One of the best things about the iOS Health app is just how much data it collects in one place. With deep nutrition metrics, lab results, body measurements, fitness, and sleep data, this virtual file cabinet keeps everything organized. You might know what the Health app can do by itself and with additional apps, but if you're really serious about monitoring your health, you might want to take things to the next level and invest in a wearable or other additional device.
Sure, you could weigh yourself every day and enter that data manually. You could write down the time you fall asleep and the time you wake up. You could hope that the 10-year-old treadmills at your gym give a reasonably good estimate of your workout. You could use the free blood pressure cuff in the drug store and enter that information manually.
Or you could pick up one (or more) of these cool gadgets. We spent weeks wearing fitness trackers, monitoring our heart rate and blood pressure, and even took devices to bed with us, all to capture as much health data as possible. Here are our findings: 11 devices, compatible with the iOS Health app, that you can count on to take fitness monitoring to the next level.
Jawbone has been one of the best-known names in this field since 2011. With a wide-open API, the Jawbone UP24 fitness tracker can be paired with other services in literally hundreds of ways. Integration with the Apple's Health app could be better, though: currently, it only shares sleep-analysis and step-tracking data. Data in the Up app is presented in a pleasing, vertically scrolling icon arrangement with Sleep and Steps at the top of your day's view. Silent vibrating alarms can be set to remind you to get up and move around during the day, or to wake you in the morning. Smart alarms can even analyze your sleep and buzz when you're in a light sleep stage near your set waking time.
Additional third-party apps can feed nutrition information to the UP, but calories, weight, and moods - while able to be logged in Jawbone's app - don't make their way back to Health. If you're looking for ease of use or fantastic ways to pair with smart-home options, then Jawbone's UP is a serious contender. But if you're looking for deep Health logging, you may want to consider another band.
- Read the full Jawbone UP24 review
The colorful Loop, from the Finnish company Polar, is waterproof, so you can log swimming data without worry. (This is rare for a band with a charging port instead of a long-life battery.) The Loop's band needs to be trimmed to size - it took us a couple attempts but once we got it right, we were solid. The band saves battery life by going dark until you tap the touch-sensitive button near the screen. Brightly colored LEDs show the time, your steps, calories burnt throughout the day, and how close you are to completing your activity goal.
The Polar Flow app syncs with a web portal and your device, but the app's visualization of a clock broken into color-coded segments is a bit hard to translate into activity level. If partnered with one of Polar's heart rate monitors, the Loop can send your beats along to Health as well as convert that data into workouts. (Actually, a heart rate monitor is almost a necessity with this band if you want deep data.) The Loop tracks sleep, or periods of inactivity as shown by the reclining figure in the app, but doesn't pass that data to the Health app. Overall, the Polar Flow app is fairly single-minded in its workouts approach, so the Loop will best serve that market.
Garmin Vivofit 2
The Vivofit 2 is a nice, mid-priced workout band that pushes active calories, steps, and walking/running distance to Health. It runs strictly off a common watch battery (boasting a 1+ year battery life), which makes it more waterproof and enables uninterrupted tracking. Backlit only when you briefly hold the button, the LCD display delivers date and time, steps, steps remaining until goal (which updates daily based on previous activity), distance traveled, and calories burned.
The Garmin Connect app delivers a no-nonsense display of your data. Through it you can customize what counts as a workout using the device's stopwatch function, and you can pair with a heart rate monitor to quickly check your pulse while working out. The Vivofit 2 also tracks sleep and can report your level of movement as you slept, but it doesn't push this data to the Health app (we're told this is under consideration). One of the device's best features is the customizable chirp it emits when you sit still for too long, reminding you to get up and get moving throughout the day.
- Read the full Vivofit 2 review
The most futuristic-looking tracker, the Shine is a minimalistic aluminum disc with small round lights in its face for feedback purposes. These lights tell time in analog format to the nearest five-minute mark and will light up to show any progress to your daily activity goal. Available in 10 colors, the quarter-sized Shine can be worn on the simple strap provided, on a clip you can fasten to your lapel or your shoe, tucked in your pocket, or dropped in a necklace clasp. Like the Vivofit 2, it uses a common watch battery, and once you've installed it and snapped the Shine shut you needn't worry about power for a reported six months.
The Misfit app is relatively stripped down, as is the data it collects (steps and sleep), though you can add in your weight and food eaten (only via photos to pair with Misfit's calories burnt calculation), and set it to track you during specific fitness activities such as swimming, soccer, yoga, dancing, and more. Water resistant to 50 meters, the tightly closed Misfit can stay on your wrist no how much you sweat, swim, or shower. Currently, only steps go through to Health, but we've heard that sleep-data integration is under consideration.
- Read the full Misfit Shine review
Of all the fitness trackers featured here, the Pebble Steel comes the closest to the Apple Watch in offering features that go beyond fitness tracking. But for fitness purposes, the Pebble has a wide range of apps to track your body. Your first step is to download the Pebble Smartwatch app to your iPhone; the app is used to manage your watch and contains its own built-in Pebble App Store. Pebble devices can load up to eight Pebble apps and watch faces at any one time, though in the iPhone app there is a Locker where you can store many more apps and faces to quickly swap in.
There are plenty of free choices for step tracking like Pedometer or Movable, though both need to be active to actually track, and Movable requires a companion app on your iPhone. For workouts, Endomondo (free) is a good choice (which also requires a partner app on your iPhone), while there is also a Pebble version of Misfit, which can track data in the background. Our favorite Pebble app is SmartWatch Pro ($3.99), which captures step data and can export sleep data through another app called Morpheuz (free), on top of sending your calendars and reminders from your phone to your Pebble. If you're the kind of person who has a workout mix, the Pebble's ability to control music (even in third-party apps) and to dismiss phone calls at your wrist is a blessing when you'd rather not fumble with your phone.
