Apple has made significant enhancements to its upcoming Health application for iOS 8 in the latest beta of the new iPhone operating system. Most notably, the Health application can now utilize the iPhone’s own M7 motion tracking hardware for data sourcing.

The Health app’s Steps counter tab can now report steps without connecting to any third party applications or hardware devices. Because this feature likely uses the M7 processor, an iPhone 5s is required to get the steps data directly from the device…

Users will find that the M7 is able to pre-populate the Health app with a full week of data. We’ve tested the steps counting after clearing the data to 0 steps and the tracking functionality appears to work well and accurately. The Health app allows users to sort data by Day, Week, Month, and Year, and users are able to remove individual sets of Steps tracking from the app. Sharing steps data with other apps from the App Store is also supported.

Adding on-device tracking support to the Health app is a significant addition from Apple as iPhone 5s (and future iPhone) customers will no longer even need to integrate any App Store apps or hardware devices to begin using the software. Steps is one of the more mainstream categories of fitness data, so the ability for the iPhone to provide that data out of the box is a great way to teach people about the Health fitness tracking software.

In addition to adding M7 hardware support, Apple has added caffeine to the lengthy list of nutritional categories that can be tracked by Health. There are several apps on the App Store, including one from Jawbone called Up Coffee, that can track and analyze Caffeine intake. Those developers will likely move quickly to integrate their apps with the iOS 8 Health database.

Health’s Medical ID section, which is an emergency card feature, has been slightly tweaked with a red navigational bar that is easier to see.

Health was introduced as a new iOS 8 application alongside the HealthKit developer API at the 2014 Worldwide Developers Conference. Besides integrating deeply with iOS 8, App Store apps, and third party hardware accessories, the software is expected to be a key component of Apple’s upcoming fitness-tracking smart watch. Other improvements found in iOS 8 beta 3 include enhanced iCloud Drive support, user-interface tweaks to the Photos and FaceTime apps, WiFi calling on T-Mobile, and improvements to the QuickType keyboard.

Update: We’ve discovered that the same M7 motion tracking technology is used to provide on-device calculations of distance travelled. This can be seen in the pair of screenshots above.

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