Sensors have played a role in mobile devices for years, even if it was simply a compass designed to help phone users find their bearings (in the woods, supposedly). Yet at Apple’s iPhone launch today, the company announced a “motion co-processor,” the M7 chip, on its higher-end iPhone 5S. The chip’s job is to continuously monitor the phone’s motion sensors—its accelerometer, a gyroscope and compass.
Again, these sensors in themselves are nothing new. But dedicating a special chip to watch them is. The M7, paired with something called the CoreMotion API—a piece of software that delivers the motion data in usable form to any app that requests it—means app developers will now be able to put Apple’s sensors to more use.
One such app, featured in Apple’s announcement, is the Nike+ Move app. It seems to be a way to get your phone to keep track of your every step, much like Nike’s Fuelband wrist monitor or similar devices like the Fitbit Flex or the Jawbone UP. It remains to be seen why Nike would give people a reason not to buy its Fuelbands.
But this is just part of a broader trend towards always-on sensors.