Read the full Pebble Steel Review
Beddit, a thin strip that you tape in place under your fitted sheet, focuses on one particular aspect of your health: how do you sleep? It grabs your heart rate, tracks your sleeping respiration rate, and uses your iPhone's microphone to note when and for how long you snore.
The Beddit app shares your heart rate (a measure every five minutes) and your sleep and waking times with the Health app. The Health app only logs total time asleep, but Beddit's companion app takes all the data - plus movement in bed to map out how much you toss and turn - and then scores your sleep. The app has four alarms that can be set to wake you either at a specific time or close to your waking time when you're sleeping lightly. For weekends, you can choose "No Alarm" and Beddit will log you without waking you. As a bonus, there are even built-in ambient sounds to help you drift off to dream land.
For specialized activity tracking, the folks at Lumo are carving out their own little niche. The Lumo Lift is a handy little gadget to measure steps and posture, so if you want to stand and sit straighter for better spinal health, this could be your ticket. Simply charge up the magnetized Lift in its USB-powered cradle, then attach it and the other half of the two-part clasp to your shirt at roughly the collarbone. We worried the Lift would be dislodged by daily activity, but the strong magnets held it tightly in place. (We did find that seatbelt shoulder straps press uncomfortably against it, though.)
The Lift app shows how well you're doing throughout the day, and lets you adjust settings. Turning on Posture Alert, for example, will cause a buzz if you're out of proper posture for a selected period of time. While the Lift tracks steps and posture, the latter data doesn't have a measure in Health (though it'd be a nice addition) and the former logs in the companion app but is not currently sent on to Health. As with other trackers, we're told Healthkit integration is on the roadmap, so if you want good posture, this is a solid option with more to come.
Read the Lumo Lift review
Withings Smart Body Analyzer
A wide variety of tracking devices count steps, but all of them require you to manually input your weight. The problem is that this data can come from multiple sources: at home, the gym, the doctor's office, and elsewhere under different conditions, using different kinds of scales. For consistency, it's best to stick to a single scale and to weigh yourself first thing in the morning, without clothes. The Smart Body Analyzer pairs with your phone through the Health Mate app and will push your weight to Apple's Health app, along with your body fat percentage, BMI, and heart rate. And since this tracker stays put, it can recognize up to eight family members' profiles on their own devices, so everyone in your house can weigh in.
Ideally, you'll want to keep the scale in your bedroom so the built-in sensors can measure room temperature and air quality (which is most beneficial if you also use the Withings Aura sleep monitor). However, despite promises from Withings, we never got anything close to accurate weight measurements when using the scale on carpet, even with the provided feet adapters. For best results, place the scale on the hardest floor surface in your home, such as bathroom tiles.
If hypertension is something you're concerned about and want to keep track of, good news: the QardioArm makes it easy. Unwrap the blood pressure cuff entirely to turn it on, then wrap it around your arm and tap the big green Start button on the Qardio app. The Bluetooth-enabled cuff will measure blood pressure and heart rate, log them in the app for your history at a glance, and send both along to Health. For more accurate results, there's an option to allow the cuff to take three measurements with 30-second breaks in between and average out your numbers. You can also select the option for a picture slideshow of built-in nature scenes or your own photos for something relaxing to look at while you measure.
iHealth Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor
iHealth Labs is a known name in the health field offering not only blood-pressure cuffs, but also glucose meters, activity trackers, and scales. Unlike the QardioArm's convenient one-piece design, the electronics of iHealth's Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor can be disconnected from the cuff proper, but can be tricky to reattach and sometimes had to be held in place while measuring.
The Bluetooth-enabled cuff pairs with the companion app, iHealth MyVitals, whose dashboard includes space for your blood pressure and other data tracked by the other devices in the iHealth line. Measuring is done easily enough: slip the cuff on, press the Test button at the app's bottom, and blood pressure and pulse are taken in short order. Tapping on My BP Trends in your dashboard takes you to more-detailed results including graphs of your BP over time as well as a list of results and your averages over the last 3 and 10 measures. The app also allows for manual input of blood-pressure data after doctor visits, though this information can also be easily added through Apple's Health app.
Wahoo Tickr X Workout Tracker with Memory
You can count on your workout equipment to give you a measure of calories burned or you can rely on apps to approximate that data, but best of all is getting your own accurate, personal measurements. Strap on the Wahoo Tickr and fire up the Wahoo Fitness app to log your workouts with far more precision. You'll keep track of your heart rate, including an average and maximum rate, and also get a more exact calorie count, plus you can set Burn and Burst rates to log more intense parts of your workouts and see what your running cadence is.
Wahoo Fitness comes with plenty of built-in workouts including cycling, spin class, swimming (due to the Tickr X being waterproof up to five feet; just don't take your iPhone in the pool with you), skiing, skating, weight lifting, golfing, running, and loads more, plus your own custom workouts. Data is also stored locally on the device, so you can leave your iPhone at home if you like and sync later. You can export active calories, cycling distance, walking and running distance, heart rate, and workouts data straight to the Health app, or you can use a variety of third-party apps. Wahoo partners directly with the Garmin Vivofit 2 mentioned earlier, and you can export your workout data in several formats to be imported elsewhere.
Price: $99.95/about £65 with free standard shipping/about AU$128.49 plus $9.99 shipping