Apple May Throw the Healthbook at You
Mar 19, 2014 5:00 AM PT
Apple reportedly is working on a health and fitness tracking app called "Healthbook," which could be a one-stop shop for iOS users interested in using mobile tech to better keep track of their progress toward health goals.
The app would help users monitor their health information including blood pressure, hydration, weight, respiratory rate, nutrition, physical activity, heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen saturation and sleep, according to a report from 9to5Mac, which published screen shots purportedly of the app.
Healthbook also could help users track health tests. For patients who must take frequent tests to monitor their health -- those with chronic conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease, for example -- the app could replace a manual log or faxes from a doctor's office to help them keep tabs on their stats.
Designers are taking visual cues from Apple's Passbook application for Healthbook's aesthetic, the photos suggest. It's unclear how much data an iPhone would be capable of collecting directly, so it's possible the app will be set up similar to Passbook.
Whereas Passbook provides a central location for users to gather third-party information regarding airline boarding passes or movie tickets, Healthbook could be the spot where iOS users can collect the information they have from their favorite mobile health apps.
Mobile Health - About to Take Off?
Mobile health tracking has enjoyed a rise in popularity over the past few years, but there is still plenty of a room for a large player to optimize the service and become a leader in the space, said Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.
"Fitness and tracking have certainly been a hot area in both the device and services space," he told TechNewsWorld. "However, we are a long way from optimal health tracking. There are many factors involved that go beyond simple activity tracking that are not easily measured."
Apple has the tools, resources and experience to make a splash in that market, but if it is going to do so, it needs to strike soon, said John Feland, CEO and founder of Argus Insights.
"The time is right," he told TechNewsWorld.
"Several years of Nike+ collaboration coupled with the newly released M-Processor on the iPhone 5s, along with the rapid proliferation of fitness apps within the iTunes store, mean that Apple has the market lessons needed to create a health experience that leapfrogs the competition," Feland reasoned.
"Samsung's entry with the Gear Fit and the heart rate sensor on the new Galaxy S5 are not yet integrated into a health platform, but instead are features based on what is technically feasible rather than integrated into what is desirable," he maintained.
Making the Tracker Count
It's still unclear where Healthbook might fit into Apple's products offering -- as a part of the iPhone or integrated into a device such as the long-rumored Apple smartwatch.
No matter which direction Apple takes Healthbook, the company needs to leverage its established position as a mobile leader, said Feland. Unlike some of the smaller startup fitness companies, it doesn't have to convince users it's a worthy brand. Instead, it needs to focus on creating a mobile health app that people find they can't live without.
"For Apple to be successful in this area, it needs to solve the stickiness problem that any health or fitness experience has," Feland noted.
"Most fitness apps are forgotten within weeks of the initial spike of engagement," he pointed out.
"Coupled with a hardware anchor like wearable, Apple could fold in elements of gamification, social coaching and other proven solutions to sustained engagement to make the Healthbook something consumers not only pay attention to but actually use to affect behavior change in their lives," he suggested.
If Apple can do that, it could be the company that helps make health tracking a mainstream part of the mobile experience, said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research.
"Apple is great at user interface, and Apple could play a significant role in helping legitimize this market," he told TechNewsWorld. "This could create a rising tide for all of the vendors in the space."