The Lamen

Future AirPods Could Predict If You’re Falling Sick.

The AirPods are part of Apple's Wearables, Home, and Accessories category, which collectively generated $41 billion in 2022. But the company has long-term plans for its wearables, ones which involve keeping a check on your health.
A bar graph for the breast cancer rates among women of different ethnicities.

Apple’s AirPods Pro already offer features like Live Listen, which reduces background noise while amplifying sounds, but the feature does not replace a hearing aid.

via Unsplash

Published on Jul 4, 2023

Apple’s ambition to become a “do-it-all” company might be the primary reason it achieved its recent $3 trillion valuation. The tech giant has been steadily pushing itself into the health and wellness category, with CEO Tim Cook even going as far as saying that the company’s most significant contribution to mankind will be “in health.”

  • Apple is looking to work some additional health tracking features into the AirPods Pro, reported Mark Gurman in his Power On newsletter.
  • The company is exploring a body-temperature tracking feature, like the one it recently introduced with the Apple Watch Series 8 and Ultra.
  • Their plans also include eventually positioning AirPods as a hearing aid, something that is even more likely since the FDA’s approval of over-the-counter sales of hearing aids.

Details: Rumors of temperature tracking through the AirPods date back to 2021, which eventually culminated in a rather rudimentary form of temperature tracking introduced last year.

  • Gurman details that Apple plans to use the temperature data for more than fertility tracking in the future, like predicting an oncoming illness.
  • The hearing aid tech would use different tones and sounds to screen hearing issues. The AirPods already offer features like Conversation Boost but have not received any approval from the FDA.
  • As part of the company’s reluctant transition to USB-C, the next-gen AirPods’ charging case may also sport a USB-C connector.
  • Apple is also planning to cut the price of its second-gen AirPods to $129, reported Gurman. Rumors of a cheaper, $99 version of the AirPods going on sale sometime during 2024 or 2025 have also been doing the rounds.

On the sides: iOS 17 seems more of a “quality of life” improvement, offering better autocorrect, more functionality to the Dynamic Island, and a nightstand mode. But the update also drops clear hints that Apple is looking to position itself as a major player in the multi-billion dollar health and wellness sector.

  • The new update included the Health app coming to the iPad, new mental health insights as well as a Journal app, and a Screen Distance alerts feature for vision preservation.
  • Neurology startup Rune Labs recently acquired the FDA’s go-ahead to monitor and track Parkinson’s symptoms with the Apple Watch in combination with brain imaging and other clinical data.
  • The company is reportedly also developing an AI-driven new coaching service codenamed Quartz, likely to be available as a monthly subscription.
  • Apple has “secretly” also been working on a non-invasive blood glucose monitor for the Apple Watch, meant to improve the quality of life among diabetics and prediabetics.

Noteworthy: In-ear sensors are more accurate than wrist-based ones for tracking body temperature (and heart rate for that matter), which means that the AirPods would be better at catching signs of sickness.

  • However, Gurman says that these new health features are “several months or even years away,” considering that the 2nd gen AirPods Pro are just a year into their (probable) three-year refresh cycle.

While welcomed additions, these new features could involve price hikes, more frequent issues, and even some Sherlocking as Apple ties third-party apps to its ecosystem.