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Apple prioritized health on the Apple Watch after it started saving lives

The Apple Watch has become one of the very best, most comprehensive, and easiest-to-use fitness and health wearables you can buy, but Apple never started out with the intention of creating such a device, according to company executives. In an interview with The Independent, Apple’s Jeff Williams, Kevin Lynch, and Sambul Desai revealed the genesis of the Apple Watch, and its almost accidental rise to become a must-have health smartwatch.

Chief operating officer Jeff Williams said the first Apple Watch had a heart rate sensor, not for health reasons, but because it helped provide more accurate step tracking data. He admits the company was thinking about health-related initiatives, but the evolution was, “very organic,” rather than tightly planned. However, as Apple investigated more, “we realized there’s such a huge opportunity for us to impact people with the information that’s on their wrist,” he said.

The opportunity became clear when Apple began receiving letters telling the company how the Apple Watch had saved lives. The surprise turned into motivation, and pushed Apple to develop the Watch’s ability as a wearable health monitor, up to and including medically regulated apps and serious medical functions like the ECG feature.

Apple’s vice president of health, Sambul Desai, succinctly summed up the Apple Watch’s subsequent success, saying, “Part of the challenge with health is people don’t want to think about their health all the time but here it’s just woven into the overall experience.”

Future opportunities

Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

It’s this seamlessness that makes the Apple Watch’s extensive health and fitness features so accessible. You don’t have to be a medical practitioner or a fitness guru to get the most from the Watch or to enjoy its benefits. Williams said the medical community is showing considerable interest in the opportunities presented by the Watch, which is helped by Apple’s commitment to data privacy.

What about the future of the Apple Watch as a health device? “There’s already a tremendous amount we can learn from the current hardware,” Apple’s vice president of technology Kevin Lynch said, adding that by working with the medical community, and through studies into everything from women’s health to hearing health — see the Noise app and the Cycle Tracking feature in WatchOS 6 to see where Apple is already advancing here — it could invent and introduce new features in the future.

Williams dismissed rumors of a glucose sensor for now, citing the complexity of detecting glucose without a fluid sample. Instead, he said Apple looks to where it can make a difference to people. When asked about what areas Apple could possibly explore, he said, “We haven’t ruled out anything. But it’s more about opportunities. We’re going to keep pulling on threads and see where this journey takes us.”

The Apple Watch Series 5 is the latest version of the wearable, launched alongside the iPhone 11 series in September.

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Andy Boxall
Senior Mobile Writer
Andy is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends, where he concentrates on mobile technology, a subject he has written about for…
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