Jony Ive told Hodinkee, which covers the luxury watch industry, that health was "absolutely" an "early and significant focus" of the watch. The goal, he said, was "developing both the hardware and software to form the foundation for all of the health-based capabilities."
That may come as a surprise to some. After the first Apple Watch received a mixed reception, reviewers of the second series praised a heavier focus on fitness.
"Let's call it what it is: a fitness tracker," The Verge wrote in 2016. "It's what Apple had resisted calling its wearable for the past year and a half, even declining to categorize it as such when citing industry rankings, opting for the 'smartwatch' category instead. It is, definitely, still a smartwatch. But the Watch now has focus, and that's a good thing."
Ive told Hodinkee that while health was a primary focus, "there is nothing as motivating or encouraging as hearing directly from our customers." The changes seem to have paid off.
Apple has since tested whether the Apple Watch can detect cardiac abnormalities, and is using the devices in a heart study. Health insurance companies have also looked into using discounted Apple Watches to facilitate wellness programs.
While Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was a health enthusiast, especially fond of fruits and vegetables and meditation, Ive said the Watch was conceived after Jobs' death, as the company was "pausing to think about where we wanted to go, what trajectory we were on as a company, and what motivated us."
Ive also said the company has learned from some of the Watch's forays into new materials like gold and ceramic, offering a rare hint into Apple's thinking for future product designs.
"[W]orking in gold and ceramic was purposeful – not only to expand who Apple is, but also from a materials science perspective," Ive said. "Our material sciences team now understands these fundamental attributes and properties in a way they didn't before. This will help shape future products and our understanding of what forms make sense."