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Can Heart Rate be Monitored with Smartphone Camera or Dedicated Sensor Required?

Heart Rate Monitors are personal monitoring devices that let the users to measure their heart rate in real time and record these details for later study. Usually, these devices are highly used by the athletes and others who are involved into physical exercises. The older models transmit a radio signal when the heart rate is detected and employ a receiver to find out the current heart rate. In the advanced heart rate monitors, a microprocessor is used to keep a track of the EKG and calculate the heart rate besides other parameters.

galaxy s5 heart rate sensor

These days, even high-end smartphones come with heart rate monitors are pretty efficient. Two such phones that have received this advanced feature are Samsung Galaxy S5 and Apple iPhone 5s.

Heart Rate Sensor in Galaxy S5

The Galaxy S5 is the first smartphone to arrive with a built-in heart rate monitor, however it is not the only one that can help measure the heart rate. The heart rate sensor is one of the much acclaimed features of Samsung’s current flagship model – Galaxy S5. This sensor is positioned next to the camera flash and it is capable of reading the heart rate of a person when the user’s finger is held on it for a few seconds. The technique behind detecting the person’s heart rate is pretty simple as Samsung. Once the finger is help on this sensor for few seconds, the LED light is beamed on the fingertip detecting the blood flow under the skin.

It has to be noted that this heart rate sensor on the Galaxy S5 is a part of the S Health app that debuted on the Galaxy S4, however it is updated to match up the facilities in the Galaxy S5 with great emphasis on fitness. Once the app is done with detecting the heart rate, it will be displayed on the screen. The S Health also records the heart rates and plots a graph allows users to keep a track of their cardio activities regularly.

Heart Rate Sensor in iPhone 5s

When it comes to the iPhone 5s, the device does not have a built-in heart rate monitor, instead the users can download an application that can capture the heart rate in a similar way as the Galaxy S5 does. There are several applications that work well on the iPhone 5s and some of them are the Basis fitness tracker, Polar Beat H7 and more.

Also, the iPhone 5s does not come pre-loaded with a health app and hence, users will have to rely on third part apps to access and record such information. To help in such cases, there is an app – Instant Heart Rate that lets users to log their heart rate. This app can be integrated with the other activity tracking apps such as Argus that employs the motion sensors on the iPhone to track calories burnt and distance walked in a day, something similar to a pedometer.

iphone 5s heart rate

Galaxy S5 Heart Rate Sensor VS Other Heart Rate Monitors

Firstly, let us take the Basis B1 activity tracker into consideration. This is a wearable device that is usually worn on the wrist. It reads the heart rate of the user by emitting light though the blood vessels to calculate the oxygen level in the blood. This is done by measuring the reflected light. On comparing, both the devices showed almost similar heart rate readings with no significant difference.

When comparing the readings of the Galaxy S5 heart rate monitor with those taken using Polar Beat chest strap, both the readings have turned out to be identical with only slight difference.

All you need is a Camera Flash!

As mentioned above, the Galaxy S5 has an in-built sensor to detect the heart rate, but how is it possible in the case of the iPhone 5s? Simple, the applications that are available on the app stores can be downloaded on any device that has a camera flash to detect the heart rate of the users. Hence, a smartphone with flash is sufficient for users who want to detect their heart rate using their handset.


Justifying that any smartphone with a camera flash is all that one has to have to detect their heart rate, how do we defend it? Well, a video comparing the Galaxy S5 heart rates monitor and the Runtastic Heart Rate app on Galaxy S5, S4 and iPhone 5s shows that the in-built monitor in the Galaxy S5 is in no ways extraordinary.

It has to be noted that we are not only meaning the Galaxy S5, but any smartphone that can actually detect the user’s heart rate using an app and the camera flash. There is not much difference between the smartphone camera and the use of any wrist band or chest strap device that also does the same. The only major difference lies in the convenience of the users. Wearing such devices does not require the user to hold their finger on the sensor or camera lens without jerking as once they wear it, the device measures the heart rate without interfering with the workout.

In the video, the heart rates of a user are measured simultaneously using the aforementioned processes with a slight different between each process ranging from 1 bpm to 3 bpm. Hence, it concludes that the Galaxy S5 does not posses a unique capability and it is definitely not a great consideration to buy the flagship model from Samsung. Of course, the S Health app has many other benefits apart from measuring the heart rate and to avail those features, the Galaxy S5 app is a good option. However, the addition of the heart rate sensor is a good selling point for Samsung and other vendors who claim that their device bags the heart rate sensing ability.


Abhishek Bhatnagar

Abhishek Bhatnagar, a known technology blogger & YouTuber from India. A Software Engineer by qualification, now he works as the editor-In-Chief, Webmaster, & Managing Director at Gadgets To Use. He runs a number of other technology websites as well.