You'd hardly know from looking at it that the white, half-mooned iHealth Blood Pressure Dock wasn't designed by Apple. The do-it-yourself blood pressure monitor has clean, minimalist curves and just a single button. It also has a 30-pin connector for your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.
iHealth is one of those peripherals envisioned by Apple CEO Steve Jobs that doesn't just amplify the iOS devices' entertainment value, but can actually improve quality of life. At its core, iHealth is a blood pressure meter with an auto-inflating cuff peripheral. Instead of reading results to a digital console as do traditional home kits, iHealth results display in a corresponding iOS app.
We got a chance to play with the battery-powered iHealth unit on an iPhone 4 in the weeks leading up to CES. The free app is fairly well-designed with a large central button you press to activate the cuff. After a few seconds, the results (date, time, pulse, and systolic and diastolic numbers) appear in large font on the screen, alongside a flashing graph that shows where you on on the blood pressure scale. Additional features track your history, delete a readout, open the FAQ, and share results via e-mail. The app also calculates your average and compares your risk of hypertension to World Health Organization figures.
We tested the iHealth Blood Pressure Dock on five adults. The arm cuff was fairly comfortable after repeated use, though overly tall for our arms. Unfortunately, it comes in one size. The prerelease app we evaluated lacks multiple accounts, so homes with multiple hypertension patients have no way of easily determining or extracting their separate numbers. We also would have preferred a USB charging port to the Mini-USB port so we could use the iPhone's chargers if we lost the dock's included cords. Not all readings were plausible; we did question calibration for readouts with higher numbers than the individual's baseline. Other times, the readouts seemed spot-on.
iHealth positions its peripheral as a home health solution. In truth, other self-inflating blood pressure meters cost anywhere from about $50 to almost $150. That puts iHealth's $99.95 unit right in the middle, but it adds the benefit of being able to e-mail stats to a practitioner and view collected data over time. iHealth Labs' parent company, Andon, is certified by the FDA, CE, and ESH (Euro Society for Hypertension.)
The iHealth Blood Pressure Dock will go on sale today at ihealth99.com. The company expects the unit to fill Apple Store shelves, but there's no official release date yet. You can find more information on hypertension and home monitoring solutions from the Mayo Clinic and the American Heart Association.