Apple

Apple's new Health app disappoints

In the run-up to the big reveal of iOS 8 last year, the Health app was one of the most rumored (accurately) new features. It's also turned out to be a dud, so far.

iOS 8 Health app

Almost a year ago, 9to5Mac reporter Mark Gurman published an article revealing a lot of information about "Healthbook," an upcoming Apple app he claimed would be a major focus for the upcoming iOS 8.

Though much of the article turned out to be accurate, Health (not Healthbook) didn't receive a lot of attention at WWDC, and it didn't appear to be a tentpole feature for iOS 8. Instead, Apple launched the Apple Watch in September, showcasing some of the company's health-related ambitions — one of the major features of the Apple Watch will be fitness tracking, including movement and heart rate.

iOS 8's Health app is meant to be a catch-all for storing health-related data, like weight, height, steps taken, calories burned, heart rate, and more. It's all encrypted and stored securely, and apps must ask permission for each data point they can read or write to.

This is a great idea, but Health hasn't really hit its stride yet. I would call myself an iOS power user, and I've only been frustrated with the app.

For one thing, it relies on developers to populate it with data, something that not all developers are interested in doing. FitBit, for example, is one of the most popular fitness tracker manufacturers and has yet to embrace Health. To be sure, plenty of apps do read and write data to Health, but there really isn't a killer use for it yet other than to have one place to see how many steps you've traveled today.

Even more annoying is that you can't add statistics to track, and there are a lot of data points missing.

I've been trying to digitize my filing cabinet full of paperwork recently. In my health insurance folder, I have my blood test lab results from the past few years, something that has a lot of data points that I'd like to keep track of. Whether it's tracking cholesterol or bilirubin, keeping an eye on those sorts of numbers over time is really important. I have a family history of high cholesterol, so tracking the various forms of that is especially valuable.

Unfortunately, there's no place in the Health app to plug in that data. Why? How hard would it be? And what's more important than tracking essential health data like cholesterol?

So far, I've been really unimpressed with the app, and I hope the launch of the Apple Watch later this year — which will be able to track interesting things like steps taken, heart rate, and more — will encourage developers and users to jump on board the Health bandwagon.

There's so much promise in the Apple ecosystem to help people live healthier lives, but (as is so often the case with technology) promise doesn't always turn into reality.

Have you used the Health app in iOS 8? Tell us about your experiences in the discussion thread below.

About Jordan Golson

Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.

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