Case for an iBand
Craig Hockenberry on his piece makes a very solid case that Apple is into the wearable technologies but not necessarily into smart watches. It could be a ring or a cool looking bracelet or a funky band that has all sorts of crazy sensors and may be a tiny display built in that will complement the iPhone. I am more convinced that it is a band than anything.
On an different note, Apple is developing healthbook app. Some leaked screenshots like this one here reveals that the app is very comprehensive.
The app does collect and track multitude of details about the user. What is is interesting here is heart rate aspect, Which the iDevices don’t capture yet. Moreover heart rate information is of value when it is monitored on a constant basis during a workout, etc rather at particular intervals like twice each day. There is very good chance that there will be an external device that will supply this data to the app, since heart rate monitors need to be connected to the bare body unlike phones which usually stays in our pockets or covered in a pouch. Hence the case for an iBand.
When we look at Apple’s interest in the wearables market and healthcare domain together, the picture becomes a bit more clearer. A wearable device that would also aid the healthbook app makes sense. Let’s imagine an iDevice accessory, (lets call it the iBand for this post) that has motion tracking sensor similar to the battery efficient M7 chip on the iPhone 5s, coupled with a heart rate/pulse rate sensor.This makes a huge difference from all the existing bands out there. All the existing bands just track your activity, but they aren’t that accurate given they don’t have your heart rate information. The heart rate information changes the whole dimension of this problem. Adding heart rate makes the calories burnt in a day a lot more accurate. That means it can monitor the user’s health than just monitoring his activity. That way the healthbook app can track and predict weight loss/gain a lot more accurately. The Samsung gear 2 does have the heart rate sensor,but it also has all sorts of unwanted features like reading emails, taking pics etc. I believe apple is perfecting something similar rather than rushing to the market and being an early entrant.
The motion sensor will also supplement the health book app by collecting data about sleep patterns(so that you don’t have to have your phone turned on below the pillow) at night. A tiny display (e-ink) with a vibrator and bluetooth LE chip would take care of reminders and the data syncing with the iPhone/iPad/Mac. A sexy waterproof finish with attention to detail would add to the prowess of Apple.
The tiny display would mostly be a e-ink considering battery life and will serve as an minimal timepiece with custom reminders which possibly could remind people to take medications, diabetic patients to check blood sugar etc. Showing time would just be an added feature. I don’t think it is going to display any other notifications apart from may be counts of unread messages/mail/missed calls. I see no value addition in reading mails on my iBand and reading it again on my iPhone to reply or take further actions. Answering calls on the iBand or taking pics will just look hideous.
The sole existence of an healthbook app on iOS shows the interest Apple has into health care. Positioning this band as an accessory that complements this interest is going to aid Apple strongly than positioning this as a smart watch. That way they won’t be selling it to the general market and annoy them that it doesn’t do x,y,z but it still gets called a smart watch. It will cater to selective market of health conscious people. A band that one can wear anywhere, that is always ON helping you stay healthy is always a win for both the user and Apple. I also believe that Apple is already talking with to top medical device manufacturers to create medical devices(Weighing machines,Blood pressure monitors, Blood Sugar monitors, etc) that can work with Bluetooth LE on the iPhone/iPad.
I am all in for an iBand from Apple than anything, but only time and Apple will tell.