Why Fitness Apps Need to Refresh for iPhone 5S

November 5, 2013 Matt O'Leary

Fitness apps and wearable technology are taking the world by storm. They’re seeping from our personal to our professional lives and the way we are advertised to. According to IHS, “global installations of mobile sports and fitness apps are set to rise by 63% from 2012 to 2017.” Moreover, technology analysts from ON World predict that the sports and fitness mobile sensing app market will grow to $975 million by 2017 (up from $800 million in 2013).

However, the majority of smartphone users have yet to give fitness apps and wearable technology a try. Apple’s recent releases of iOS 7 and the iPhone 5S provides the perfect opportunities for these fitness companies to upgrade their products and attract more users.

Introducing the M7 Coprocessor

The iPhone 5S has upped the stakes for mobile health and fitness solutions, with its ability to more precisely track and collect biometric activity than any other device on the market. This functionality comes from its M7 coprocessor, which has the ability to power fitness applications with an enhanced accelerometer and pedometer, enabling more precise tracking for collecting biometric activity than the previous generations of iPhones.

The iPhone 5S can be much more than simply a display for information collected by wristbands and other wearable technology; rather, it can collect data itself.

Health and Fitness Wearables

Wearable technology has been on the market for a few years. The more prominent devices are the Fitbit Zip, Fitbit Flex, Nike Fuelband, Jawbone Up, and Basis. Up-and-coming devices include Adidas Micoach, Motorola MotoActv, Striiv Play, and Larklife.

The M7 coprocessor only comes with the iPhone 5S, which runs iOS 7. That means in order to take advantage of the benefits of the M7 coprocessor, you will need to update the mobile solution for iOS 7. Additionally, according to Mixpanel, iOS 7 adoption has already reached over 70% at the time of writing. The extended functionality and the increased adoption means it’s more imperative to make the step to iOS 7.

This upgrade will allow companies and fitness service providers to collect more accurate data. For example, trainers can use these biometrics to keep an eye on user progress or leverage the records and data to identify a new training method for their clients.

The first company to move into the future was Nike, as their Nike+ Fuelband was recently updated and displayed during the iOS 7 launch. They can now take advantage of the M7 processor.

The Future

The M7 coprocessor powers the gyroscope, accelerometer, and the compass in the device. While the iPhone 5S needs external devices to read other biometrics for now, such as heart rate, it’s quite possible that future iterations of the iPhone could have built-in readers. For example, if an iPhone 5S has a built-in fingerprint reader, perhaps a future variant could include an ECG monitor (to measure heart rate) on the same button.

While this Business Insider article reinforces that the M7 coprocessor will have the ability to track all the biometrics that wearable technology measures today, wearable technology is by no means doomed. It will still be heavily used in sports and during workouts (can you imagine going on a run with your iPhone bouncing around in your pocket with each step?!). Moreover, fitness apps designed for the M7 coprocessor could easily be used to upsell users to the extended hardware and wearable technology.

Due to the M7 coprocessor’s abilities, developers no longer need to create and distribute additional hardware to track biometrics. The removal of this barrier means that in order to stand out, current fitness apps will need to continue improving user experience (UX) and leveraging the M7 functionality as much as possible.

Closing Thoughts

With the M7 coprocessor, as the iPhone’s tracking ability is improved and the barrier to build a fitness app is lowered, the opportunities are open for companies in wearable technology to find ingenious ways to continue innovating.

While this presents many opportunities for existing fitness apps, there are also many challenges that need to be overcome. Ensure that you’re not left behind on this major change by enhancing your app and making the most of the new functionality the M7 coprocessor offers and improving UX.


Connect with Matt on LinkedIn.

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