Given that Apple is embracing the quantified-self movement with its new HealthKit platform and Health app for iOS 8, it may sound counterintuitive that health tracking apps are in trouble. After all, Health is going to aggregate all sorts of data from these apps, right? Not necessarily: Health can work directly with wearable devices to get at that data too.
I first noticed this possibility earlier this week after installing the iOS 8 beta software and looking at the Health app. All I could do was manually enter data such as my height and weight; Health can actually keep a history for dozens of information types ranging from nutrition and fitness to sleep and lab results. I also saw a section in the Health app that was actively looking for wireless devices.
Now that 9to5Mac has dug into the HealthKit API, what I saw makes sense: HealthKit supports direct wireless device connections over Bluetooth LE. That means the Fitbit I currently wear (see disclosure below) could speak directly to the Health app in addition to, or instead of, the Fitbit app I have on my iPhone.
Obviously, it will be up to wearable device makers to decide if they want to work with HealthKit directly over Bluetooth or feed their data to the Health app through their current software. I suspect many will do both in order to give users the option. Besides, it may be easier to simply feed the data directly into a single app that aggregates a person’s quantified-self data in one spot; that’s exactly the point of Apple’s Health app. And it could save time and effort for a device maker: Why create a full-blown app to capture data from your device when you just plug it in to Apple’s HealthKit platform?
I use quite a few self-quantified and health tracking apps today and my hope that they don’t simply “go away” because of Health’s ability to speak directly with devices. While the basic data is useful, I also get information that Health doesn’t currently provide, such as the mapped route I took when running, my splits per mile or my fastest race paces at certain distances.
There’s still opportunity here for third-party app makers for sure. I do wonder though: How many of them will see app sales negatively impacted by Apple’s direct connection for data between Health and wearable devices? For consumers that just want the basic data all in one place, a paid third-party app might not be worth the investment.
Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of Gigaom.