Samsung Galaxy S4’s S Health: fitness tracker disruptor?

The much-heralded second quarter intro of the Samsung Galaxy S4 mobile phone is, according to multiple reviewers, a sustaining innovation (improvement). But embedded in it is a disruptive innovation to the fitness app sector dominated by Fitbit, Jawbone Up, Nike FuelBand and a raft of low-cost/free tracking apps.  It’s S Health, which according to Gizmodo’s incredibly detailed review monitors key activities and sleep (Editor emphasis):

Holy crap, Samsung put a health tracker in its phone! Which is actually a great idea. S Health is an app that will track your steps, stairs climbed, and the ambient temperature and humidity, plus track your food intake and estimate calories consumed/burned. You can even track sleep with an optional accessory (see below). Fitbit and co. should be nervous, although I’m curious to see what kind of ding this puts on your battery life.

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There are also a bevy of accessories that complement the S Health app. There’s a wristband you can wear independently of the phone (in case you prefer running without it), which will track your steps and monitor the quality of your sleep. It will then sync wirelessly with the app. There’s also a connected scale and heart rate monitor. Again, this isn’t good news for smaller fitness tracking companies.

The Verge has the S Health slide (grainy photo) presumably from the Samsung debut presentation. (Better photos over at CNet; photo here is courtesy of 3G Doctor–see below)

click to enlargeIf the implementation is high quality (and some commenters have issues with Samsung), Fitbit et al. could themselves be disrupted straight out of their (current) business model and consumer market, just like they did to Zeo.  S Health integrates–it’s already on your phone, it largely does what they do and gets the fitness tracking job done (‘Total Reports’) for most who are interested for free, even without the few available accessories. No downloading and going to Amazon or Best Buy to buy a raft of expensive accessories to make it work with your phone. No annual $49 membership so you can access your data.  Worst of all for the current crop of fitness trackers, not one–not even Nike–can beat the Samsung international distribution network and only Nike beats Samsung on brand recognition. Is it a deal-maker for consumers? Probably not, but it gets much much closer to the customer. Also a few things that Samsung has introduced–the Air View/Air Gesture eye tracking and gesture control–have great potential for app designers in other aspects of fitness and health.

We’ll have to wait and see–not too long– if other smartphones (HTC, Apple, LG, even BlackBerry) add fitness tracking. If I were Fitbit or Nike, this Editor would be hopping like an Easter Bunny to cut a licensing/partnership deal with them. BlackBerry with Nike FuelBand….

Related articles: Dan Munro over at Forbes cheers Samsung on in Latest Samsung Smartphone Adds Health Functions, Sky News adds the international perspective. CNet reports accessory pricing: S Band and Body Scale at $99.99 each, Heart Rate Monitor at $69.99. Update 18 March: Lt. Dan opines at HISTalk on What it means for healthcare and mHealth [WARNING 31 Aug 2014: linked page may now be infected with malware] –the market pushing for bigger smartphones that blur the line between phones and tablets, the navigation capabilities of Air View for EMR. A cold-waterish review/comments at iMedicalApps doesn’t think much of the native temp/humidity feature (your Editor begs to disagree); again a commenter brings up Samsung’s track record of weak software, but agrees that Era of mobile health tracking definitively arrives. Hat tip on these two updates to the 3G Doctor, David Doherty, via LinkedIn’s mHealth group. ZDNet notes Samsung’s Knox software to separate personal and business use on one phone, along with SAFE for enterprises.

And do read David Doherty, the 3G Doctor for a further dissection and projection of the S4’s capabilities in features like its camera, the humidity/temperature sensor, the aforementioned Air View/Gesture, the dual video, Smart Scroll for eye testing and even the recharging pad as particularly friendly to healthcare use — and users. Samsung takes S Health centre stage at Galaxy S4 launch and Will Samsung’s Smart Scroll turn the world upside down for mHealth Regulators? (mHealth Insight)

 

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