Hands on: Philips Connected Health

Andy Boxall

Philips built a stellar suite of health products with an app that advises you like a real doctor and sets achievable goals.

Is Philips the first electronics company that comes to mind when you think about health and fitness products? Perhaps not, but it’s building a platform of connected devices that monitor your well-being and an evolving app that will set reasonable, achievable goals to help alter your lifestyle for the better.

The company launched the Philips Connected Health device range at the end of last year, but the products have only just gone on sale, so we jumped at the chance to see them first-hand in early September. The range consists of a connected watch, smart scales, a blood pressure monitor, a heart rate monitor, and a body temperature monitor. All operate together and send data to a central app called HealthSuite.

The watch is, if you’ll forgive the pun, at the heart of all this. It has a metal body and a soft silicone strap, with a heart rate monitor on the back, and a circular monochrome screen on the front. It’s not touch-controlled, so you interact with the system using gestures on the oversized bezel. The display needs unlocking with three taps on the bottom of the bezel before you can do anything. At the top of the display is a home-style button icon to access the menu, and scrolling through options requires a sideways swipe along the base of the screen. Unlocking the watch is a bit fiddly, but it worked every time we tried, and although you’re not touching big buttons on the relatively small screen, interacting with the watch was easy. However, the bigger your fingers and poorer your eyesight, the harder this will get.

Related: Healthy and motivated? Get that way with Philips latest connected fitness devices

It’s not a smartwatch, so there are no notifications from your phone, and it doesn’t need to be connected all the time. It tracks movement, sleep, and calorie burn, plus it’ll automatically recognize when you start exercising. The heart rate monitor fires up periodically to take a measurement, which means the battery life isn’t that impressive — about four days according to Philips. It’s not the most stylish watch, either, with a look best described as conservative, bordering on the anonymous. Philips is charging $250 for the Health Watch, which is not all that different from the price of most Android Wear smartwatches, so it’s no bargain.

Big plans for HealthSuite

Sounds bad? It’s not, because of the ecosystem Philips is creating around the watch. We measure our health and fitness metrics because we want to be healthier, but rarely do we get much feedback, advice, or motivation from these tools. More than that, if you have a chronic condition, want to seriously lose weight, or have been told by a doctor to change your lifestyle; building a complete picture of your condition using many different data points is essential to manage all this.

Philips’ complete range does everything you need. You wear the watch all day and night, then use the connected scale weekly, and depending on your goals, mix in the blood pressure monitor, more detailed heart rate readings, and temperature measurements too. All this data is collected in the simple HealthSuite app and presented in easy-to-understand graphs. Even at this stage, the data could be invaluable to a doctor, or to help motivate you, but Philips has something even better in mind.

philips connected health hands on
philips connected health hands on

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

philips connected health hands on
philips connected health hands on

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

philips connected health hands on
philips connected health hands on

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

philips connected health hands on
philips connected health hands on

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The next stage is to take the data collected from the devices and feed it into an extension of the app, where programs made with the help of doctors and psychologists are generated to help you achieve your goals. We saw a demo in action. For example, the app will understand you may need to move more, sleep longer, and lose some weight. It will then set achievable goals and a plan for you to follow. The app will check in periodically to see how you’re doing, and if you’re not keeping up, it will crucially ask why, just like a doctor would. Through pre-generated intelligent responses, it will suggest new ways to approach the challenge, in order to increase motivation.

Philips understands that by simply saying, “Lose weight, fatty,” then ordering you to walk 15,000 steps a day and eat a carrot once in a while, no one will succeed. Instead, the app will see how much you move and up the goal incrementally, and provided you log your calorie and food intake, it’ll suggest alternative meals and other healthier eating options too.  Phillips’ system wants to help you change and knows how to make a plan you’ll be able to follow. It’s a sensible approach that may bring about a true, lasting lifestyle alteration.

Get motivated, Philips

The Philips Connected Health ecosystem is definitely aimed at people who need to make vital health-related changes, mature people, and those who require more than a simple Fitbit band on their wrist to motivate them. The watch may not be as flashy as an Apple Watch, but it doesn’t have to be. The other products may not be especially desirable; but they all do very specific jobs, and the app provides the value.

Well, it will provide value. Philips says the next stage of the app’s evolution described above will launch next year, so you’ll have to wait to get the most benefit from any Philips Connected Health product you may buy now. It’ll be subscription based as well, so be prepared for a monthly charge to get all the features we’ve talked about. The range of devices along with Philips intention to add other connected products like its air purifier, smart toothbrush, and baby products to the ecosystem; combined with the emerging plan for the app is exciting; but the timeline is slow, something that seems to have plagued the entire range of products since the beginning. Perhaps Philips can use a motivational app to help reach its goal a little faster, because we can see people really benefiting from this suite of devices.

Highs

  • Health Watch is easy to use
  • Complete range of tools covers most health bases
  • Single app to keep track of data
  • Grand plans for the near future

Lows

  • Expensive
  • New app features not out until next year