Wearable Tech

Apple Watch not wowing health care industry, yet

Health care professionals interviewed by Reuters want to see more from Apple's new smartwatch before giving its health features a thumbs-up.

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The Apple Watch can track your heart rate, calories, activity level and certain fitness activities. Scott Stein/CNET

The new Apple Watch isn't just a smartwatch, it's also a health and fitness tracker. But the health care community will need to be convinced of its medical prowess before giving it a clean bill of health, at least according to Reuters.

In a story published late Thursday, Reuters spoke of "observers" who said they've seen little evidence so far that the Apple Watch's health care features top those offered by competing products. Unveiled at Apple's event on Tuesday, the new smartwatch taps into apps that can track your heart rate, calories, activity level and certain fitness activities. It also works with other fitness apps, such as Nike+.

With its new watch, Apple is trying to compete with standalone smartwatches, fitness trackers and devices that serve both functions. And in so doing, Apple is up against such players as Samsung, Motorola, LG, Sony, Jawbone and Fitbit. Apple CEO Tim Cook called the Apple Watch a , but without more details on how adept the product will perform as a health device, medical professionals will likely adopt a wait-and-see approach before buying into it.

"I'd need to see data that it's useful before buying the watch or recommending it to colleagues," Joshua Landy, a Toronto, Canada-based critical care specialist and the chief medical officer for health startup Figure 1, told Reuters.

Mike Lee, CEO of MyFitnessPal, told Reuters that the sensors in the Apple Watch weren't "revolutionary" but did acknowledge that they were better designed than those in most wearable devices. Lee also said Apple may have purposely made the first version of the watch slim and wearable rather than cramming it with too many sensors.

Lee isn't the only one unimpressed so far with the Apple Watch's fitness tracking features. Liz Dickinson, the founder and chief executive of health-tracker maker Mio Global, said the Apple Watch is and isn't more advanced than what's already available -- at least in terms of sensor accuracy.

However, the Apple Watch could ultimately be more of a game changer than is so far apparent. Apple might be playing down any potential medical benefits for people with serious conditions to avoid dealing with the US Food and Drug Administration, which would have to approve the device.

"Apple probably is very intelligently positioning its products for use to maintain good health generally, which is a perfectly appropriate way to avoid FDA regulation," Bradley Merill Thompson, a Washington DC-based FDA specialist with the law firm Epstein Becker Green, told Reuters.

But for the Apple Watch to truly be accepted and recommended by medical professionals, Apple may need to include and play up more-prominent medical features and ultimately seek out the necessary FDA approval.

Finally, many technology products fail to hit a home run the first time at bat. Consumers often need to wait until the second or third generation before reaping the full benefits. And that just may be the case with the Apple Watch, as least in the health care area.

Two people "familiar with Apple's plans" told Reuters that the company intends to add richer health features and more sensors in later versions of the product. If that's true, then medical professionals and health-conscious consumers may end up passing on the first iteration of the product and waiting to see what Apple cooks up with the next edition.

Responding to a request for comment, an Apple spokeswoman pointed to the company's HealthKit program for developers and the Health app in iOS 8, both of which provide details on the watch's health-related features.