Even Apple CEO Tim Cook acknowledges that the Apple Watch has not lived up to its full potential. The powerful smartwatch may allow users to receive texts and calls without reaching for their phones, but with prices that start at $299, few consumers have found the convenience worth it. Nevertheless, Cook remains optimistic that the Apple Watch will one day prove invaluable and is basing his prediction on the device’s potential to support user health.
“One day, this is my prediction, we will look back and we will wonder: How can I ever have gone without the Watch?” Cook told a crowd at Startup Fest Europe in Amsterdam, CNBC reports. “Because the holy grail of the watch is being able to monitor more and more of what’s going on in the body.”
Right now, the Apple Watch boasts benefits to both health and fitness, but those advantages are subtle compared to the price of the watch and the wealth of competitors that offer similar features. The watch is capable of monitoring a user’s heart rate and using this information to develop workout plans. Apple’s site claims this app encourages motivation, but it could just as easily turn frustrating if all the watch does is hark on your lack of exercise.
Cook did concede in his remarks that the watch’s potential may be unmet in part because the technologies to make these devices truly useful for monitoring health have yet to materialize.
“And arguably the health care system can be made much simpler, can have much better results, you can have patients that really feel like customers … and have systems and applications that bring out the best in the medical professionals,” he said. “It’s not technologically possible to do it today to the extent that we can imagine.”
Exactly how Apple will bring the watch new health-affirming powers remains to be seen, but the company is making key investments that could pay off down the line. Building on the 2014 release of a platform for developers called HealthKit, just last week Apple debuted ResearchKit, a tool for developers interested in building apps that take advantage of user data.
Apple is also hoping to interface with hospitals and health care providers to develop integrated networks of health information that will make better diagnostic decisions than doctors. Consumers could likely find the watch’s expense far more palatable if it actually could monitor a host of physiological symptoms and cross them with a comprehensive health database, instantly spitting out MD-level recommendations.
It’s exactly these kinds of visions of the future that make Cook so concerned about the government bullying its way into digital technologies. His dreams of a health provider on every wrist will only be possible if users trust the watches to keep their private information private. Encryption is the only way to do that now, so expect more and bigger fights in the future, unless the government learns its lesson.