Apple is naturally iterating iOS 8 through a number of beta versions for developers (and those consumers who have decided to updated to the bleeding edge of the mobile operating system). Part of that process includes updating the bundled applications, and the latest update to the new Health app reveals just a little bit more about Apple’s strategy for the quantified self, and arguably about a new wearable device from Apple.
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The new version of the app now includes a step counter, a distance travelled trip meter, and (one for the programmers and writers here) a caffeine tracker.
More importantly, owners of the iPhone 5S will not need to have a separate accessory to gain these measured benefits. Using the sensors built-in to the iPhone 5S, and the M7 motion co-processor, the iPhone itself can act as a relatively large fitness tracking chip, which powers the new step- counter and trip meter. When iOS 8 rolls out to the public, Apple will also be rolling out the big brother of a fitness tracker. The hardware is already in the hands of millions of people, all it is waiting on is the software. And that’s on the way.
So what does this mean for the unannounced and mythical wearable strategy from Apple?
While there is nothing stopping Apple secretly building a smartwatch application to control notifications and alerts that would be sent to a smartwatch, the work on the Health app certainly points to accepting input from multiple sources of health, exercise, and movement data. While the integration of third-party peripherals was discussed during this year’s WWDC keynote, look at the elements that Apple has now shown. There is an application that provides basic health tracking with very little input required from the user; a drive to provide data to the user to improve their life through hassle-free measurement and simple analysis; and the hardware that supports the measurement and storage of data inputs while using minimal power.
The iPhone hardware will act as a fitness tracker, but for more fidelity, accuracy, and convenience, a wearable device would be better suited. Software wise, the job is done. Hardware wise, just move the M7 into a fitness band or a watch-like housing, and the job is done. As for selling it… the hard work of proving that a tracker can work for you has already been completed by the iPhone itself, any salesman worth his salt should be able to sell an M7 enabled wearable.