With the introduction of the new iPhones came more big news with the iPhone 5s, the inclusion of the M7 coprocessor. As Apple puts it, the M7 is essentially the Robin to the A7’s Batman, but focuses purely on the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass. It also means that the M7 could put FitBit out of business.
Or does it? Because it wasn’t that long ago that I wrote about my own experiences with mobile fitness devices. Although the M7 coprocessor does seem like it could be the stepping stone to replacing a FitBit, it’s not quite there. Not yet, anyway.
What the M7 Does
Think of the M7 like an assistant to a very busy person. With the iPhone 5 (and iPhone 5c, that very busy person was the A6 chip, which not only processed all of the data running through the phone, but also contained the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass. The M7 is here to take over that workload, which does a few things. First, not every app uses one of these three components, so it saves on power when it’s not being used. It also gives more power to those functions, such that it can tell what specifically you’re doing — walking or driving, for example. And as Apple notes, the M7 chip is smart enough to stop asking if you want to connect to a Wi-Fi network when you’re moving. Ultimately, it’s about battery life.
But let’s not downplay those features, because they’re pretty big. It was touted almost instantly as a FitBit killer, which, on the surface, makes sense. If you use your FitBit (or Jawbone Up, Nike Fuelband or similar) to track your steps and activity throughout the day, then sure, you’re good. But both the FitBit and the Up do something that the iPhone just wouldn’t do very well: track your sleep.
I’m married and I have two kids, one of which is just about six months old. New parents will understand that sleep is quite precious to me. In addition, my wife and I work on separate schedules, with me usually being the first to rise. Prior to getting my Jawbone Up (which I’ve since switched to a FitBit Ultra), I used my iPhone as an alarm. That always woke her up as well, ticking her off in the process. Now I get a soothing vibration to raise me out of my slumber, which is quite relaxing in comparison. Now neither of us wakes up with a jarring sensation, and that makes us happier as a couple. It’s the simple things sometimes.
The iPhone just doesn’t work in this scenario for multiple reasons. I plug my iPhone in to charge every night, so strapping it to my body in some way doesn’t seem logistically possible. In addition, having a relatively large block of aluminum and glass on my body isn’t exactly conducive to a good night’s sleep, and would be more of a hinderance. No, the iPhone couldn’t replace a FitBit or Up when compared one-to-one, so that’s one we’ll have to put on the shelf for the moment.
But there is another option. We’ve been hearing about an “iWatch” for what seems like ages now, and Apple hasn’t revealed it to the world yet, assuming it does actually exist. But, as many have hypothesized, this iWatch could be used just like an Up as a health and fitness tracker, making it a true FitBit replacement. Of course, it would likely also play videos, maybe show notifications and so on, and wouldn’t be a one-trick pony.
Doing all of those things takes a lot of horsepower, and that eats up battery life in the process. But what if there were a way to pair an iWatch with the M7 processor found in the iPhone 5S that allowed you to spread out some of that computing power? Now that would be pretty cool, right?
Deeper Down the Well
But there’s one more issue here that should be addressed. Assuming that this iWatch does exist and that I’m correct in my theory that it would use the M7 processor to help out with some tasks (a pretty big stretch, understandably), then Apple would need the owners of an iWatch to own an iPhone. As of the 20th, that means they’d have to own an iPhone 5s, not the iPhone 5c, because the 5c does not have the M7 yet. And that effectively cuts their marketshare down substantially.
My guess then is that should this iWatch exist and my theory holds true, that the soonest we will see one is when the M7 coprocessor becomes fairly universal as it drops down the product line to next year’s iPhone 6c, or whatever the middle model in the lineup come late 2014.
Of course, this is all wildly speculative, and it all depends on the existence of a device that we haven’t seen pictures of yet. It could end up in the pile with our hypothetical 42-inch AppleTV and that free iPhone that has all the computing power of Big Blue, but whatever.
The Future is Coming
Apple has always been methodical in their approach to what they do, and the M7 is just another example in a long line of similar concepts. Not only will it help with battery life in the iPhone 5s, but it could usher in the future of wearable electronics.
Or end up in a scrap pile, what do I know.