Apple Watch was Supposed to be a Health Tracker, not Fitness Tracker

Apple's original plans for its Apple Watch were apparently far more ambitious than the final product, due to ship in April. Instead of the fitness tracker with iPhone-linked communication features, Apple had planned on giving consumers a device that tracked overall health, but had to scale back its designs because many sensors failed to perform as expected.

Apple Watch was supposed to have more features at launchApple Watch was supposed to have more features at launch

Insider sources said Apple wanted to include sensors that tracked blood oxygen levels, glucose levels, blood pressure, heart activity, and stress levels. In the end, those features were dropped because of inconsistent readings, and in some cases, concerns over potential FDA regulation.

Insider sources told the Wall Street Journal that the Apple Watch project was called a black hole because so many resources were poured into the design process without any real results. In the end, Apple chose to dramatically scale back their design goals and turned their health tracker into a fitness tracker.

Those sources also said Apple experimented with different types of sensors hoping to have a more inclusive personal data collection device, but continually hit brick walls when they didn't perform as expected, returned inconsistent results depending on how test subjects wore the watch, or simply didn't meet the company's high quality demands.

When it ships in April, Apple Watch will include a daily step tracker, motion sensor, and heart rate monitor. Since Apple Watch works as an iPhone accessory, it will also offer quick views for email and text messages, an easy way to reply to conversations, a link to the iPhone's GPS for navigation, support for third party apps, and Apple Pay support.

Scaling back and shifting the device's focus meant Apple could bring its smartwatch to market, and the company no doubt has continued to work on ways to enhance the Apple Watch feature set in future models. One of Apple's hires is an expert in the FDA regulatory approval process, so it's possible we may still see some of the health tracking options the company originally planned—but not this April when the first model ships.

Since Apple Watch was scaled back to a fitness tracker, that takes away much of what would've set it apart from other smartwatches already on the market. Without that, Apple had to turn to other features—such as Apple Pay and fashion—to make their device more appealing to consumers.

The big question now is whether or not those features will draw in buyers. Apple is betting they will considering it is making between 5 and 6 million Apple Watches during the first quarter. Half of those will be the US$349 Apple Sport model, and another third will make up the mid-range Apple Watch. That leaves upwards of a million watches at the high end Apple Watch Edition range, which is expected to cost several thousand dollars.

Apple first showed off Apple Watch about five months ago, and interest in the device has remained strong. Even though it doesn't offer all the features Apple had hoped for, it looks like Apple Watch has enough pent up demand to sell well, at least initially.

It's also a safe bet we'll see even more features in the second generation model considering how much Apple cut from the original. Maybe that model will be the true health tracker Apple envisioned.