New mHealth opportunities: Apple iPhone 5

Last night Apple announced the iPhone 5 boasting a taller screen in a slightly thinner/lighter casing with better cameras and faster processors.

I thought it might be helpful to list the significant mHealth opportunities that I can see as a result of the update:

Slightly better forward facing camera

Despite all the claims of this being a “FaceTime® HD front facing camera” it’s still only a 1.2 megapixel camera (even the original iPhone in 2007 shipped with a better camera than that) and although it supports Facetime in comparison to rivals like the Nexus or Galaxy S3 it’s now considerably underpowered (Samsung’s Galaxy S3 packs 1.9MP). All the same we’ve been so long waiting for the development of the front facing camera opportunity that any tweaks are welcome.

I’ve noted that some consumers are a bit unnerved when mobile store staff demo the face recognition/tracking app on the S3 but there’s huge authentication opportunities in face detection and I can imagine it won’t be long before we see the addition of even more front facing cameras as in addition to boosting the potential of facial recognition tech (forget your NFC and PIN codes I want to have to stick my tongue out and pull a face!) this should also help enrich the video call experience (helping optimise image focus, add more depth of field, further optimise transmission codecs, etc).

Tweaked rear camera

Obviously any mobile camera quality boosts are appealing to dermatologists but it’s highly likely the opportunity here over the iPhone 4S will result from the “next generation” Image Signal Processing offered by the new A6 processor (these were showcased by a demo of how the new phone can use the camera in “panorama mode” to quickly stitch together high resolution photos).

I think it’s going to be very interesting to see what the mHealth developers at Azumio or HealthSmart will manage to “see” with this higher quality backlit lens.

Processor upgrade

The impact of new core processor units is often thought of as just a background feature that just makes graphic intensive things like games work more seamlessly, but in the mHealth market it’s quite obvious this tech is opening new doors. To help you imagine these think about your favorite apps and then imagine how they could run simultaneously to add value. To give you the idea imagine:

> the sensory data you could collect off a patient if a remote Doctor could during a 3G video consult simultaneously also view a patients Alivecor ECG data, Philips Vital Sign feeds, data being captured from a bluetooth connected VitaDock monitor, etc.

> the opportunity for Nuance voice recognition to run while you’re consulting with a patient, recognise keywords and then suggest relevant informational videos that you might like to send to your patients HealthVault account for them to view later.

Video Calling over 3G

For medical service providers (like us here at 3G Doctor) it’s a big boost to have this being made official. It’s also going to be a very interesting development when the wider market wakes up to the opportunity to switch mid-call between normal voice calls and video calls.

Emergency service providers should be all over this opportunity as it offers incredible opportunities for assessment of emergency situations, training, evidence collection, screening false/fake calls, accurate ways of authenticating access to cloud based Health Records, etc.

By doing away with the need to hunt down, connect to (and trust!) a WiFi network to accept/make a video call Apple customers are going to be driven to engage with their presence (whether they are available for video calls or not) and I can easily see this opening up huge new commercial opportunities and opportunities for carers and patients (like emergency 911 video calls).

This move also makes it abundantly clear that Apple has found that it has continued support from telcos – perhaps mobile operators the world over are more than happy with the demand for their hardware financing business that they’ll continue subsidising Apple devices even if Apple has now completely torn up their old business model (where they used to earn money from calls/texts) and is now placed in pole position for the next phase of telecoms (where multi-device/screen presence management is the big opportunity).

PassBook now works in locked screen mode

I’m a big fan of Apple’s connected PassBook and think it’s going to be very exciting as healthcare brands get onboard the platform alongside the Starbucks, American Airlines, Borders, etc.

I see it enabling exciting connected Google-Sesame-style solutions to authentication instead of requiring the world to wait for telcos to work out their NFC alternative reality dreams. On the enterprise level I’m thinking staff logins etc but on the consumer/patient side big Healthcare IT firms like Microsoft and EPIC are very well placed to leverage this opportunity eg. by making a HealthVault passport app that carried access to a summary care record for first responders.

3x microphones with noise cancelling and headphone upgrade

This is very important for the outdoor/built environment voice and video call experience so this we really add to the quality of mobile calls creating an almost HD call quality experience. It’s also going to be great for clinicians who use Nuance Dragon 12 (with the iPhone 5 as remote mike).

Details aren’t very clear just yet but the headphones might have microphones on them which could potentially be used to get a pulse reading (for teaming with personal training apps like Iqua Beat headphones etc).


A lot of Telcos are keen to see demand for LTE but consumers have been burnt enough by “unlimited” data promises before, throttling, overcharging etc. so whilst it may look attractive at the moment because no one’s using it this enthusiasm will die back as users realise the roaming capacity isn’t in place and network coverage is patchy.

Of course the urban living will say it’s great but when are they out of WiFi range anyway?


Now the 3GS is totally phased out this leaves the iPhone ‘s and iPod4 priced even more competitively taking away even more excuses for medical schools and hospitals who are still sitting on the fence…

Nano SIM

Going to prove a bit of a pain for enterprise (will have to update SIMs) and any telcos with SIM based NFC plans (they’ve been cut out) but nothing too dramatic and will probably just be seen as another clever move from Apple as SIM issuing is yet another opportunity for most customers to think about changing service providers which will no doubt drive further competitive iPhone MNO plan pricing.

By being backward compatible (eg. you can put one in a cradle and it’ll work in a prior generation iPhone 4) Apple’s made the phase in process a bit easier.

Another plus for Apple as the first mover will be that all the next nano-SIMs will now by default get the Apple sounding “Nano” branding that will no doubt be handed to them by MNO marketing departments eg. “£20 iPhone Nano-SIM only Plan”.

New screen size

App developers have been given some breathing space for a while (as long as their customers can tolerate the letterboxing) and this is much better for Apple developer relations than what we’ve seen happening to developers as a result of other smartphone OS upgrades.

What I’m surprised we didn’t see

The reverseable new “Lightening” charger is much more senior friendly than the fiddly mircoUSB the rest of the worlds mobile manufacturers comply with but as a big fan of the wireless charging kit that you can get for the Samsung Galaxy S3 (after replacing the back door you can charge your phone by just placing it on a mat by the bedside etc) I’m suprised Apple hasn’t added wireless induction charging.

No time like now to drive the standards in this market and I can imagine the coffee shops that are so enthusiastic for Apple payments would be only too keen to install little glowing Apple logo’s into their furniture which would offer many other first mover advantages for a mobile brand.

See anything I missed? Wished for anything more?

Please feel encouraged to have your say in the comments (or over in the mHealth group on Linkedin)

About David Doherty
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1 Response to New mHealth opportunities: Apple iPhone 5

  1. Rafael Grossmann says:

    As an mHealth innovator and passionate advocate, I cant wait to apply this new device/technology to our ipodteletrauma project. The faster processor and LTE/3-4G able video call could make this device a grounds breaker-game-changer tool.
    Can an iPhone5 save a life in trauma? Yes, if you are in Maine, with #mhealth #ipodteletrauma.Pls share

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