Digital health rumor mill: Apple prepping new health device, Jawbone mulling sale

By Jonah Comstock

The Apple rumor mill is rolling again, this time with reports of a new forthcoming health device. According to Apple Insider, via Taiwanese paper Economic Daily News, the new product, two years in the making, will "accurately collect users' personal daily life including heart rate, pulse, blood sugar changes and other information." It's supposedly set for a 2016 launch.

Details about the form of this new device were hazy -- it could be a new wearable, a handheld device, or perhaps a strap or set of straps for the Apple Watch that expand the device's existing health-sensing capabilities.

Apple has launched a lot of health-related products since it was first rumored to be getting into the space, including an enterprise app partnership with IBM; fitness and heart rate tracking features in the Apple Watch; Apple Health and HealthKit, which is a framework for collecting and sharing health data safely in an iPhone; a development framework for research called ResearchKit, and a suite of provider apps called Apple CareKit. But other rumors have missed the mark, including early reports that the Apple Watch would have much more complex health sensors than it turned out to have.

Adding a little fuel to the fire are comments Apple CEO Tim Cook made to FastCompany in an in-depth piece the publication recently completed on Apple. He described how Apple's forays into healthcare have naturally led one into another and suggested some edges the company has over other players in the digital health space. 

"We’ve gotten into the health arena and we started looking at wellness, that took us to pulling a string to thinking about research, pulling that string a little further took us to some patient-care stuff, and that pulled a string that’s taking us into some other stuff," Cook told FastCo. "When you look at most of the solutions, whether it’s devices, or things coming up out of Big Pharma, first and foremost, they are done to get the reimbursement [from an insurance provider]. Not thinking about what helps the patient. So if you don’t care about reimbursement, which we have the privilege of doing, that may even make the smartphone market look small."

In other rumor news, reports swirled this week that fitness tracker company Jawbone, in addition to selling off its speaker business, is angling to get acquired by a large hardware company. Lending credibility to the rumors is BlackRock's recent massive devaluation of its equity in the company to less than a penny per share.