There were plenty of ooo’s and ahh’s at Apple’s iPhone 5s event, many of them direct at the new revolutionary fingerprint scanner. But many people overlooked a tiny piece of hardware that stands to open the doors to a whole new set of apps — and potential anxiety: the motion-sensing M7 chip.
Alongside the new superfast A7 processor, the M7 “motion coprocessor” serves a number of different purposes, chief among them keeping track of your motion. The M7’s job is to handle data from the iPhone’s sensors — the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass — without firing up the A7. This means better battery life, but thanks to the new CoreMotion API, it also means that your iPhone never stops collecting data. For the sporty set, this means the M7 chip turns your iPhone into fitness tracker that can serve up data about your movements that you can access instantaneously.
Many fitness trackers on the market today offer Bluetooth connectivity, but none are as integrated into the iPhone’s guts as the M7 chip. It’s the API that really makes the difference. Apple itself said that the M7 “continuously measures motion data” which “enables a new generation of health and fitness apps.” Nike (obviously) was the first to jump on board with a new app called Nike+ Move which will use GPS and the M7 chip to provide a new kind of fitness tracking experience. And who knows that other cool new uses developers will come up with. It’s also not too crazy to imagine how the M7 might be used for gaming too. Plus you don’t have to wear one of those silly bracelets.
Having the integrated chip is also more efficient; instead of buying your fitness tracker, remembering, wear it all the time, then uploading the data onto your computers, and constantly keep in charged, all of it is done with your phone. Anytime you have your iPhone in your pocket or purse, the device is constantly recording data about your movement. The iPhone was already doing this to a certain degree, but this upgrade means more of your data is stored. And, potentially, is sent back to Apple’s servers.
Which also has the potential to make the M7 more than a little creepy, especially given recent ongoing revelations about NSA privacy violations. Luckily, iOS 7 makes it relatively easy to turn off location services, though it’s unclear if you can turn off the M7’s motion tracking too.
Where does that leave us? Fitness buffs will have a great — although bulkier — fitness-tracking option available to them. Privacy buffs will have something new to worry about. And everyone in between will go about their day blissfully unaware that their iPhone knows exactly how they spent it.