Apple has introduced new apps for iPhones and iPads that will help users monitor their health and control devices in their homes, as the firm looks to rival the likes of Google’s smart thermostats and Samsung’s SAMI fitness software.
The new mobile features were revealed at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, where it also revealed a new Dropbox rival, WhatsApp-style messaging features, customisable keyboards and an updated Mac operating system.
Although there were no big announcements from Apple regarding new phones, iWatches or Apple TV updates, many saw the announcements as a major step forward in Apple being more open (like its much larger rival Android) while joining up its services into a more seamless experience for the user as digital technology moves from devices and into the home, cars and clothing.
Apple is describing the announcement as a blank canvas on which its apps will work and the next generation of hardware will exploit. It is likely to announce a new series of devices (and a rumoured iWatch) this September ahead of the Christmas season.
Apple’s new ‘HealthKit’ app will act as a central hub for all users’ health data – from wearables and other hardware.
Apple said it is teaming up with the Mayo Clinic and sportswear giant Nike to create HealthKit, and the move follows Samsung’s announcement last week of a mobile health-data store called SAMI.
Apple executive Craig Federighi said there are currently difficulties in accessing data from fitness-related devices. He said that will change with HealthKit in iOS 8.
The battle for dominance in the Internet of Things
Federighi also unveiled HomeKit, which allows users to control their home environment with smartphones. The technology lets users control home devices, including garage doors, thermostats and other home systems.
The move marks Apple’s long awaited play to own the smart home connectivity space.
With more devices getting connected, Apple has set it’s sights on owning not just the operating system for devices, but the connective tissue of a consumer’s home.
“Only your iPhone can open your garage door, or unlock your door,” he told the audience in San Francisco. “With Siri integration you can say something like ‘get ready for bed’ and be assured that your garage door is closed, your door is locked, the thermostat is lowered and your lights are dimmed.”
Dropbox rival and customisable keyboards
Apple has also offered third-party support for keyboards while revamping its keyboard with features similar to that offered by the Swiftkey app on Android devices.
Apple also launched iCloud Drive which lets users store photos in the cloud for a monthly fee. It can be accessed via an iOS device, Mac computer or Windows PC. Users do not have to pay an extra fee unless they want use more than five gigabytes of storage. That ‘s more than Dropbox’s 2GB sign-up allowance, but less than Google Drive’s 15GB provision, Microsoft One Drive’s 7GB limit and Box’s 10GB cap.
Watch this video from Bloomberg covering the announcements below: