April 26, 2018

Apple Health – Activity Tracking in iOS 10

Apple Health has been a built-in app on all iOS devices since 2014. It is Apple’s way of organising and displaying all health related data that is recorded. The app works by accumulating health data such as ‘Steps’ and ‘Floors Climbed’ from both the iPhone itself and third party apps such as Garmin Connect which take the data from external activity tracking devices like the Garmin Vivosmart.

An innovative new way to use your health and fitness information.

The way in which the app is laid out and presents data has changed over the two years which it has been available for; starting off with a straight dashboard with chosen data fields displayed. However, at the recent WWDC event, Apple released a preview of their up and coming iOS 10 release which showed a complete Health design overhaul.

This update is available to the public in the fall, but Apple have also made a public and developer beta available for download. I have downloaded the pubic beta 2 (see how to do this here) and have been able to have a look at how the new layout in the Health app works, looks and feels.


Health Data

The first thing to note with the new Health app is that the option bar at the bottom of the screen has changed. There is no longer a dashboard which displayed a range of chosen health data from sleep tracking to nutrition information. Now, there is a more clear cut separation between the data fields of which there are four to choose from:

  • Activity
  • Mindfulness – A measurement of time taken to be mindful and thoughtful.
  • Nutrition – The ability to record your daily intake of nutrients
  • Sleep – Analysis of sleeping patterns, data comes from third party products.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 11.50.26


Activity

In previous versions, there were a range of data fields which you could choose to add to your dashboard. Instead in iOS 10 the Activity section of Health Data an array of data fields are displayed of which you can decide to add to your favourites. By adding these to your favourites it will display the chosen data fields at the top of the Activity section.

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Another cool feature added is the further integration of 3D touch which is available to iPhone 6s and 6s Plus users. By pushing harder on one of the data fields in the Activity section you will gain a quick peak at the graph showing the data for that field.

From here, you can go and look at each data field in more detail where the familiar look of the bar like graphical representation from older versions still remains. Here you can choose to view the data by either: Day, Week, Month or Year and then gaining further information about each data point by tapping on the graph itself to take you to All Recorded Data in that field.

Similar to that seen in the Garmin Connect iOS app, there is a nice landscape view to see trends in your data in a more clear fashion.

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Steps, Stairs and Distance

Almost all handheld devices nowadays have an inbuilt accelerometer (read more about how an accelerometer works here) meaning they are able to track data about your movements. Apple have been doing this for quite a while now where the iPhone has the capability of tracking your step data, number of flights of stairs you have climbed and the total distance that you have walked that day.

Personally I really like the feature of stairs climbed, it is just a small add on to what some activity trackers like the Garmin Vivosmart do not have the capability of doing. According to Apple:

A flight of stairs is counted as approximately 3 meters of elevation gain.

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The phone will automatically record this data without the need for you to do anything as is seen with all activity trackers such the the popular Fitbit line. Therefore, this is something which just goes on in the background without you having to worry about it, and when you want to you can just look at the data afterwards.


Sources

I believe the best feature and capability of Apple Health is its ability to source data from third party apps and various sources. You do not carry your iPhone everywhere and therefore cannot continue to record your steps and distance walked throughout the day, however if you have an activity tracker such as the Garmin Forerunner 235 which you wear whilst running, this step data which is synced to Garmin Connect can be added to the data recorded on your iPhone too.By doing this, you don’t miss out on the actual number of steps for that day.

Alongside this there are a multitude of various fitness apps – which Apple suggest throughout the app – that allow you to never miss any of the data. You can do a workout with a third party app and the calories burned and the time which you were doing your workout will all be available to see in Apple Health.

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Today View

In actual fact, the best comparison in the new Apple Health on iOS 10 to the previous Dashboard view in iOS 9 would be the Today view. Here, Apple Health accumulates all data fields which have been active and had data added to them throughout the day.

The layout is the same as you see in the Apple Calendar app with the days at the top which you can scroll through. Underneath each day is all of the data fields for that day, Favourites are at the top, followed by the different categories such as Body Measurements and Sleep.

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Apple Health

This is sill only a public beta where some of the features such as Overview videos for each Health Data section are still unavailable. However, what is seen already is a great step in the right direction for Apple Health. The app builds upon areas which other companies fail on. You are able to combine data from a range of sources all into one so you never miss a section when you don’t have your phone on you.

There are inevitably further improvements to come and better ways of analysing data so you can be told if you are not exercising enough for example, but with the inclusion of the Apple Watch as a fitness tracker these feature are better utilised.

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