Throughout the years, Apple has changed the way people live with technology. Now, it’s about to take us to the next level of technology-lifestyle integration. Apple on Sept. 9 announced the iPhone 6 and its latest personal device, the Apple Watch. New apps and software associated with these devices and the soon-to-be-released iOS 8 operating system mean the next generation of health and fitness tracking has arrived.
It is not surprising, considering Apple CEO Tim Cook is known for being a bit of a fitness fanatic. During Apple’s streamed live event Sept. 9, Cook introduced the Apple Watch’s health and fitness capabilities and stated, “This is a very important area for me and a very important area for apple … Apple builds great products that enrich people’s lives. Inarguably we can take that to a whole new level with Apple Watch.”
A whole new level, indeed. Trying to lose weight? Imagine being able to take a quick glance at your iPhone screen to assess your calorie intake throughout the day, week or month and compare with graphs of your weight and heart rate for the same duration. Trying to move more? How great would it be to look at the watch on your wrist and see if you’ve reached the recommended amount of brisk activity for the day? It’s all happening.
Apple watch to be the new must-have wearable
Wearable technology in the form of sports and activity trackers (e.g., Fitbits, Jawbone UPs Nike FuelBands) is a $700 million industry, and the market is growing. By 2016, worldwide spending on wearable technology is expected to reach $1.4 billion. Yet, while wearable-loving consumers were previously aware of the smartwatch, it was not considered a must-have.
One poll found that, prior to Apple’s big announcement, smartwatches were the most well-known wearable gadget—36 percent of respondents were familiar with them, but only 23 percent said they would consider buying one given the limited devices on the market. That will likely change now, especially since respondents cited tracking fitness among the top three reasons they would make the purchase. Even before Apple officially unveiled its watch, experts predicted the smartwatch market would grow 86 percent in 2014. Apple just brought the smartwatch to the masses and is delivering it with consumers’ most desired functions.
The new Apple Watch, which the world has already given the obvious nickname: iWatch, and the iOS Health app (which we will talk about later) both represent a tremendous leap from the Nike+iPod sport kit released in 2006 and isolated smartphone apps that track specific habits. With elegance, ease and innovation, these advances promise to make tracking your daily activity and health habits as seamless and habitual as checking your Facebook feed—whether you are simply trying to live a less sedentary lifestyle or training as an elite athlete.
Jay Blahnik, Apple’s Director of Fitness, Health Technologies, introduced the watch’s health and fitness functions in a video aired during the event. He explained that it serves as both an all-day fitness tracker and highly advanced sports watch that monitors wearers’ activity and movement throughout the day and allows them to set specific goals for workouts such as cycling and running. Using a wide range of data gathered from the watch’s accelerometer, heart rate sensor and GPS, it provides a comprehensive picture of one’s daily activities.
Apple Watch comes with apps crafted to accommodate all activity levels. They are as follows:
- Activity app – Measures movement, calories burned and how often you stand during the day
- Workout app – Provides goal-setting and pacing during popular workouts such as cycling and running
- Fitness app – A companion iPhone app that collects activity data and allows you to see your activity history in greater detail
The device stores the data and can share it with third-party apps. As it gets to know the user, it can deliver reminders and also help him or her set goals.
Said Blahnik, “We wanted to give you the most complete picture of your all-day activity and not just highlight the quantity of movement but the quality and frequency as well.”
Health app at your fingertips—no watch needed
Fortunately, we do not have to wait for the iWatch release, which will likely happen months from now, to take advantage of the Apple’s new Health app. That will be included with iPhone 6 when it goes on sale Sept. 16 and also with the iOS 8 software update that will be available to compatible devices on Sept. 17.
The Health app pulls data from various health and fitness tracking apps and makes it accessible in a single place—heart rate, calories burned, blood sugar, cholesterol and more. Users can get an at-a-glance overview on the apps dashboard and then tap on data to home in on each app individually.
The app also allows users to create their own medical ID emergency card that is accessible from the lock screen and includes information such as blood type, medications, emergency contact information, and allergies, which is accessible from the lock screen. Other features are said to include a built-in step counter, caffeine-tracking tab, the ability to communicate with one’s doctor and track lung function. Users may choose what information they want to share with apps and their doctors, serving as a sort of portable health record.
Apple partnered with healthcare heavy-hitter Mayo Clinic to develop the Health and HealthKit that software allows developers to enable apps to work together and communicate with one another. Mayo’s CEO has said that HealthKit “will revolutionize how the health industry interacts with people.”
As usual, Apple’s timing is impeccable. Health and fitness app use is on the rise. Mobile analytics company Flurry studied usage of more than 6,800 iPhone and iPad apps and saw a 62 percent increase in the first part of 2014, compared with a 33 percent usage increase for the mobile app industry in general. That’s 87 percent faster than the industry.
Surely HealthKit and the Apple Watch will result in a surge of health and fitness app options. The future looks bright for fitness-minded tech consumers and developers alike.
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