Apple has a new beta for iOS 8 available to developers, and part of the fun are new built-in features for Health, its centralized health and fitness hub. The Health app is new in iOS 8, and designed to take signals from third-party providers, as well as share data out selectively to health and fitness software, based on a user’s preference, but while it launched in the original preview as an empty shell, it now can track both steps and calories on its own, without the need for third-party providers.
The new features use the M7 to track steps, and allows users to filter by day, week, month and year, and even remove blocks if they think some were tracked in error. You can share out those steps with other apps, too. 9to5Mac uncovered the feature, and says that it appears to track activity accurately in early testing.
Also new to iOS 8 is caffeine tracking, which requires manual input of how much you’ve taken in, but that’s true of the host of third-party apps that do the same thing. Again, this feature allows the caffeine intake data you record to be shared with external apps, meaning third-party providers could use it to figure into a picture of your overall health, or allow it to inform other measures taken by external hardware accessories.
The new features are significant because they reveal the likely trajectory for Health in general: Apple observing the field and building in more native health and fitness tracking functionality into its own app, while allowing third-party providers to shore up the gaps. It has proven very willing to do this with past iOS releases, and rumors suggest that even now it’s working on transit directions for Maps, after initially claiming that was a task best left to third-party providers.
In the end, while building a rich ecosystem of third-party developers is good for Apple and its users, giving device owners access to built-in features that they want and will use probably takes priority. The Health in today’s beta likely will fill out a lot more before launch, too, because the last thing Apple wants is to launch the feature with only a scattering of available functions baked in.