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California-based AliveCor, maker of mobile electrocardiograms (EKGs), has ended the sale of its FDA-approved KardiaBand, per MobiHealthNews. The KardiaBand was an EKG wristband designed for use with earlier iterations of the Apple Watch, giving the smart watch added health value before Apple Watch 4 launched with its own EKG.
AliveCor says it’s focused on expanding the capabilities of its KardiaMobile EKG products — handheld heart rate monitors that connect to a mobile app — including its recently launched KardiaMobile 6L, which offers consumers much more data than the company’s first KardiaMobile product.
Here’s what it means: AliveCor is likely feeling squeezed by Apple’s expanded healthcare play — which could threaten other startups down the line.
- AliveCor is likely feeling pressured now that Apple has incorporated an EKG directly into its flagship wearable. Tensions between the two companies mounted with the launch of Apple Watch 4 last September, which was stocked with new health features. AliveCor’s then-CEO Vic Gundtora spoke with Business Insider Prime soon after the reveal, saying the firm was surprisedby Apple’s claims that it made the first wearable EKG device. "Apple doesn’t like to admit they copy anyone, even in the smallest things. Their own version of alternative facts," Gundtora said.
- As Apple pushes deeper into healthcare, incorporating more remote patient monitoring sensors into its wearables, startups like One Drop could too feel threatened. Despite selling diabetes management startup One Drop’s connected diabetes management tools in Apple Stores, the tech giant has also filed patents related to a potential continuous glucose monitoring device that analyzes sweat instead of blood and could be incorporated into the company’s wearable line. Noninvasive continuous glucose monitoring is the holy grail for diabetes management, and if Apple is able to pull it off one day, that could spell trouble for the likes of One Drop.
The bigger picture: AliveCor doesn’t stand to lose much by severing ties with Apple given the strong performance of its devices as dedicated health tools.
AliveCor’s KardiaBand devices serve a different audience than the feature-filled Apple Watch 4, and the company is playing to its clinical strengths. We think that the lower price point, clear purpose, and clinical-grade results produced by AliveCor’s KardiaMobile products will likely help it maintain a strong position in the consumer health market, regardless of what Apple cooks up.
For starters, both of AliveCor’s KardiaMobile devices cost less than $200, compared with the $400 Apple Watch, which makes AliveCor’s devices a much easier sell for consumers. This is especially true for cost-conscious seniors, who are most likely to have a need for heart-monitoring tech.
And any sales lost from shelving its Apple Watch accessory could be offset thanks to a recent partnership with consumer electronics chain BestBuy, which began selling the company’s KardiaMobile device at over 800 US locations in May.
The KardiaMobile devices have demonstrated clinical-grade results on par with traditional "gold standard" methods. And Apple’s competition may even turn out to be a sales boost for AliveCor: Gundtora told CNBC that AliveCor experienced an 80% hike in sales following the Apple Watch 4’s announcement, which he said might have been connected to Apple’s own marketing efforts to publicize the importance of managing heart health.
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