Smartphone? Try heartphone

Lost in the kerfuffle of the apparent theft and resale of a next-generation iPhone prototype is the news that Apple has applied for a patent on an "integrated sensor for detecting a user's cardiac activity" that's embedded into an unspecified device. That, according to a post on the Unwired View blog, means that Apple is seeking to embed a heart monitor into an iPhone, iPod, iPad or at least an iPhone-like case.

"The sensor, as Apple describes it, could be completely hidden from view, and the 'electrical signals generated by the user can be transmitted from the user's skin through the electronic device housing to the leads,'" writes Stan Schroeder at Mashable.

"Then, using these signals, the electronic device can 'identify or authenticate the user and perform an operation based on the identity of the user. In some embodiments, the electronic device can determine the user's mood from the cardiac signals and provide data related to the user's mood,'" he continues.

The insightful folks at 3G Doctor in Ireland say that this could mean the end of the "smartphone wars" and the beginning of the "sensor wars." I have to agree. As I've said before, never underestimate the power of Apple's design. And never underestimate the ability of Steve Jobs to read a market.

All the talk of the FDA considering the possibility of regulating diagnostic and therapeutic medical apps all of a sudden gains new relevance. Don't blink or you might miss a seismic shift in mobile healthcare. The smartphone is about to become the heartphone. - Neil