Fitness gadget makers should be very afraid: Apple’s M7 chip, built into iPhone 5s, paves the way for iWatch

“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.]

22 Comments

        1. That would be even funnier, don’t you think?
          If Tim head-faked samsung into producing that abomination of a “smart watch” and goo into producing that absurd headgear just so they could claim they weren’t copping an existing apple product.
          I’ll tell you what, Goog and samesung hope that Apple is going to produce wearables, because without havoing Apple to copy from… their ridiculous products are almost nonfunctional experiments and will simply wither on the vine.

  1. Oh, gosh – please give me a break with the iWatch manure. Even IF Apple goes there it isn’t going to be any big deal. Probably about like Apple TV with even less of a future. These iWatch numb-skulls set Apple up for a fall and then proceed to Blame Tim Cook because their pet concepts aren’t adopted they way they think they should be, if at all. iWatch is a non-issue, except that it’s already being setup so that Apple is damned if does and damned if it doesn’t.

  2. I agree with Mr. Peabody. IF Apple considers producing a wearable device, it does not necessarily mean that the company would choose to directly compete with a Fitbit or Jawbone. Samsung is about to learn that cramming a bunch of stuff into a big-ass watch does not a successful product make. Nerds might like it, but it’s far too big on a woman’s wrist, and the interface is an abortion.

    What the writer does not consider is whether the addition of the M7 chip could do the opposite: enable a thousand devices and apps to bloom. We might see an ecosystem of devices and apps that use the motion sensing capabilities of the M7, not just for tracking your movement and exercise, but also to see if you are falling asleep while driving, or other less obvious but highly valuable uses.

    That said, the writer could be correct, that the M7 presages future products from Apple. We might be surprised that what Apple could envision may be different than what pundits assume.

    A watch could be a tricky proposition. Given its tiny screen and little area for a battery, tough decisions would have to be made on what to leave out. I write this wearing a Fitbit on my left wrist and love it. The genius of the Fitbit is what its designers chose NOT to include – its very simplicity is its greatest feature. IF Apple were to decide on a watch or exercise/health tracking band, its design team would have to think about what a small device like a watch could do best.

    Talk to it a la Dick Tracy? Pretty silly to me.
    For checking emails or Web browsing? Would you want to?
    For telling the time? Yes.
    For tracking heart rate and steps taken? Yes in my view – this could be shared with an iPhone, iPad or Mac.
    Elevation gained, temperature, humidity? It would be great.
    Alerts? Yes.
    A vibrating alarm? Yes
    Sleep behavior tracking? Yes
    Blood insulin levels or other levels? Interesting idea – experts please weigh in.
    Child location tracking? Interesting?

    IF this were to happen, there would have to be a men’s and women’s version, not just a nerd version.

    My point is that a device of this type would have to offer simple, easy to read and immediate results. But to expect that a watch can or should do what an iPhone now does strikes me as ridiculous. It could complement other devices. It should have long battery life to be practical, and if so, that would limit what it can do. But a watch could work in conjunction with wireless communication (low power Bluetooth / iBeacon and possibly, WiFi if the battery drain is trivial) to pass along data to another device, either by local communication or Internet. My Fitbit does this via Bluetooth and my Aria bathroom scale does so by WiFi.

    All big IFs. All speculation. And until it’s real, if it ever is, it’s just wishful thinking.

    What if the M7 is meant to be an enabling device to build a software and hardware ecosystem instead? Suddenly, by opening up the M7’s API, the iPhone and possibly if included on an iPad, the M7 lets these devices become more valuable.

    As for the Gene Munster fantasy of an Apple television, knock yourself out, Gene. It ain’t gonna happen. But I do expect that future versions of the little black AppleTV could be the cheap little device that could. It’s the software, stupid – the content deals that Eddy Cue and his team can secure that will make this little device a must-have in the living room. If it becomes more interoperable with other devices, with the Web and other sources, if it supports 64-bit computing for great game rendering, and motion sensing of movement from the M7 chip, I envision the opening of an App Store for games, Wii-like devices or games/exercise apps using your iPhone as the controller, and more.

    But for Apple to build a large screen TV as the late entrant in a crowded, low-margin business? Never. Unless Apple can fundamentally change a mature industry, Apple won’t bother to try playing. TVs are low margin, price-sensitive and a heavily commoditized business, and that’s a game Apple wisely chooses not to play.

    That Munster even gets quoted on his fantasy is an insult to everyone who reads his words.

    1. Exactly what I’ve been thinking. The iWatch would only work as an accessory, a second screen if you will. It could be used to show you your notifications and alerts without ever taking your phone out of your pocket. You could control music playback without worrying about complicated mic-remotes. It could vibrate to alert you to texts and calls, so you never miss that important call just because you didn’t feel the vibration. I personally think that talking to it a la Dick Tracy would work fine. It could act as a Siri remote, allowing you to access Siri right from your wrist for whatever you need. Heck, it could even include a touchID sensor for use with older models of iOS device.

  3. Apple is partnering with Nike (again). That should be an even bigger clue than the M7. Nike currently makes a popular and elegant device called FuelBand. It’s more of a bracelet than a watch. I heard fitness nut Tim Cook is a big fan of the device.

    So, “iWatch” may be the next highly upgraded replacement for FuelBand, designed as a collaboration between Apple and Nike, leveraging Nike’s fitness assets and Apple’s technology. Imagine iWatch as a device that does “everything” and you get something like Samsung’s stupidwatch. But Apple usually goes with the “less is more” approach…

  4. Including the M7 could be Apple’s way of getting developers to create apps for an iWatch without them knowing it. Imagine something like the nano with the M7. It could work a stand alone device or with a more powerful iOS device unlocking additional features or notifications.

  5. Watches are hohumy.

    But if you make a miniature to micro sized short range BT device that you can hang behind the ear or on the temples of glasses, you could receive all sorts of notices, warnings or updates that are virtually silent to anyone else around you.

    For highend use, the whole device could fit in the ear canal ala Secret Service agents.

    For parents, suspicious, fearful, paranoid or hypochondriac types, this could be incredibly useful. Warnings could come from the iPhone or via iBeacon signals from 3rd party devices such as alarms or even your desktop or laptop, warning you that someone tried to access it.

    Or silently (to nearby workers) give you an update when a particularly important email or other notice arrives.

    Home security using iBeacon with small nearly invisible IR sensors will be routinely possible whether to monitor infants or detect people outside your house, which could interact through an earpiece.

  6. Sounds like Nike is making the watch or wrist device… Apple is merely collaborating closely as the M7 was under-wraps before Sept. 10th. If there is a device that remotely utilities the M7, it probably won’t have the apple logo on it. The article said the M7 would replace those single purpose devices… The brain, yes, but not the entire thing. A chest strap sensor will still be needed, an ovulation calibrator, appendix cam, whatever.

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