Apple turns to professional athletes for testing of iWatch fitness capabilities

iWAtch C (three-up, Martin Hajek 001)

With just four months remaining until Apple is expected to unveil its oft-rumored iWatch, a new report claims that the iPhone maker has teamed up with professional athletes to test the smartwatch’s fitness capabilities in intense training environments. The report, citing a source with knowledge of the testing, adds that Apple has invited players from the MLB, NBA and NHL to its Cupertino headquarters on numerous occasions for this testing.

Apple is reportedly working with Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Kings right winger Dustin Brown and at least a few other star athletes, one being an unidentified player for the Boston Red Sox. The athletes have been forced to sign non-disclosure agreements that prohibit them from discussing the existence of the iWatch or their involvement in the testing process… 

Last month, Bryant was spotted at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino. According to the well-connected blogger Mark Gurman, his appearance on Apple’s campus is now said to relate directly to this testing.

Kobe Bryant on Apple campus

Gurman explains what this testing could mean for the iWatch in his report:

“The testing of the Apple wearable device in fitness environments further indicates that the device will have significant fitness components,” writes Gurman. “Combined with HealthKit in iOS 8, the Apple hardware will likely be capable of tracking steps taken, calories burned, and heart rate. Additionally, Apple has been working on advanced sensors to read a person’s hydration levels, blood pressure, and sweat, and those three components of the body could assist professional athletes during their training exercises.”

Last year, Apple hired former Nike fitness expert and FuelBand developerJay Blahnik to reportedly work on the iWatch. Gurman reports that Blahnik is likely working with the athletes on testing, alongside a small team that is dedicated to testing the wearable in health and fitness environments. This aligns with the various job postings for fitness-related initiatives that Apple has posted over the past year.

Apple is currently enlisting the help of Dr. Michael O’Reilly to gain FDA approval for the iWatch:

“Apple has created a team under medical executive Dr. Michael O’Reilly with sleep, health, and sensors experts to work with government regulators and engineers on approving and testing upcoming wearable computers. A report from earlier today claimed that Apple is still seeking FDA approval for the upcoming wearable hardware […] As former government affairs chief at Masimo, Dr. O’Reilly had success working with governments, so it is likely that Apple is progressing with its regulation talks.”

Just hours ago, it was reported that the iWatch will come in multiple designs and have more than 10 built-in sensors. Gurman has learned that Apple will be positioning the iWatch as a fashion device, with much of its appearance inspired by Apple design chief Jony Ive. The smartwatch will reportedly be offered in at least two distinct variations, with wireless charging, a pulse sensor and more.

It is unclear if this partnership with athletes could extend to marketing and sponsorship of the iWatch. Bryant has an existing partnership with Nike, making a extended marketing deal with Apple appear plausible. Miami Heat superstar LeBron James is also sponsored with Beats, which Apple acquired last month for $3 billion. James recently had a cameo appearance in a Beats TV ad featuring the iPhone.

The full-length report is an interesting read, in which Gurman elaborates on the various key hires that Apple has made over the past few years to assist with development of the iWatch. The smartwatch is expected to enter manufacturing within the next few months, in time for an October unveiling. Apple also has new iPhones, iPads and Macs, alongside iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, on the horizon.

Are you getting excited for the iWatch?