Apple Unveils New Health Features for Watch, VR Headset


Apple’s health hub just got some new spokes.

The latest: The tech giant made a series of product announcements during the keynote address at its annual WWDC conference — with consumer health as the theme that tied everything together.

New headspace. New to Apple’s Health app (and a debut Mindfulness app on Watch) is a mental health feature that tracks emotional state of mind.

Users answer a series of simple, sliding-scale questions about their mood and Apple uses aggregated Health data to make associations and insights. To address more serious conditions, it can conduct clinical screenings for anxiety and depression that can be sent to users’ doctors

Of note, this is different than Apple’s journaling concept that was leaked in April. Now released, users of Journal will receive prompts based on their interactions, including photos, people, places, and workouts.

New vision. Apple is taking on vision health, particularly pediatric myopia, by addressing two drivers of the condition: daylight and screen distance. On Apple Watch, an ambient light sensor tracks and encourages the wearer to spend the recommended minimum of 80–120 minutes a day outdoors.

And, with Apple’s core business screen-based, it’s mitigating the hours Americans spend glued to them by using devices’ FaceID sensor to tell users if they’re holding devices too close.

New moves. Watch got upgrades for hiking and cycling.

A boost for its adventure-focused Ultra watch, the compass now pinpoints the last place of cellular reception so hikers can return to check messages or make an emergency call.

Encroaching on Strava’s territory, its new route-planning tools factor in elevation and points of interest and allows users to search nearby trailheads by trail length, type, and difficulty.

Its cycling functionality got an even bigger makeover:

  • Bluetooth connectivity to third-party power meters and speed sensors
  • Live Activity mode, measuring heart rate zones, speed, elevation, race route, and more
  • Functional Threshold Power (FTP) metric informing personalized “power zone” training

Lost in the hype, Apple quietly upgraded Fitness+ with Custom Plans and Stacks, two features that let users build workout plans around the day, duration, workout type, and more. Of note, this move aligns with a broader pivot among app makers from on-demand classes to personalized programming. 

New reality. While Apple did release its much-hyped $3.5K headset, Fitness+ users will have to wait for their VR workouts. The first-gen Vision Pro must be connected to power at all times, whether outlet or an external battery pack with a two-hour charge, making full-body exercise inconvenient.

While they likely prepare to take on Meta Quest’s VR fitness platform in the next iteration, for now, it’s focusing on Environments through a VR version of the Mindfulness app, with immersive landscapes helping users focus or reduce clutter from the world around them.

Looking ahead: While many wearable makers and health apps sync up for health optimization, Apple is committed to owning every piece of the health spectrum — from general well-being to clinical data, headsets to health insurance.

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