Health tracking in Apple's iOS software may go beyond today's sensors and wristbands.
9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman has a big scoop on Healthbook, the wellness-tracking app that Apple is reportedly building into iOS 8:
Each category of functionality is a card in the Healthbook. Cards are distinguished by a color, and the tabs can be arranged to fit user preferences. As can be seen in the above images, Healthbook has sections that can track data pertaining to bloodwork, heart rate, hydration, blood pressure, physical activity, nutrition, blood sugar, sleep, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, and weight.
How would users log all of this data? Gurman lays out a few potential ways:
- The iPhone’s M7 coprocessor could track some details, such as steps walked and calories burned.
- Other apps could pipe their own data into Healthbook, with some measurements coming from third-party accessories such as connected scales, fitness bands and sleep trackers.
- Apple could introduce a smartwatch to track additional data, and to measure steps and movement when the user doesn’t have an iPhone on hand. The long-rumored iWatch may or may not materialize this year.
On a basic level, Healthbook makes sense. The fitness tracking business is booming, with an estimated $330 million in sales last year, according to The NPD Group. While there are plenty of fitness devices on the market already, Apple could surpass them by collecting more types of data, painting a bigger overall picture of users’ health.
But if you’re not someone who wants to obsess over fitness minutia, or needs to monitor a specific health condition, I’m not sure all that data collection is helpful on its own. The bigger challenge for Apple will be to transform that data into features that make our lives better.
Here’s an example: A couple years ago, I reviewed a sleep-tracking device that connected to an iPhone or iPad. It was fascinating for a few days, as I woke up eager to learn about the quantity and duration of my sleep. But while the device worked well from a technical standpoint, the process of tracking my sleep eventually grew tiresome. Seeing my sleep patterns in chart form was, at best, a reminder to go to sleep earlier — not exactly a life-changing revelation — and, at worst, an additional source of stress.
Still, this device did have a couple truly useful features: It could play music until it recognized that I’d fallen asleep, and it would try to wake me up during a light sleep cycle so I’d feel less exhausted. Instead of just spitting my sleep charts back at me, the tracker used what it knew to help me fall asleep and wake up.
We know that Healthbook could potentially collect lots of data, but that’s only part of the equation. How Apple would apply that data would ultimately determine Healthbook’s usefulness.