known as ECG. I found Masimo’s worked far better than Samsung’s. The Samsung version has a warning to not trust the data as clinically accurate, while Masimo’s W1 doesn’t include a disclaimer. In fact, Masimo is putting its watch through clinical trials to prove its measurements are more accurate than competitors.

Masimo likes to say it’s a medical device maker using hospital level technology in a consumer device, while rivals are tech companies trying to enter this field with medical data that can be flawed.

An indication of the accuracy were two visits to my doctor’s office, which found my pulse rate was exactly the same as shown on my W1. The Masimo W1 is definitely for consumers who want accuracy in their health measurement apps on their watch.

The W1 retails at $499, and offers online plans of $7.99 or $18.99 a month to provide more insights to users.

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Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan has been a journalist for 40 years. He spent a decade in Latin America covering wars, narcotic traffickers, earthquakes, and business. His resume includes 15 years at Bloomberg News where his headlines and articles sometimes moved the market caps of companies he covered by hundreds of millions of dollars. His articles have been published worldwide, including the New York Times and the Washington Post; he's appeared on CNN, CBC, BBC, and Bloomberg TV. He was awarded a Kiplinger Fellowship at The Ohio State University.
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