Has Apple betrayed its moral healthcare obligations in favour of fashion?

Imagine going to the doctor and within seconds he can take a look at your blood sugar, temperature and heart rate for the whole week. In June last year Apple released details of its meeting with the FDA with Apple stating it had “a moral obligation to do more with sensors” but now we know exactly what is coming packaged with the Apple Watch has it discarded these sensors to focus on the luxury, fashion market?

In short, no it hasn’t. At Pocket App we have been very impressed to see the Apple Watch is both functional and beautiful in equal measure. Even the cheapest model, the Sport, notifies people when they’ve been sitting for too long and tracks daily activity of walking, sitting and standing. Not forgetting the heart rate monitor and the new Medical Research Kit that is already revolutionising the healthcare industry by using iPhones (and Apple Watches) for mass research. Stanford University claim they have gained over a year’s worth of medical research applicants in 24 hours.

In fact, the Apple Watch introduces two new sensors – a heart rate monitor and a pressure sensor. We have no doubt these will bring services that we can’t imagine at the moment – who would of thought of  including GPS in a phone would lead to Uber, or that a microphone would lead to Shazam? Going forward, we  are also expecting to see some kind of gamification for the heart rate monitor, access control for the pressure sensor, and many more new things that we can’t even begin to imagine today. With Apple claiming to have thousands of apps ready to go on launch day it wouldn’t surprise us to see many innovative functions available to use from day one.

At Pocket App we have always promoted the use of consumer technology to improve health and well-being. 15 years ago we created and launched Pocket Doctor, the UK’s first health product for mobile, long before the rise of the app. More recently Pocket App has been working with Med ePad to develop “Med eTraX,” an application designed for healthcare professionals to manage and monitor critical patient observations through interactive touch screen tablet devices. We predict we’ll be seeing similar apps being developed that can draw on all the data the wearable has been gathering and offer a more personal experience than even the latest smartphone.

Admittedly not many of these healthcare sensors are offering anything different to wearables such as the Samsung Gear. For me, what will differentiate Apple’s offering from the Samsung Gear, is that Apple has launched a huge range of options to transform it from just a piece of tech and turn it into a fashion item.  For instance, having Christy Turlington, a top fashion model, as the main demonstrator  for the watch, and of course asking her which watch version she preferred, shows the fashion differentiator.  All of Apple’s designs are classics, so how it looks is clearly key to its success.

Not forgetting consumers have come to expect not only a great product but great customer service and great customisable applications from Apple products. Health sensors offer a massive benefit to the population but not many would spend £10,000 on a heart rate monitor.  Therefore, it is the combination of Apple’s brand, its style and the technical innovations that are going to revolutionise the  wearable market and open it up to consumers around the world who would never normally consider a smart watch.

We’ll have to wait until April to see how the public will react to the Apple Watch but it’s certainly shaping up, to not only replace the Longine or Rolex but also those routine visits to the GP as well!

Andrew Hull, Strategy Director for Pocket App