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The M7 motion co-processor Apple packed into the iPhone 5s is already seeing use from a number of fitness app developers anxious to maximize its potential as a new health and wellness platform.
Apple didn't exactly hype the M7 when it introduced the chip last month in announcing the iPhone 5s, but among the handset's many new features, the co-processor may turn out to be the most impactful for app developers and consumers alike.
Using very little power, the M7 constantly measures and tracks motion data, keeping the information accessible to any apps that may need it. That means fitness and lifestyle apps no longer need to be active or running in the background to track user movements throughout the day, a benefit that could allow developers to harvest and utilize information on their users' daily habits in much greater detail than previously possible.
Developers on the iOS platform are already taking advantage of the M7's capabilities, with the first wave of enabled apps coming to the App Store just days after the iPhone 5s' release.
Strava was first out of the gate to take advantage of the M7, releasing version 3.5.3 of Strava Run just four days after the iPhone 5s was released.
The new version adds an Auto-Pause feature for runners, giving them highly accurate activity level data without having to directly interact with the app. It also takes advantage of the M7's low-power constant monitoring, as the app gathers information from the chip for those times when Strava is not running.
Auto-Pause kicks in whenever the M7 senses that you stop moving, whether to take a break, respond to an email, or use the appâs new built in Instagram integration to snap a photo. While paused, the app automatically turns off GPS, saving battery life.
The app also suspends real-time pace information until the M7 senses youâve started running again. As the company explains, "If you were running a 7 minute mile pace but stopped for two minutes to take and upload a photo (finishing the mile in 9 minutes) the audio cues and pace data on your iPhone will continue to show that you kept a 7 minute mile pace."
Strava allows users to track their runs via GPS, displaying maps of their route alongside stats such as distance, pace, elevation, and calories burned. It also allows users to compete on interactive score boards, find and follow friends, and explore new places to run.
Strava Run is a free download in the App Store. The 53.7MB app requires an iPhone, iPad, or iPod running iOS 5.0 or higher.
GammaPoint, too, has taken advantage of the M7 with version 2.2.1 of WeatherRun. The new version adds a step counter that draws data from the motion co-processor. Step data is logged and organized in both daily and monthly measures.
WeatherRun provides users with up-to-date weather information while they are outside being active. The app also tracks activity and compares it against weather, altitude, humidity, and temperature. It interfaces with the Pebble Smartwatch, as well as other Bluetooth 4.0 devices such as the TI SensorTag.
The latest update also includes a fix for a bug that affected deleting and sharing functions on devices running iOS 7.
Version 2.2.1 of WeatherRun costs $2 in the App Store. It is a 12.2MB download that requires an iPad, iPhone, or iPod running iOS 6.0 or higher.
Also joining in on leveraging the M7 was Azumio, which recently released version 2.4 of its Argus app. The latest iteration uses the M7 for passive step-counting when not running, meaning the app automatically pulls data from the chip once the reactivated. The update also includes a streamlined honeycomb user interface and improved visual design, including a step counter that shows up as an app badge.
Argus monitors not only user activities, but food intake, workouts, sleep, hydration, weight, and vital signs. The app is engineered to consume very little power and is designed to run in the background at all times. Users can create food diaries, observe trends over time, and track and share data with friends. Also included is interaction with a number of third-party wellness devices, like the Withings Smart Body Analyzer.
The new version of Argus is available as a free download in the App Store for iOS devices running iOS 6.0 or higher.
The most recent addition to the line of M7-supporting apps comes from Cross Forward Consulting, which debuted its Pedometer++ app on Tuesday. The new app functions as a simple step counter that relies on the M7's passive monitoring to log steps taken throughout the day. Pedometer++ allows users to compile their data on both a weekly and a daily basis. Like Argus, Pedometer++ can be set to display the current step count as the app's notification badge. The figure displayed in the badge will dynamically update throughout the day.
Pedometer++ version 1.1 is available now in the App Store as a free 0.3MB download only for the iPhone 5s.
Maximizing the M7
The coming months will almost certainly see more developers adding new features relying on the M7. Nike, maker of the popular Nike+ app, has already promised a Nike+ Move based on the M7's capabilities.
Apple's motion co-processor will also likely figure into apps outside of the fitness category. In addition to user motion tracking, the M7 can, even in sleep mode, tell when a user is walking or driving. For example, navigation apps may leverage the data to switch from driving to walking directions dynamically depending on a user's speed.