I suspect that right now many people building their New Year’s Resolution around fitness. That means a surge of interest in wearable fitness trackers. Fitbit is well established in this area, but the latest update to their iOS app is gong to give them a short-term advantage and help them attract new users to the service.
Founded in 2007, the privately held San Francisco based startup manufacturers and sells trackers that cost around $100, alongside a $49 annual membership fee to the service to access historical data and analysis. Now Fitbit has another trick up their sleeve, thanks to the innovation that Apple packed into the iPhone 5s. Fitbit is one of the first mainstream developers to leverage the M7 co-proccessor inside the latest smartphone. The latest update to their iOS application allows the iPhone 5S to act as a basic Fitbit tracker without requiring the purchase of any additional hardware.
Much like a GPU takes the graphical calculations away from the CPU to free it up for more important core tasks, the M7 chip reduces the load on the CPU. It will take the raw data from the various movement and geo-location hardware sensors, and directly output workable data for applications to use. As a dedicated chip, this should reduce the battery demands across the system, as well as freeing up more processing time on the CPU.
The iPhone 5S cannot yet replace a physical Fitbit tracker, but the updated iOS application will allow people to experience the functionality of the service without having to invest blindly in a tracker. Lowering the barrier of entry to a service is a sensible course of action for any business, and Fitbit’s use of the new hardware is a smart decision. Given the imperative that many people place on getting fit at this time of year, the timing couldn’t be better.
It also illustrates the forward thinking of Apple. While the launch headlines focused on the faster A7 CPU and the fingerprint recognition technology, the iPhone 5S represents the start of a new cycle of technology. The environmental sensors and the M7 co-processor are part of that platform, and as time passes they will become a vital differentiator for consumers to consider.
Fitbit will not be the first to use the M7 chip to turn the iPhone 5S into a wearable fitness tracker, but they are one of the first recognisable names in this space to understand the benefits the M7 co-processor can offer. Doubtless there will be others throughout 2014 and beyond, and I await, with typically keen interest, to see what the world’s smartphone developers will do with this hardware. I’m also going to be interested to see how Apple’s smartphone competitors react to the M7 in the next wave of devices to be announced at CES this month and Mobile World Congress next month.