New iPhone 5s provides options for mHealth

Last week, Apple unveiled its new iPhone 5 with a "motion coprocessor" chip that should get the attention of health and fitness app developers, according to an article in Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry.

Called the M7, the chip is designed to continuously measure data from the phone's accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass. The iPhone 5s, which Apple touts as the world's first 64-bit smartphone, will "be able to tell if you're stationary, walking, or even driving," states the article. In addition, Apple has created an application programming interface (API) for developers called CoreMotion API to develop health tracking apps. 

As the article points out, Nike has already created an app called Nike+ Move that uses the M7 and the iPhone's GPS to track user movements. Nike has dubbed the app an introductory experience to Nike Fuel, "creating speculation that the company hopes to use the 5s as a means of turning consumers onto its other health tracking products like the Fuel Band--a smart move as it seems the M7 is designed, in part, to attack products like the Fuel Band directly," argues the article.

Apple's iPhone 5s announcement comes just a week after Samsung made its own splash with a new Galaxy Note 3 smartphone and made a play into the health tracking and wearable devices market with its Galaxy Gear smart watch. Coupled with similar products already announced by Sony and expected soon from Apple and Qualcomm, the Galaxy Gear smart watch might have a major impact on the mobile health app market, depending on how the technology evolves, observers say.

"It seems Apple is hoping the iPhone 5s's new sensor technology will give it a one-up on Samsung and help it regain some of the traction Apple has lost to Samsung in the smartphone market," the Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry article argues. "With the Galaxy Gear only compatible with Samsung smartphones (for now) it could do well on Apple's part if app and hardware developers who have already created iPhone compatible products look at this as an opportunity to expand and upgrade on the platform. With the iPhone so popular among mobile health app developers, the M7 could be the move Apple needs to undercut the competition in the mobile health space."

Last month, Samsung launched a health app designed for its Android-based Galaxy S4 smartphone that features an avatar that grows fatter or thinner with the user. Called the S Health Buddy app, it allows users to choose from five different characters--two female, two male and one animal--that act as avatars of the user as he or she eats and exercises.

The app, which is free on the Google Play Store and currently only available in Samsung's home market of Korea, calculates how the user is doing in terms of calories based on recorded food intake, hours of exercise, and the user's initial input of height and weight. Samsung's Galaxy S4 smartphone, designed to compete with Apple's iPhone 5, has gotten the attention of research firm Frost & Sullivan for "transforming the mobile device into a health monitoring tool" with an updated version of the S Health app and its built-in pedometer to track steps and deliver food nutrition information.

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