Apple (AAPL) is diving deeper into the health space. The tech giant is working on a new pair of its best-selling AirPods that will take your temperature, police your posture, and possibly even function as a hearing aid, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The global medical device market is expected to be worth $671 billion by 2027, according to Precedence Research. And Apple is clearly keen on taking a slice of that pie for itself.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that the company’s most important contribution to humankind will be in the health sector. To that end, the company has reportedly spun up its own internal testing of a primary care medical group, according to The Journal. But the effort has stalled. Similarly, an app developed by Apple meant to connect users to clinicians has received little interest from users.
The Apple Watch is easily its most successful entry in the health space, thanks to its heart rate monitor that can provide atrial fibrillation altars, blood oxygen sensor, and sleep tracking.
Still, Apple’s heart monitor is the only feature that has been certified by the Food and Drug Administration as a Class II medical device. The blood oxygen sensor and sleep tracking features don’t have the same kind of certifications.
The planned AirPods, which may or may not eventually come to market, are expected to take your temperature from within your ear. The posture measuring feature would rely on the AirPods’ built-in sensors to sense whether you’re hunched over and tell you to sit up straight.
Finally, the hearing aid capabilities would boost audio for users who are hard of hearing. The AirPods already have a passthrough mode that can pump external audio into your ears using external microphones, so it’s not too far of a leap to think the AirPods could be used in a similar way for those who suffer from partial hearing loss.
To be sure, smart hearing aids that connect to smartphones already exist. And some of those smart hearing aids, like the Oticon aids my father wears, can be used to listen to music or movies from your phone.
Beyond the AirPods, Apple has also been working to build out the Apple Watch’s health features. According to The Journal, Apple is developing a version of the watch that can not only take your temperature, but eventually determine if you suffer from sleep apnea. Google-owned Fitbit has been working on a similar feature, but has yet to pull it off.
Apple’s accessories business has been a boon for the company — both its Apple Watch and AirPods are best sellers for the tech giant. While Apple doesn’t break out the exact revenue for its individual components, it does provide a blanket revenue amount for its Wearable, Home, and Accessories segment. That part of the business pulled in $8.7 billion in Q3 2021, more than both its Mac and iPad segments.
If Apple can further build out the health features for its AirPods and Apple Watch, that business could become far more valuable to Apple as smartphone sales wane.
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