The Ultimate Health App Road Test

As someone with a self-confessed addictive personality, I am a fully paid-up app junkie.

MobiHealthNews’ latest report, Consumer Health Apps for Apple’s iPhone, predicts that by summer this year there will be over 13,000 consumer health apps. Indeed, a casual glance through the Apple Store reveals countless apps to help you quit smoking, improve your diet, gain a six pack and better your running technique.

But amidst the countless options available, what are the ingredients required to make a useful, effective health app? Are the most successful apps of the moment underpinned by genuine medical and scientific thought? In our industry, we are finding that clients are becoming increasingly fascinated with apps, and it is becoming more and more important to ask ourselves these questions.

As someone with a self-confessed addictive personality, I am a fully paid-up app junkie. I have apps for everything: apps that tell me when the next bus arrives so I don’t have to wait for longer than two minutes in the rain; apps that allow me to listen to the entire Spice Girls back catalogue without needing to purchase a single song; apps that convert my appalling photography into masterworks that Annie Leibovitz would be proud to call her own. I’ve been known to wake early in the morning and claw at my iPhone with feverish impatience, desperate to find out if Suliman23 has correctly identified the sketch of a meerkat I scribbled badly the night before. I have bought books, clothes, maps, games, even kitchenware via smartphone apps. Some would call it an obsession.

For better or worse, apps have changed the way I live my life. They have made travel, for example, much more efficient. I can use apps to find a restaurant in an unfamiliar part of town and hail a taxi home when one of my other apps tells me the train line is down.

But apps have also provided an unwelcome avenue of procrastination. If, as a young boy, I had known my adult self would spend hours catapulting virtual birds at small clusters of hideous green pigs, I would have been aghast. Apps can have a stultifying effect on your creative consciousness, robbing your imagination of thinking time by enslaving you into hours of Luddite poking and clawing.  Why read Proust when you can spend half a day trying to slice a rhombus into six equal parts?

It is for this reason that I want to stop using apps to waste time, and see if I can use them to make positive changes to my lifestyle. As someone who prefers the sofa to the gym, who could cut down on eating and drinking, and should definitely quit smoking, it’s about time I started looking after myself.  Over the next few weeks I am going to road test a variety of consumer health-related apps to see if they really have the transformative power they claim; and ultimately to see if they make me a fitter, healthier and happier person. I’ll be looking to identify what makes a health app effective as well as investigating the companies that make them and their expertise in the field. I’ll be providing blog updates along the way, so please watch this space.

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