Nokia’s ownership of Withings has been incredibly messy. After buying Withings in mid-2016, Nokia sued Apple over unrelated patents which resulted in Withings digital health products being pulled from the Apple Store.
While that dispute has since been resolved, Nokia now says it is reviewing its digital health business altogether. The result could be positive or negative for Withings customers depending on where ownership lands.
As a Withings customer myself, my hope is that Apple buys the digital health product business from Nokia — if only to do the bare minimum to maintain hardware that works with Apple HealthKit.
HealthKit is Apple’s framework on iOS for sharing health and fitness data with Apple’s Health app and compatible third-party apps. When used correctly, HealthKit enables apps to populate profiles for you with data like age, height, and weight based on data you enter in the Health app, and apps that measure health data can return those values back to the Health app.
Prior to being bought by Nokia, Withings made a line of smart scales that captures your weight and other measurements and then syncs the data to their mobile app. When I started my weight loss journey with Apple Watch, I manually entered my weight in Apple’s Health app regularly before upgrading my scale to a Withings smart scale that automatically adds the number using HealthKit.
Nokia has since rebranded the Withings line of digital health products to reflect the Nokia brand name, but the hardware is the same. There isn’t a huge selection of HealthKit compatible hardware products either, so Withings-turned-Nokia hardware has remained valuable for use with Apple’s Health app.
Not all players in the digital health space work with Apple HealthKit. Fitbit has notably taken a competitive position of not supporting Apple’s framework. Other services can integrate with Fitbit, but you need third-party tools to integrate Fitbit data with Apple’s Health app.
Withings hardware and software has taken a turn for the worst under Nokia. The Withings Health Mate app saw a major redesign under Nokia that was a step back in usability and reliability, the Body Cardio smart scale lost its headline feature for being too risky without regulatory approval, and promised HomeKit support for Withings Home camera that was demoed at CES 2016 will likely never ship.
They haven’t dropped HealthKit support (yet) however, but it’s totally possible they could under new leadership … like, say, Fitbit.