Among major technology makers, Apple stands somewhat alone because it designs both hardware and software, while other competitors manage to cobble together components from everywhere. Google makes Android OS but has little success in hardware. Samsung has hardware success in many areas but uses Android in most of its smartphones. Except for applications, Microsoft hasn’t had much success in the mobile arena.
Where is Apple’s technology going?
In a sense, Apple has been telling us exactly the direction it will follow in future products. Just look at the company’s recent products. We know Apple designs its own CPUs for iPhone, iPad, and Watch, but some chips are in AirPods and Beats wireless headphones, too. Even more important is a list of the Tech Specs on Apple’s website.
The iPhone lists all the basics; storage capacity, size and weight, display specifications, water resistance, camera, video recording, Touch ID, Apple Pay, various cellular and wireless bands, but way down near the bottom you’ll find a list of sensors.
- Touch ID fingerprint sensor
- Three-axis gyro
- Proximity sensor
- Ambient light sensor
These are in addition to the Motion sensor to track steps, the digital compass, and a few others built into the iPhone. Most customers know and use the Touch ID sensor, but what do the others mean, and how do they point to Apple’s technology future? The barometer measure air pressure and first showed up in iPhone 6 models. The gyroscope orients the screen but can be used in other applications, including games. Likewise, the accelerometer measures non-gravitational acceleration, including vibrations and movement. The proximity sensor knows how close the iPhone is to your face so the screen goes off while you’re talking. The ambient light sensor knows how much screen brightness you need based on the light nearby.
All those work in concert to provide iPhone customers with a good user experience, and we don’t think much about them because they’re tied into various applications. But let me extend the list of sensors to Watch and AirPod so you’ll see where Apple’s technology is leading.
In addition to a gyroscope and accelerometer, Watch has a custom heart rate sensor. It measures your heart rate every so many minutes, but can be used by an application to measure heart rate constantly during exercise. Mix in the GPS radio and various exercise apps can map where you run and your heart’s performance along the way.
See where this is going?
Apple put a customized chip in the new AirPods to make the Bluetooth connection easier, but the company also has patents for smart earbuds with biometric sensors and even noise cancellation features, and I’ve read that the current Watch sensor can read blood oxygen levels. What’s next? Blood sugar levels through a sensor? Brain waves from sensors in future AirPods?
It’s the 21st century. A Watch doesn’t merely tell the time from a device attached to an attractive or fashionable wrist band. It’s a small but powerful computer loaded with sensors and communication components. AirPods are not just wireless earbuds, but a forerunning of devices with more sensors to monitor aspects of our health.
This trend toward ever increasing sensors that are more accurate and benefit our health is where Apple is heading. The signs are obvious but we’ve been too busy complaining about a lack of new Macs to pay attention.