Dropped health monitoring functions won't hinder Apple Watch sales

Apple reportedly ran into problems with some advanced features

Although the Apple Watch will offer fewer health features than initially planned, it's still expected to be a powerful contender in the wearables category when it goes on sale in April.

Problems with sensor technology forced Apple to shelve plans to have the device monitor blood pressure, stress levels and heart rate, according to the Wall Street Journal. The sensors recorded inconsistent measurements that were affected by factors like dry skin, hairy arms and how tightly the watch was worn, according to anonymous sources cited by the Journal. Instead of more advanced features, the watch will include a basic pulse-rate monitor.

Omitting these features isn't a "deal breaker" for buyers, said Ramon Llamas, research manager for wearables and mobile phones, at IDC. The appeal of the Apple Watch isn't limited to health and fitness tracking but includes communication functions like the ability to compose text messages and emails and make calls from the wrist, said Llamas.

There's also a new class of apps being developed that leverage the Apple Watch: last week, for example, medical device company DexCom said it has developed an app that lets diabetics monitor their blood-sugar levels.

Apple CEO Tim Cook emphasized the smartwatch's versatility during a conference last week.

"One of the biggest surprises people are going to have when they start using it is the breadth of what it will do," Cook said.

And, as with any new Apple product, the curiosity and hype surrounding the wearable will help sales, said Llamas. IDC predicts Apple will sell 22 million of the devices this year.

The company has asked manufacturers to produce 5 million to 6 million Apple Watches in the first quarter, according to the Journal.

Half of those orders were for the entry-level Apple Watch Sports and 33 percent for the mid-tier model, which has a sapphire crystal watch face and stainless steel casing.

Don't rule out an Apple device with advanced health monitoring functions, said Llamas. The features may appear either in future versions of the Apple Watch or in a different Apple wearable, he said.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'connor@idg.com

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