“Smartphones — and the iPhone in particular — are the Swiss Army knives of tech. With each new version, they absorb more and more functionality from “dedicated” devices — everything from point-and-shoot cameras, camcorders, portable gaming systems, dedicated GPS devices, e-book readers, and PDAs, just to name a few,” Brian Bennett reports for CNET. “And now, with the introduction of the iPhone 5S, another product category may well be on the chopping block: health trackers.”

“What’s sobering for makers of products like the Fitbit Flex or Jawbone Up is a tiny chip in the new iPhone called the M7 ‘motion coprocessor.’ (That’s separate and distinct from the iPhone 5S’ main CPU, the 64-bit A7 chip),” Bennett reports. “The M7 is designed to track your movement and automatically figure out whether you’re sitting on the couch, running a serious foot race, or simply taking a Sunday morning stroll. Add some compatible software — Apple has tapped longtime fitness partner Nike to create an M7-compatible version of its Nike+ Move app — and the M7-equipped iPhone 5S appears to be well-equipped to replace wrist-style exercise gadgets altogether.”

Bennett reports, “an Apple iWatch has now gone from ‘possibility’ to ‘probability,’ in my mind. The very existence of the M7 chip telegraphs it for all to see. The hardware is already there, and I expect a compatible app ecosystem to flower in no time. Once that’s all up and running on the iPhone, it would be a cinch to shrink it down — M7, apps, and all — into a wrist-based device. Hold on to your hats — and your fitness trackers. It’s going to be an interesting 2014.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “dslarsen” for the heads up.]