The Mac. The iPod. The iPhone.
Apple has made some pretty significant contributions to the way we experience personal technology. In fact, I think you could easily make a case that Apple’s biggest legacy is its products. All three of those products completely defined their categories and influenced every attempt to follow in their successful paths.
For example, there’s really no question that the iPhone is one of the most remarkable inventions of the past 20 years. Next to the personal computer, it may be the most revolutionary piece of technology ever. It completely transformed the way we connect and communicate with the world around us in ways that were unimaginable before it was introduced on a stage by Steve Jobs in 2007.
Or perhaps Apple will be known as a champion for privacy. The company has taken a highly public stance against many of the practices of other tech companies that track user information and monetize it with targeted advertising. Apple’s view that privacy is “a fundamental human right,” has not only benefited consumers but raised awareness about just how much of our data is collected by the apps and services we use every day. Certainly, that’s a noble contribution.
Tim Cook, however, says it isn’t any of those things that will define Apple’s legacy, at least in terms of what people will think was its greatest contribution. As the CEO of the most valuable company on Earth, it’s intriguing to hear what he believes Apple will be known for when people look back in 20 or 50 years.
In an interview with Outside Magazine, Cook repeated what he has said before about the most important contribution he thinks Apple is making:
“I really believe,” he adds, “that if you zoom out to the future and then look back and ask, ‘What has Apple’s greatest contribution been?’ it will be in the health and wellness area.”
I think there is certainly a case to be made that Apple has done more to elevate the amount of information that people now have about their own well-being. A recent report from analyst Above Avalon suggests that there are now 100 million Apple Watch users and that 35 percent of Americans who own an iPhone also have an Apple Watch on their wrist.
The Apple Watch, in particular, has made it possible to track all kinds of data in a way that just wasn’t accessible before. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other devices that can help you track your fitness, but there aren’t any that are as deeply integrated with the iPhone–a device used by more than 1 billion people today.
In addition, Apple has introduced Fitness+, a subscription service that uses your Apple Watch to monitor your activity while you participate in video workouts. That may not seem like a huge deal, but when you consider that most people have had to dramatically change their routine during stay-at-home orders and shutdowns, making this type of service so easily available is a definite win.
Few companies have the existing platform, or the scale, to move the needle on health and wellness in the way Apple can. The company has partnered with healthcare providers and researchers on everything from cardiac studies, to detecting Covid-19 up to a week earlier.
Finally, it may actually be that the privacy commitment has as much to do with it as anything else. There’s something to be said for a company that has built a reputation for protecting user data, which is of no small importance when you’re wearing a device that is constantly generating data about what you’re doing and how your body is reacting.
Leveraging that reputation, and its scale, to help people have a better understanding of their health, and give them actionable information to do something about it, is certainly a worthwhile contribution.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.