Google And Apple Fight For Your Heart As Healthcare Defines The Latest Smartphone War

Jun 12 2014, 9:28pm CDT | by

Just as Apple declared war on Google at the recent WWDC with aggressive moves into the mobile search space , Google are ready to strike back with ‘Google Fit’. First reported by Forbes’ Parmy Olsen , the cloud-based heath aggregator  is due to launch at Google’s I/O conference and will allow multiple data inputs about the health and exercise of a user to be collected into one space for archiving, analysis, and aggregation back to the user’s personal devices.

The Mountain View developers will have been working on Google Fit for some time, so put aside any thoughts of this being an immediate reaction to either Apple’s HealthKit or Samsung’s SAMI products (both of which also promise the ability sync health data and leverage the cloud for storage and statistics). Many Google Now users will already be familiar with the pedometer built into the information service, and it would not surprise me to have that data become one of the founding steps of Google Fit – after all, what better way is there to promote the value of a service by using a customer’s own data?

I find it more interesting that the major mobile manufacturers have all settled on health as the next big area to do battle with on the smartphone fields of war.

A quick glance at the specifications of the leading smartphones tells a similar story, with almost identical chipsets, speeds, and storage options. Cores, CPUs, GPUs, memory, storage, and more, are all broadly similar. The battle to convince a user to buy a certain phone because it has a specific chip, larger memory capacity, or other hardware has passed. The baseline of every smartphone now is broadly similar, so the easy sell of bigger and better hardware is no longer available. Other areas will need to be considered to increase the pace of user acquisitions.

The real value, the true unique selling points, will be found in the software. Not just in the apps available or how easy the built-in apps are to use, but the software that will have a memorable real world impact on the user. Create great user experiences, and they will not only stay with a device and the associated ecosystem, but evangelise it to their friends.

The rise of wearables has been a trend in 2014 I have been following, and part of being a wearable is tracking fitness and activity. While there are a number of standards for these pieces of hardware to output their data, what happens to that data after it has been collected remains in the hands of each application. Google is taking a similar approach to Apple here, and giving wearable manufacturers a space they can use to upload the target their data capture. That’s great for those manufacturers, as it reduces the burden of what to do with the data, but it does grow the Android ecosystem because of it.

It does leave users with a stark choice to make. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to juggle both Apple HealthKit and Google Fit, so you are going to have to decide who you want to keep your data with. Presumably while these services provide similar graphs and profiling,  they will not be sharing the data with each other. If you start off using the Google Fit system, you are more likely to stay with that service as you upgrade your smartphone.

Apple and Google are looking to capture each user as they being to use their new smartphone, and push them down a specific path that will invite them to stay with HealthKit or Google Fit no matter what they might do in the future. It’s not a risky play as such, but Google especially will need to tread carefully in regards to private data and what they do with it – recent years has seen that level of trust drop. Someone’s personal health details will be very precious to them.

In a perfect world there would be interoperability between Google Fit and HealthKit, even if it was via a digital rosetta stone for the differing standards that may be employed. Instead we are likely to see iOS and Android devices gathering basic health information through the various sensors on the smartphones and have these act as a gateway to their proprietary health portals – an area where Apple’s M7 motion co-processor will come in very useful.

Once a user starts to see the benefits even from this limited capture, a wearable device purchase might not be too far away. And they’re not going to move away from the data stores in the cloud, be to Apple’s cloud or Google’s. Just like that, another mobile user is acquired, introduced to the cloud, and is likely to remain within that ecosystem for many, many, years.

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