There's a Nokia smartwatch at MWC, but seeing as it's a rebranded Withings Steel HR that we've already tested, it's unlikely to get Nokia nerds squealing. It's part of the switchover of branding, which will be completed this summer alongside an app redesign and refresh; the result of Nokia buying Withings and putting Cédric Hutchings in charge of its Digital Health division.
I asked Hutchings if we can expect more watches from Nokia to follow up the Steel HR. "You should, yes," he replied but would "absolutely not" give me any more details.
He told us that Nokia's Digital Health team, which was formed from Withings staff, "has been growing significantly since the acquisition" and is committed to the entire suite of existing products and that we should expect more announcements later this year. Whether that's a Nokia hybrid or smartwatch remains to be seen.
Obsessed with battery life
As for what it might be, "I'm not ruling out anything", he said, when asked about switching to full power AMOLED screens on future watches. "We are obsessed with the battery life because we do think it matters to the users of these devices. So we are always looking for the best trade-off.
"We love our watch for the simplicity and also for the battery life. If you offer me a technology where you have the screen and the battery life, both, why not?"
Hutchings also hinted that Nokia won't stray too far from the health features and notification alerts that Withings has focused on so far. "What we've seen in studies is that the most-used features on smartwatches - it's about fitness tracking and notifications," he said. "So you can have a 25 day battery life on this watch."
Beyond watches, the overall strategy remains the same: "Scales are very important. Wearables are very important. Stationary sensors like sleep monitors are very important. We look at the different places and the different moments of the day to see where it makes sense to add sensors."
Habit forming and health conditions
Nokia's new Veep is still pretty conscious to do well by existing Withings customers. "We don't want to lose people, this update [in the summer] is for new users but also for existing users."
The coaching programs in the refreshed Nokia Health Mate app will cover lifestyle changes e.g. making or breaking habits, but also specific health conditions that need to be managed. He wouldn't give us any details about how it plans to tackle food tracking, in particular, but did indicate that the partnership with MyFitnessPal will continue.
"What we see is that our users are requesting much more actionable insights and coaching programs," he explained. "We've seen over the years that it's a very strong demand from our users, who have one or several devices, to go to the next step in health, specific goals. We've been very shy so far about it."
In the health care system
Aside from wearables that help individuals take charge of their health, the second pillar is now patient care and remote monitoring.
This is the platform Nokia announced at MWC, and an NHS trial monitoring around 60,000 people with hypertension via the connected blood pressure monitor is already underway.
"It's going from early days of pilots to actual use," said Hutchings. "It's really about efficiency but also about the experience and not being patronised as a patient but having an enhanced level of awareness, having a big picture of where you stand."
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