It hasn’t had the same buzz as VR headsets or as much interest as expected iPhone updates, but there was another announcement at Apple’s WWDC event this year that showcased the company’s deepening reach into the wellness market: the Health app is coming to iPad this fall.
Apple has been quietly building a health-tracking empire for the Apple Watch and iPhone — recently adding features aimed at vision and mental health. But for Deidre Caldbeck, director of product marketing for Apple Watch and Health, the arrival of the Health app on a bigger screen shows how health information is becoming more user-friendly and what the company is aiming for in terms of future health and fitness apps.
“We think this will give you new ways to see your health and fitness data,” Caldbeck told CNET. “And perhaps more importantly, open up new opportunities for developers to create health and fitness experiences with iPad apps.”
Since its release in 2014, the Health app has been a treasure trove of information collected from the iPhone itself, as well as from the Apple Watch and third-party apps that can sync with the iPhone app, thanks to HealthKit, Apple’s framework for developers. Metrics like how well you’re sleeping, how steadily you’re walking, heart rate, and more are all available in the little heart icon on your phone.
But you might be wondering what moving the same app to another, larger device will do. In addition to opening the door for app developers to create apps specific to the iPad and the larger screen, the iPad Health app reflects the growing interest in health, how much space it occupies in our lives and on our screens, and how we’re increasingly eager to share our health newsletters with other people.
Here’s what your health information might look like on the iPad, and what a bigger screen could mean for app developers.
Larger display and new app capabilities
The Health app on iPad will have a split-screen view, meaning you’ll be able to switch between your health information and another app or page — something Caldbeck says could be especially useful for people who use the sharing features in A healthcare application, such as caregivers of other adults or patients at a doctor’s appointment.
Apple is also hoping that iPad-only accessories like the keyboard and stylus will spark some creative ideas in developers about how to build new health and fitness apps using HealthKit. There are already “tens of thousands” of apps in the app store that use the HealthKit API, Caldbeck said. But this new format for health information could lead to more developers and apps, in addition to apps, being ported to the iPad.
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Rise, a sleep-tracking app, is one app making the move to the iPad — it was singled out during the WWDC this year. According to Jeff Kahn, co-founder and CEO of Rise, the beauty of HealthKit in general is that it makes the world of health tracking a little more seamless for users who don’t necessarily want to wear a watch or buy an additional device: they just want health information from their selected apps.
“They don’t want hardware, so the fact that HealthKit exists allows us to pull all the data in the background,” Kahn explained. He added that having a more centralized framework benefits developers, and it’s an advantage Apple initially had over Android’s various integrations, though it’s “getting better.”
iPad use for sleep and mental health
Kahn said it “makes sense” for Apple to move to the iPad as the next step in expanding health features, given the health tracking mission that Apple is on. But it also combines two growing truths in Kahn’s eyes: People are trying to cut down on phone time before bed to improve sleep and health, and many people may be using their iPad to watch Netflix or relax before bed instead of your phone.
“There are a lot of people who either a) don’t bring their phones into their room, or b) maybe do, but this iPad is that bedside entertainment device,” Kahn said.
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The iPad may also be better positioned to deliver other wellness features that Apple announced for iOS 17 and iPadOS 17, this year’s software update to the iPhone and its iPad counterpart, including mood and mental health logging and screen distance, which uses the TrueDepth FaceTime camera to encourage people to move their faces back from the screen.
It’s also possible that the move to the iPad-as-acproachable-wellness-device is one way Apple can bridge the gap it has with other sleep insight companies, such as Oura, which offer more detailed metrics about sleep from Apple Watch. Apple can keep its simplistic approach to health information while introducing more detailed tracking features (for people who want them) through its third-party partnerships.
The future of the Health app
In terms of data sharing notifications, the experience should be similar on the iPad as it is on your iPhone, according to Caldbeck.
“After you unlock your iPad and open the Health app for the first time, you’ll actually be prompted to choose whether you want to sync your health data to that device,” she said, adding that everything is still encrypted except for medical identification information , and that you’ll get a warning on your iPhone the first time the Health app syncs.
As Apple continues to ride the wellness wave with new features for the Apple Watch and narrow in on specific points within the extremely broad topic that is health, we can expect the Health app to continue to expand as well — regardless whether that means a new iPad fitness app, an improved way to measure sleep through more app integrations, or an entirely new metric in Health, in general.
“The goal really hasn’t changed since 2014,” Coldbeck said. “It’s really about bringing you insights that can hopefully remove the barriers between you and your health information.”
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