Apple Watch Changes the Health Wearables Game

Faruk Capan
Faruk Capan

After months of speculation and hype, the Apple Watch has finally arrived. 

What are some first impressions? How does it compare with other watches, bands and wearables? How will it impact the digital health landscape? (By the way, if you are reading this review for information on how to deliver your one-way banner ads brand messages via Apple Watch, you're already missing the point.)

I have been an avid user of wearable fitness and health trackers for a few years. After losing several Nike FuelBands on the soccer field, I recently switched to the Microsoft Band. Although it's slightly bulky, I truly enjoy the simple interface for tracking my activities, instantly measuring my heart rate and even paying for my Starbucks coffee.

Then along comes the Apple Watch. Of course it's got a great design, but it's not going to be for everyone initially. The learning curve is steep, especially if you're like me and don't take advantage of the online or in-store training. It does have a limited battery life and seems to be missing some core health functions. It might not be ideal for people with poor vision, and it doesn't currently have independent GPS capability. I was particularly worried about whether I could wear it while playing soccer, but I simply placed a wristband over it. Voila! I didn't find a default sleep-measurement function, but I assume that there will be apps to do that. Maybe Apple would rather I charge my watch while I sleep.

It's been only a few days, but I can already say that the Apple Watch experience is a great improvement over my other fitness bands. In addition to tracking my heart rate and how much I'm moving or sitting, the Apple Watch lets me do everyday things like receive texts and email, take phone calls and use Apple Pay. But I'm most excited about how it and other wearables will help me modify my behavior for better health. There's something very motivating about receiving visual and sensory cues from a device attached to your body. For instance, the Apple Watch gives you a nudge every hour to get up and move for a minute. It's very subtle and it may be a minuscule benefit, but it can be a great tool to combat the 21st century “disease of sitting” that so many of us are facing. 

We have been talking about big data, value beyond the pill and behavioral economics for some time. 

These wearable devices provide a great opportunity to do more than simply be shiny objects for early adopters. Wearables aren't just for fitness—they can make a big impact on adherence, compliance and cessation of unhealthy behaviors. 

Two hospital systems are currently conducting digital medicine trials using the Apple Watch to help manage hypertension and to determine how nurses and physicians can benefit from incorporating the Apple Watch into a medical home program. There are already a number of industry-related apps available for Apple Watch, including those from Drchrono, Lark, Doximity, WebMD, HealthTap and others.

The uptake has been rapid: Consider the fact more Apple Watches were sold in one day than Android Wear devices in an entire year. As a digital marketer, don't expect every demographic to immediately adopt the Apple Watch or other wearables. But ignore the Apple Watch effect at your own risk. The impact of this new technology and interface will manifest over time, just like our mobile phones did. 

Remember when they said social media was only a fad?

Faruk Capan is CEO of Intouch Solutions.