Apple's 'Health' App Is Like 'Passbook' for Fitness Data

After a bumpy beginning, Apple's new Health app now supports 16 apps that feed health, nutrition and fitness data into its dashboard. Health is a valuable addition to iOS 8, but it could use an interface overhaul and wider app support, according to reviewer James A. Martin.

apple health

Apple’s iOS 8 Health app is finally off and running following an anemic start. It’s easy to see the app’s potential, but as of this writing, it’s not quite on par with other, slicker Apple apps.

First, a quick recap. Health is a new app, released as part of iOS 8. The idea is to aggregate your health and fitness data in one dashboard. Of course, you need a way to capture that data. So Apple released HealthKit for developers, enabling them to build hooks into Health from their fitness-related apps. That means fitness apps, such as Map My Run (free and paid versions), and diet/nutrition apps, including MyFitnessPal (free), can sync the data they collect with Health to provide a holistic view of your diet and exercise activity.

Health’s slow start was due to last week’s buggy (and quickly withdrawn) iOS 8.0.1 update, which prevented developers from launching their HealthKit-compatible apps in Apple’s App Store. iOS 8.0.2 is now available, and it fixes its predecessor’s bugs. Not long after that release, 16 HealthKit apps were released on the App Store.

To test Health, I downloaded the latest version of MyFitnessPal, an app I hadn’t used for nearly a year. It’s one of the best apps for tracking nutrition goals and counting calories as painlessly as possible. You need to be motivated to continue entering your daily nutrition info, of course. But when you do, the app rewards you with insights into when you're eating too much of something, and it tells you which nutrients you’re not getting enough of.

In my tests, MyFitnessPal did a good job syncing its data with Health, as did Map My Run (shown below), a worthy competitor to my favorite running app, RunKeeper (free).

map my run

The latest version of WebMD (free) connects to the Healthy Target section of Apple’s Health app to sync data, though I don’t find the app to be particularly useful.

Health works as advertised. I like the ability to choose which data charts are displayed on the app’s dashboard. But the interface needs refining. The bold colors and white type impede legibility, and the overall look and feel is, for lack of a better description, not very Apple-like. As of this writing, support from some usual suspects, such as Fitbit, RunKeeper and Runtastic, has yet to materialize.

Health is like Passbook, Apple's app for loyalty cards, tickets and travel boarding passes, during in its initial release — an app with unrealized potential. For months, I barely touched Passbook; now it’s one of my most used apps. I suspect the same will be true of Health — especially after Apple’s Watch, which collect a variety activity and fitness data, is released early next year.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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