SAN JOSE, Calif. — Apple CEO Tim Cook earlier this year vowed that the tech giant’s greatest contribution to humanity would ultimately be in the realm of health.
You might not have guessed it from the company’s keynote presentation at its big annual developers conference on Monday, where new health and fitness tools took a bit of a backseat to Apple’s more traditional tech-focused product updates.
Still, Dr. Sumbul Desai, Apple’s vice president for health, took the stage to unveil a few new health features that had been anticipated by watchers of the company.
One was a new app called “Cycle Tracking,” designed to let women track and monitor their menstrual periods. Images of the Apple Watch on a big screen showed notifications including, “Your period will likely start in the next 7 days,” and “Your fertile window will likely start on or around June 8.”
That announcement earned cheers from the raucous crowd of several thousand techies in the crowd — but it was a bit subdued compared to the applause when Apple executives touted new photo-editing capabilities and a new “dark mode” for its iPhones.
Desai also rolled out an app called “Noise” — meant to measure loud sounds in the environment to help customers protect their hearing health. A sample notification on the Apple Watch read: “Sound levels hit 90 decibels. Around 30 minutes at this level can cause temporary hearing loss.”
Apple also announced that it has redesigned its Health app, intended to be a repository for all sorts of health and fitness data. Among other tweaks and streamlining, the revamped app will let women track their menstrual periods.
There was no mention during Apple’s presentation of two of its health-focused software platforms. One is ResearchKit, aimed at helping medical researchers collect health data from clinical trial enrollees who use Apple products. Another is CareKit, designed for apps that let patients track symptoms, vital signs, and other information relevant to their medical care.
This was Apple’s first Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC — pronounced “dub dub” by some of the cheering techies in the crowd — since it won a landmark clearance from the Food and Drug Administration for heart rhythm monitoring features on the Apple Watch and rolled out data from a giant study testing those capabilities.
Nodding to that and other health and fitness features on the Apple Watch, Cook said on stage: “The Apple Watch has truly become an intelligent guardian for your health.” (That’s a line he’s used in the past.)
In another section of the presentation not billed as health-focused, Apple rolled out several new privacy features for its devices. Executives said that the new version of the company’s iPhone operating system would allow users to share their location once with a third-party app and then require that app to ask if it wants location access again. That could give Apple’s health efforts a boost at a time when competitors like Facebook and Google as well as the developers of third-party health apps have drawn scrutiny for the way they handle users’ sensitive health data.