For the past several months rumors of iOS 8, a sensor laden iWatch and iPhone 6 focused not just on snazzy new technology but also on health and fitness. Come along for a look at what Apple may be planning for 2014.
Using fitness and health to sell products is nothing new, even in the technology world. Small gadgets and accessories that can help users lose weight and look better exploded in popularity in 2011 and 2012 with the Nike Fuel Band, Fitbit, Up and dozens of others.
Like pedometers, specialized shirts and new running shoes before them, these gadgets sell not only a new item, but also the promise of a better you. There is also a guilt factor of spending money on a new fitness item that can motivate some owners to work out more to get their money’s worth.
Inside Apple’s Obsessions With Health
Apple began the push for an iPhone as a health and fitness tool in 2013 with the iPhone 5s and the Apple M7 chip that can track steps and other information without the need for an external accessory like a Fitbit. This tool is not a complete solution to a healthier iPhone user, but it is a start for Apple and it allowed many app makers to tap into the new iPhone without the need for another accessory.
In 2014 Apple appears to be ready to deliver a new app with the iOS 8 release date that could replace some existing health and fitness apps and help Apple sell more iPhone 6 devices by leveraging the desire of millions of americans to get in shape and lose weight.
With nearly 35% of U.S. adults over the age of 20 obese, and many more overweight, there is a growing market for gadgets that help users track activity, weight, blood pressure, heart rate and other activities. American consumers spend nearly $60 billion a year on fitness and weight loss according to a U.S. News report from early 2013.
In 2014 we are seeing a shift from accessories that track and manage health and fitness using third-party apps to a focus on the user’s health to sell smartphones. Samsung announced the Galaxy S5 and the Gear Fit in February and by this time next month users will be able to track various aspects of their health including heart rate with this combination of gear.
iOS 8 is Key, But More is Needed
So far the rumors point to Apple boarding the health and fitness train with iOS 8, an iWatch and the iPhone 6. Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac shares a detailed look at what we can expect from Apple in regards to health and fitness tracking. The original report is worth reading for more details on each of these health cards and key Apple hires that can make this a reality. This project is one with moving targets according to the report and while iOS 8 is the goal, if it requires and iWatch with multiple sensors, iPhone 6 or other Apple hardware the actual release may change to fit the needs of a hardware launch.
In a lengthy report that includes recreations of Healthbook iOS 8 screenshots, the publication shares the deepest look into Apple’s secret plans to sell you an iPhone and accessories that can help deliver a fitter, healthier you.
Tracking weight and activity are not new, but they are an integral part of Healthbook in iOS 8 according to this leak. Apple also plans to track nutrition by monitoring food intake. A 2008 study found that tracking food intake was “the most powerful predictor,” of weight loss.
From a health standpoint, iOS 8 may also track the user’s heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, blood sugar and more. There is no firm information in the bloodwork tracking in this report. Apple may be experimenting with what to track and how to track it, and this may be tied to meetings Apple had with the FDA in late 2013. There are already a number of apps and accessories to track blood sugar, but Healthbook could be the go to spot if Apple includes this functionality in iOS 8.
While not directly tied to tracking blood sugar, Dan Hon shares a very interesting look into how he used the data supplied by a Nike Fuel Band and a Fitbit in response to a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Using these tools and their ability to track his health, Hon returned his blood sugar to a healthy level. He writes, “Effectively, I’d healed myself through data.”
As it stands Apple will need to deliver some interoperability with accessories to meet the lofty tracking goals outlined in the iOS 8 leaks. Users could enter information manually, but it seems more likely that Apple will either deliver an iWatch or iPhone 6 with sensors to track much of this or it will allow the many third-party health accessories to connect to Healthbook as a central repository of health and fitness data on the iPhone.
Apple sells a variety of accessories already that allow users to track their heart rate, activity, cycling speed, blood oxygen levels and more. There is even a third-party iPhone case on the way that builds these sensors into a slim case to help users track all kinds of health information on the go.
We expect to see Apple reveal iOS 8 at a developer conference in June, which is where Apple revealed the last several major versions of iOS to developers and excited users. The actual release is not likely until the fall alongside a new iPhone. Rumors suggest Apple is planning an iPhone 6 with a larger screen for a fall release date. Rumors also suggest we could see an Apple iWatch arrive this year with health capabilities.
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