Health Wearables Vie for $12T Market

Big tech companies and established startups are increasingly obsessed with wearable technology – wrist-worn trackers.

On Tuesday, Amazon announced a variety of new products and features related to its health and fitness services, including:

  • Halo Fitness, an interactive home exercise service similar to Apple Fitness +
  • Halo Nutrition, a highly personalized meal planning service
  • Halo View, a new wearable device with a screen similar to the Apple Watch

Amazon’s reveal follows Apple announcing a partnership with UnitedHealthcare, Fitbit launching the wearable Charge 5, and Whoop launching its Whoop 4.0 after a capital increase of $ 200 million at a valuation of $ 3.6 billion .

Clear, networked fitness and trackable biometric data are in great demand. In 2021 alone, funding for wearables and the “quantified self” has already hit the $ 2.9 billion mark, according to the Pitchbook, with more than 260 companies receiving funding.

  • Apple announced at its WWDC that iOS 15 users will be able to seamlessly share health data with family members and doctors.
  • Whoop was adopted as the official wearable of the PGA Tour, in part due to its ability to detect the presence of COVID through changes in breathing rate.
  • Oura Ring was selected as the NBA’s official wearable during the Bubble for similar health reasons.

We continue to see legitimate health applications for these consumer devices as health data moves “upstream” of the doctor-patient relationship and as telemedicine integration regulations are simplified.

The health perspective

What about that $ 12 trillion elephant in the room? That’s right, healthcare.

Big tech, healthcare, and fitness are on a collision course as companies like Apple, Facebook, and now Amazon, launch products and partnerships that integrate health and wellness into their ecosystems.

However, these partnerships and initiatives are nothing without hardware. To penetrate the healthcare market, technology companies need it Hardware that conforms to the medical device standard.

How are the different players in space disguise in this fight? Let’s take a look:

  • Google’s $ 2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit has produced less-than-outstanding results. The company has also partnered with Samsung to bolster its Wear OS, and the results have been just as tepid.
  • Apple currently owns over a third of the global smartwatch market. The infrastructure for integration with healthcare is in place, they have user confidence in data protection and a public mandate to disrupt the space.
  • Amazon has the least amount of time in the market with its Halo product. However, the company already made a leap into the healthcare sector with the $ 750 million acquisition of drug delivery company Pillpack in 2018. The Prime ecosystem, along with Alexa as a pseudo physician assistant, could potentially also result in a closed healthcare ecosystem for Prime users.
  • Facebook hasn’t released its planned wearable device yet, and one glaring problem stands in the way of its aspirations: privacy concerns. Facebook has eroded user trust, which will likely make adoption difficult.
  • Peloton reportedly launched its own wearable fitness machine – no surprise after purchasing Atlas wearables for an undisclosed amount earlier this year.
  • While Whoop doesn’t have nearly the same level of resources, capital, or infrastructure as its larger technology competitors, they were pioneers in hardware. The $ 200 million capital injection appears to be earmarked for further performance innovation rather than healthcare penetration.

Big tech is likely targeting total healthcare disruption, while established companies like Whoop have the potential to own lucrative niches like quantifying performance instead.

The fitness perspective

Apple and Amazon leverage their ability to create, curate, and distribute training-related content. Whoop is focused on becoming ubiquitous with “fitness tracking”.

Apple has Apple Fitness + and its bank of highly skilled trainers who, like peloton trainers, use the platform to connect with their audience. Amazon now offers fitness tracking, fitness coaching, and nutritional coaching in its fast-evolving Halo system. Whoop recently acquired PUSH – a speed-based workout app that allows users to track weightlifting metrics – to further solidify their position.

There is a gap between content platform play (Apple and Amazon) and pure lifestyle branded play (Whoop). While the former appears to have a stronger mass appeal, the latter has established a cult-like following.

So who wins?

This question is tricky, because fitness wearables are not exactly a zero-sum game.

Have the three companies at the head of the room fundamentally different end goals.

Amazon is focused on getting individuals into its prime ecosystem at all costs. Because of this, they can offer their hardware ($ 80) and software ($ 3.99 monthly subscription) significantly cheaper than an Apple Watch ($ 279) or a Whoop monthly subscription ($ 30).

Apple already has a lion’s share of the wearables market and has made healthcare and fitness part of its growth thesis since 2014. And then there is Whoop – a software company disguised as a hardware product for selected high-performance people.

Ultimately, I believe Apple will win. Benchmark is benchmark, and few can beat Apple in this game.

While the idea that another giant like Amazon could build its own mini-health system is intriguing, wearables are consumer products that need to look and feel good. If Amazon focuses more on undercutting prices and leveraging the Halo system to increase Prime membership, its wearables won’t be able to keep up with Apple’s ambitious design, market-leading UX and UI and telemedicine -Infrastructure to compete.

Little did we know a decade ago that any of these companies would be leaders in health and fitness. Only time will tell how the category will perform in the near future.

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