The current state of fitness / health tracking apps

Davide Taviani
Jun 13, 2016 · 2 min read
xkcd: Standards

FitBit, Withings, Google Fit, HealthKit, Strava, Runkeeper, Runtastic, Moves, Jawbone, Garmin.

This is just a list of the biggest names in health tracking. Many of them provide:

  • Smart scale with bodyfat calculation
  • A smaller armband / watch for heart rate monitoring, step count and general activity tracking
  • Devices for more fitness-intensive people: precise GPS tracking

And many more things in this general area.

And.every.single.one.locks.you.in.

It’s quite shitty as a user, right now, because most of these companies are really good at doing something, but not good enough at doing everything.

I, personally, really like FitBit Charge HR for the heart-rate monitoring (and because it’s small), but the Withings Activite’+ looks really cool.
I use Runkeeper for running because I started with it many years ago and I have all my past data, but most of my movements are tracked using Moves.
I have an Android so I guess Google Fit is doing something, but i honestly don’t know what.
Add into the mix that I don’t have a smart scale (and I honestly am not sure if spending ~100€ is worth it), that I like the Withings interface but I’m doubtful of their future since the Nokia acquisition, and you start to understand why I feel a bit like the comic above.

There’s many services with cool things, and yet, no nice way of moving your data around, aggregate it, and see it in a single place.

Gyroscope is doing some good work, but they are currently very focused on Apple stuff and the only apple thing I own is my Macbook, so that limits it. Combine the fact that some activities might get measured twice: if I walk with my Charge HR and my smartphone in my pocket, how many services are counting my steps? Will they be added up?)

We’re still a long way to go before the quantified self can be experienced in an organic way, and not be a “quantified, but distributed” self.

So this short rant is more of an appeal to the players in the market (but does not apply only to health tracking). Please support portability. Have clean, documented APIs, export to CSV.
By trying to get it all, you miss some. There are devices that I would like to buy and use, but right now I feel like “ugh, that won’t work with the rest I have”. Users need to use your devices and experience the good things they provide.

The programmer in me is very much tempted to say “Fuck it, I’ll build it me-self!” and I might still do it, but that is simply fulfilling the third panel of the comic. Before we have more applications, let the existing ones talk among each other.

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