The Apple Watch and What it Means for Health: A Personalized Approach to Wearables

Apple - Apple Watch - iWatch - New Wearable Technology
The New Apple Watch. The Apple Watch with magnetic leather band. The latest in wearable health technology expected out early 2015.

The much-anticipated Apple event this morning, or afternoon if you are on the East Coast like me, went off with a hitch. The hitch being an absolutely abhorrent live stream experience that was only available through your Safari browser. Amidst the multicolor, 80’s looking barred screen, strange stock sounding music clips and error messages, I was able to view about 75% of the presentation live and then the remainder thirty minutes later. All in all, it was indeed a BIG event. The excitement somewhat  reminiscent of downloading your favorite songs from Napster, only to find that 4 of the 7 actually made it through. Aside from the new phone, which looks markedly different from the last, Payments, which looks similar to a more widely accepted version of Google Wallet, the real game changer was the announcement of the Apple Watch (not iWatch like many of us had speculated).

The Apple Watch is going to have custom sensors to measure intensity, distance and elevation. The idea is to gauge quality of movement, not necessarily quantity. A few other fitness wearables actually count the distance you’ve driven in your car towards your daily movement total. In the activity app three key aspects of movement are measured via a series of rings that look like a donut chart sliced in half: the move ring, which measures calories burned, the exercise ring, which measures brisk activity, and the stand ring, which measures how often you’ve stood up to take a break from sitting. This means less sedentary time spent at say, your apple computer. There is also a dedicated workout app that provides “more detailed (fitness / health) measurements when you need it most.” There will of course be a developer kit to allow for the creation of third party app development i.e. something like My Fitness Pal. Apple did reference the ability to goal-set, which in and of itself isn’t new. The real innovation comes in it’s ability to dynamically learn, helping you customize your goals to match your personal fitness level over time.

Most exciting to me is the way the Apple Watch is poised to revolutionize the health wearables market by providing a completely integrated and personalized health experience. Admittedly, I feel quite invested in health wearable as I am currently wearing a Nike Fuel Band and lately have been researching newer options, like the FitBit and Up24. This isn’t because I dislike the Fuel Band (I actually love it) but rather because it doesn’t incorporate key features, like sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring, or the ability to gauge high intensity / low movement exercise, something along the lines of weight training. I was intrigued by the Up24 but I opted to wait and see what Apple had in store during the announcement today and I admit I wasn’t disappointed.Apple - Apple Watch - Overview

The Apple Watch is so much more than a way to experience content from your phone, on your wrist. It runs a completely new but “familiar” interface that uses the crown of the watch to scroll through and select content, similar to the way the first iPods made use of the click wheel. From a health standpoint the Apple Watch is essentially an “all-day fitness tracker… that can track a wider variety of activities because it’s able to collect more types of data. It uses an accelerometer to measure your total body movement. It has a custom sensor that can measure intensity by tracking your heart rate. And it uses the GPS and Wi‑Fi in your iPhone to track how far you’ve moved.” In addition to an accelerometer, also present in your phone, there is a new feature called a barometer that measures elevation by tracking air pressure. This means that the watch can track how high you’ve climbed as well as how far. It can also measure number of stairs, helpful if you live near the top of a walkup or frequent fire escapes.

The watch will be sold in three uniquely stylized lines called the Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition. The watch is priced at $350 – the catch is, you will also need an iPhone but let’s be honest, if you are going to buy an Apple Watch what are the chances you don’t already own the phone? We also don’t know if some of the more high end looking watch bands are going to carry an additional cost.

A few features Apple hasn’t mentioned yet but I hope they plan on incorporating: sleep tracking (they reference charging the watch at night so this doesn’t look promising, although the technology to do this is already built-in to your phone), blood pressure (I don’t know how they would pull this off on a wrist watch but as the rumors were flying the last few months, many notable sites and media outlets seemed certain Apple had found a solution, lastly power (those that don’t train with power don’t appreciate or even understand it for that matter, but what’s great about power is that it provide a benchmark for all your activity and you can compare and contrast it with friends. It’s funny because the proprietary “Fuel” metric is what I like most, while it’s also been the biggest criticism of Fuel Band).

The Apple Watch is set to launch early next year. Apple is now making developer kits available so you can only imagine the bevy of amazing apps that will be released with the watch. Whatever happens between now and Q1, one thing is for certain, Apple is going to take ownership of yet another market and we will never view health or wearables the same way again.


Apple - Apple Watch - Gallery - Wearable Health Technology
The Apple watch with white band.