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Apple’s(s aapl) first real foray into detailed health tracking will likely come with Healthbook, the company’s iOS app to track and report on various quantified-self statistics. We knew the app was coming based on leaked icons for Healthbook, and on Monday, 9to5Mac shared details from unidentified sources on what the software will actually do. Interestingly, Apple’s iPhone alone can’t yet track everything that Healthbook can, which suggests that an Apple iWatch or other wearable is a likely part of this overall strategy.
Based on screen images, Healthbook looks and feels much like Passbook for iOS, with different color-coded cards representing various health attributes and activities. For fitness, Healthbook will monitor steps taken, calories burned, weight, body fat percentage, sleep and BMI. I’d call these “table stakes” for any health tracking app or device that launches these days. And it’s the additional data beyond fitness where Healthbook gets really interesting.
The software may also track heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels in the blood, sugar levels and hydration. These are functions that the iPhone itself can’t monitor today through either the M7 co-processor or other means, suggesting Healthbook will work with some external device or devices.
Those could be existing wearables, of course, provided Apple offers an API for the Jawbones of the world. Or it could tell us about what features an Apple-designed wearable might have. Apple itself could gather the quantified self data in either case — all of it would be in Healthbook — but by creating a health-tracking wearable, the company can boost hardware revenues.
My gut says the latter situation is more likely, and not just because of the wearable sales opportunity.
By creating its own device, Apple will do what it does best: build a generally bulletproof consumer electronics device that will appeal to the masses for its simplicity and effectiveness. I’d expect the first iteration to focus mainly on the Healthbook data points, along with a few other simple features: think Caller ID or iMessage alerts over Bluetooth from an iPhone and perhaps some basic music controls or Siri interaction. After that, Apple can revise and add new features on a yearly basis and disrupt the quickly growing wearables market.