Here at Medgadget, we’re obviously huge fans of portable, phone-connected devices that help you live healthier lives. But we’re also fans of innovative apps that harness the features and powers of the smartphone that you already own. That’s why we were excited to receive an advance version of Argus, a free iOS app released today from Azumio that uses the sensors and technology in your own iPhone to turn it into a sophisticated health and fitness device. How well does it work? Read on for our review.
Timeline – Your Daily Activity at a Glance
There’s plenty of apps out on the iOS App Store that can do the things Argus does separately, such as food logging and run tracking, but Argus does a nice job at incorporating all these metrics in one app. Upon registration, you’re taken to your personal timeline, a well-designed array of honeycombs which give you an overview of the day’s activities, as well as your results from previous days. The day of the week automatically appears, as well as the weather at your current location. Additional honeycombs fill your timeline as you log various activities. Your timeline provides quick access to logging a new activity, changing the app’s settings, and opening up your camera to snap a picture of your meal. Pulling down on the app (the same way you pull to refresh other iOS apps) reveals your daily goals.
Argus tracks a variety of activities; at the time of review, there were options for workout, sleep, cups of coffee, running, cycling, yoga, walking, heart rate, body weight, and glasses of water consumed. As we mentioned earlier, we think it’s neat how Argus harnesses the technology of the iPhone to automatically track many of these activities. Most prominent is step tracking, which uses your iPhone’s accelerometer as s digital pedometer to count your steps during a walk or run. Both calculate and display your expended calories, and both also use your iPhone’s GPS and location services to automatically track your route. GPS is also used to measure cycling activities. Sleep tracking also relies on the phone’s accelerometer by correlating quality of sleep with movement. Your heart rate is measured using a combination of your phone’s camera and LED flash. However, at the time of review, this feature wasn’t yet available and the app gave us a link to one of Azumio’s other apps that measured heart rate. Moreover, this method doesn’t have much scientific evidence behind it, so your results may vary. Yoga tracking somehow also uses your iPhone’s accelerometer to track movement, however, as this editor has never done yoga, we weren’t able to try this feature out. Body weight tracking also has an automatic measurement feature, but this was also not available in our version. We’re not quite sure how it works, but a link to purchase a Withings scale made us speculate that it will access your data from the Withings Health Cloud. For all the aforementioned activities, you’re also able to manually input the duration of the activity, and if applicable, the distance. Of course, manual input is the way in which you’ll record the number of cups of coffee or glasses of water you drink. Overall, we like the variety of activities, but seriously, yoga? All joking aside, we hope that Argus will continue to expand the number of activities you can track.
Of note, the activities that use your iPhone’s sensors require you to put your phone to sleep using the Lock button built into the app, as putting your phone to sleep using your phone’s physical sleep/wake button will disable the sensors. You won’t have to worry about your phone pocket dialing, as the app will dim the screen, disable all touch input other than the “Pause Workout” button, and eventually turn off the screen automatically like normal, but it is a small inconvenience to have to do this each time. On a related note, we were afraid that Argus would stop counting our steps if our phone was restarted or the app was forced to close, but if you have notifications turned on, Argus does a good job at letting you know when it’s not tracking.
We were a little underwhelmed by the food tracking functions. All it consisted of was taking a picture of the item or dish, selecting the type of food, adding, a note, and watching a honeycomb-shaped thumbnail appear on the timeline. That’s really it. We hope that future versions of Argus might provide some more insight into what we eat, such as nutritional information and dietary recommendations.
Goal Settings and Progress Charting
Of course, all this information is likely of little value without setting health goals and monitoring your progress toward achieving them. At the time of review, Argus has only implemented goals for sleep, drinking enough water, and walking more, with each goal giving you a pre-set “S”, “M”, or “L” goal level. Unfortunately, you can’t really customize these goals further, so if you find the “L”, 10K step per day goal too easy, you’re probably out of luck.
You can measure your progress toward these goals, as well as see your data from all your activities from the Trends menu. This provides a histogram of up to two activities, which gives you a helpful daily, weekly, or monthly look at your activity levels.
With just about all popular health and fitness apps currently out having a social aspect to them, Argus chose not to be an exception. The app uses Facebook to handle many of the social functions, including connecting with friends, and broadcasting your fitness activities. Each activity in your timeline allows you to customize who sees it. You can set it to Private, Argus Friends (Facebook friends that you’ve selected), Friends (all Facebook friends), or Public. Argus also has its own commenting system, which is shown at the bottom of each event entry. While we appreciate that Argus allows us to hide information such as our weight, but publicize our marathon runs to the public, it’s a little tedious that you have to go through and choose your privacy setting for each individual event.
We think this first version of Argus is a great app. Attractively-designed and easy to use, it’s a powerful tool. Aside from the quirks we already mentioned, our biggest concern is its incompatibility with some big 3rd-party products, namely Fitbit products. We also think Argus should be made available to the Android community as well, but we’re confident that’ll be coming in the near future. We love how Argus uses the powerful features already built in to your iPhone, so there’s no need for another gadget to wear or Bluetooth to pair. Best of all, it’s free, so why not give Argus a try?
Here’s a promo video for the Argus app:
Link to iOS App Store: Argus…