updated 01:14 am EDT, Sat October 19, 2013
Apple M7 Motion Coprocessor makes your iPhone 5s a fitness tracker
The iPhone 5s packs quite a lot of new silicon technology, including the Apple-designed dual-core A7 processor as well the very latest Imagination Technologies PowerVR G64530 GPU, which features four-clusters. This makes the iPhone 5s the first mobile device to support 64-bit system architecture, while also making it the first mobile device to support OpenGL ES 3.0, a graphics technology previously only supported on desktop and notebook chips. As if this wasn't enough, Apple has also packed in the M7 motion coprocessor, turning the iPhone 5s into a full-blown fitness tracker when paired with the right apps.
The M7 chip has been identified by Chipworks as being based on an ARM Cortex-M3 core clocked at 150MHz, with Apple-customized packaging. It is a really interesting piece of technology and it has been made more interesting by the way developers have already begun taking advantage of it. Sensor data from the iPhone's accelerometer, three-axis gyro and compass is sent directly to the M7, by passing the A7, for processing and storage. It works even when the iPhone 5s is asleep with apps designed to take advantage of the Core Motion API in iOS 7 able to tap into the data it is continuously measuring.
In its general application in the iPhone 5s, the chip reduces the processing load on the A7 chip, while it also works to save battery power by reducing the number of times the iPhone 5s pings cellular towers for data when not in general use. There is a number of health and fitness apps rolling out that have started to harness the additional capabilities of the M7 motion coprocessor including MotionX 24/7, and Strava Run. One of the most interesting of the new M7-compatible apps is Argus, by Azumio, a developer focused on biofeedback health apps.
Argus not only taps into the M7 chip, but also has a user interface that has also been updated with an iOS 7 look and feel. In the past, apps like Argus that monitored your fitness and activity levels used to have to tap into the main processing chip in your iPhone. So while they were a great way to use your iPhone for monitoring your fitness, they would chew up system CPU cycles for what are relatively low-level processing tasks using valuable battery life. The M7 motion coprocessor liberates these types of apps and allows users to monitor their health and fitness levels in the background without having to worry about battery drain.
Instead, your iPhone can be asleep in your pocket, while the M7 motion coprocessor collects and processes your motion data in the background, ever so slightly sipping battery to get the job the done. When you then launch apps like Argus, the app will pull that data from the M7 chip and populate the relevant fields with how many steps you have walked and roughly how many calories you have expended in that time. Perhaps most incredibly, once you've installed and launched Argus, for example, you might go a few days without using it, but the data collected, processed and stored in the M7 motion coprocessor will automatically populate the app with motion data recorded when you launch it again.
With wearable fitness technology increasingly becoming a part of our daily health and fitness routines, the iPhone 5s with its M7 motion coprocessor takes a significant step forward in allowing your iPhone to do double duty as a fitness tracking device without a significant penalty on your battery life - you mightn't wear it, but you will almost always carry it with you. Earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook foreshadowed that there are enormous possibilities for sensor technology and the iPhone 5s is the first sign that Apple is making a serious play in this space. Some of its recent hires also include former Nike employees who have worked on devices like the Nike Fuelband, while the rumored iWatch is said to utilize sensors for health purposes suggesting that the M7 motion coprocessor is in line for some additional workouts itself.
By Sanjiv Sathiah