A Revolution Too Big to Miss

iPhone 5s Promotional Print from Apple

In the past, Operation Gadget defined a niche at the intersection of gadgets and the technology used in sports.  With that in mind, there has never been a mobile phone product announcement as significant as the iPhone 5s was to this site's target audience.

For years, my friends and I have applied one gadget after another to the tasks of measuring our fitness and helping ourselves to discover the best uses of our exercise time.  When the technology allowed it, we started carrying Smartphones-- in some cases, as accessories to heart rate monitors, providing GPS documentation of our outdoor exercise routes.

We were doing this long before services like MapMyRide, RunKeeper, Strava, Nike+ or DailyBurn.  But since fitness measurement apps made the jump from notebook computers to the Smartphone, and some of these social fitness services became truly practical, we've noticed use of any of them results in vastly accelerated battery consumption on our phones.

The iPhone 5s may be the first Smartphone that's explicitly designed to track user activity with minimal use of the CPU.  Apple says, thanks to the M7 co-processor on the 5s, these activity logging functions, in the form of inputs from the embedded accelerometer, compass and gyroscope, will consumer far less power per unit time.  It was not clear if the GPS could be driven primarily from the M7, but the GPS can probably be used in bursts if the other inputs are used to capture motion on a more continuous basis.

Anyone who has really studied fitness tracking application development can project what developers will do with this sort of technology.  Apple illustrated this by referring to Nike+ Move app, which they did not demonstrate, apart from presenting a screenshot.

The biggest issue is whether developers with significant installed bases on non-iOS devices will thoroughly optimize their apps for the iPhone 5s or not.  We also must keep in mind that the existing iPhone 5 and the brand new 5c do not have the M7 co-processor.  So optimization will have to be different even within the iPhone 5 family.

In spite of this, it would be crazy for me to conclude anything other than this phone is a must-have for fitness app junkies, until such time as the handset powers that be on the Android and Windows Phone platforms figure out a way to mimic some of these features.

I hope to bring you some in depth analysis of what's happening on the iPhone 5s in the near future.  Job One is to find a way to acquire the model I want to replace my iPhone 4s.