After months of speculation, Apple finally pulled back the curtain on its latest venture, a platform called HealthKit, to debut with iOS 8.

HealthKit was originally rumored to be an app called ‘HealthBook,” and while it launched under a different name, many of its defining attributes have survived. Apple revealed more details regarding the software at this year’s Apple World Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco. While initial speculation positioned it as merely an app, Apple presented it much more like a health and fitness platform.

Individual features in HealthKit are not entirely revolutionary, but the way Apple put them together is a significant step forward in the health technology field. Consumers have traditionally had to rely on many different apps for tracking metrics such as nutrition, exercise, blood pressure and other health-related data. However, HealthKit is a comprehensive health and fitness tracking tool that lets users put all that information in one place. 

HealthKit is also not the first attempt at a comprehensive health app, which has led some industry observers to question its potential for success. However, Apple HealthKit has a couple advantages over its predecessors.

Apple’s strength has always been on creating accessible and engaging user interfaces, which will likely make HealthKit appealing to a wider audience. Secondly, the timing is better for a comprehensive fitness and health app because US adults are simply much more connected than they were in 2008. According to Mintel’s Digital Trends Spring 2014 report, 61% of US adults reported that they own a smartphone, compared to only 30% in 2011.  This means that Apple has a unique opportunity to garner interest from mobile device users, whereas similar health platforms have been primarily web-based.

The other key differentiator for Apple will be that it opened HealthKit to third-party developers. This means that other companies will be able to develop software that integrates and expands upon the functionality within HealthKit. This ultimately means that improvements and extra functionality will come to HealthKit much faster than if it had been released as a closed app.

Apple has already announced a partnership with Mayo Clinic, which is developing an app that will monitor the information collected by HealthKit and alert users if some of the data it sees appears abnormal and may require further medical attention. For example, a user who takes an abnormal blood pressure reading can opt to have the app notify a doctor and seek advice immediately.

When looking at health tracking tools specifically, we’re seeing a burgeoning interest, particularly among younger consumers. For example, Mintel’s Marketing Health to Women US October 2013 report found that 14% of American women claim they are interested in tracking their health with a device. The number jumps to 21% when looking at 18-24s.  Given Apple’s sphere of influence and interest in everything that they do, it is likely that the company will be able to create mainstream appeal.

The personalized health trend signals a shift in control because consumers can be more informed than they ever have been. Brands can leverage this by acting as facilitators that not only empower users by giving them information by help them to use that information effectively.

Bryant Harland brings almost a decade of experience working in the tech arena, most recently as a Senior Technology Writer with Brafton News, where he oversaw the editorial team, wrote as a trade journalist and prepared a range of industry white papers.

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