watchOS 9.6.1 fixes health apps not tracking Parkinson’s symptoms

The watchOS 9.6.1 release notes mention fixing a bug preventing Apple Watch apps from tracking symptoms that are indicative of Parkinson’s disease.

A photograph showing an Apple Watch Series 6 case sitting upright on a table, with a colorful lights in the background blurred with a depth-of-field effect
watchOS 9.6.1 fixes a problem with health apps | Credit: AB/Unsplash

The update with the build number 20U80 arrived on August 15, 2023 for all devices compatible with watchOS 9. No other changes are found in watchOS 9.6.1.

You can install the update in Settings on the watch itself or through the Software Update mechanism in the companion Watch app on your paired iPhone.

watchOS 9.6.1 fixes Parkinson’s tracking in apps

The release notes in Software Update reveal the following changes in watchOS 9.6.1.

This update includes a fix for an issue that prevents access to motion data for apps that use the Movement Disorder API to track tremors and symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.

A support document on Apple’s website that lists the contents of Apple’s security updates doesn’t mention any security patches. Before watchOS 9.6.1, the company released watchOS 9.6 which patched several vulnerabilities in the system kernel, the Find My app, Apple’s Neural Engine and more.

How to install watchOS 9.6.1

You can update your Apple Watch directly or through its paired iPhone. To update the watchOS software directly, go to Settings > General > Software Update and hit Install, then follow the onscreen instructions. Be sure to turn on Wi-Fi or the device won’t be able to check for updates.

To update the watchOS software through your paired iPhone, open the Watch app on the phone, select the My Watch tab at the bottom, then navigate to General > Software Update and follow the instructions. You may be asked to enter your iPhone or Apple Watch passcode to proceed.

You’ll see the progress wheel on the watch as the update is installed. To view the current watchOS version number, venture into Settings > General > About on your Apple Watch and check the number below Version.

What is the Movement Disorder API?

Young woman jogging in the morning in the countryside
Apps can track symptoms for Parkinson’s disease | Image: Emma Simpson/Unsplash

Apple introduced the Movement Disorder API in 2018 to enable developers to interpret sensor data that could point to Parkinson’s disease.

Apple’s developer documentation states that the Movement Disorder API is capable of picking up shaking and quivering, common symptoms of Parkinson’s. It can also monitor for Dyskinesia, which denotes muscle twitches and swaying motions that occur as side effects of treatments for Parkinson’s.

The API offers passive, all-day monitoring of the above symptoms, enabling apps to track Parkinson’s symptoms. Before it came along, patients had to undergo specialized physical tests for a detailed look into these symptoms over time.

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