Published on May 3rd, 2012 | by Greg0
iHealth: Better Living Through Gadgetry
It's become a punchline: "there's an app for that". Today's pair of items are from iHealth, and their name is quite suitable. They aim squarely at iOS users, those with iPhones, iPod Touches, or iPads. At press time, they only offer two products, each addressing health from a different direction. As with other similar products, you'll need to download the app, and make sure that you're upgraded to a recent firmware. Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone users are out of luck for the moment, but for those of you with an iDevice, we're ready to answer the question- can your mobile device help you become healthier?
Well, we'll spoil the surprise. The answer is a qualified yes. We'll start with the iHealth Scale- we've seen other odd iOS accessories, like a kitchen scale, or a grilling thermometer. And we've seen one other competitor in the field, though it's been a couple of years. In that time, the app world has changed a lot, and we've seen some major upgrades to iOS as well. But some things haven't changed- tracking your weight via your phone is still a process with some major downsides.
As with most similar gadgets, this one uses Bluetooth. We had some dropped connections, requiring manual re-pairing, which was frustrating and a bit time-consuming. We also tried using the scale between multiple users, which resulted in a few issues because the scale doesn't readily handle this and we didn't see an easy way in the app to indicate errors like this. Of course, if you're just a single user, then this shouldn't be an issue. The scale looks good, and seemed accurate in our tests, and an LCD display is built-in for quick checks and when you don't want to go through the pairing process or simply don't have your iOS device handy. The app is free, and works alright, but the system won't communicate with other fitness devices or systems out there (like the FitBit or BodyMedia Fit). Available online and in stores for around $70, though, we expected more from the scale, as it simply didn't work consistently enough to recommend. Weight tracking should not be harder than it already is!
The iHealth Blood Pressure Dock doesn't suffer from the same flaws, thanks to the fact that it's a dock rather than requiring a finicky wireless connection. Instead, there are some other small drawbacks that come with docking- like the fact that most cases will not work with the dock, so you'll need to uncase (decase? unwrap?) your phone or tablet. Unique in our experience, we enjoyed the process quite a bit, though none of our staff was in dire need of regular monitoring. The visuals and display are quite good, and the build quality is OK, though the cord is fairly short and the dock felt a bit plasticky. Data export options are limited- no Excel spreadsheet capabilities that we could find- but you'll be able to track your stats over time easily, and even share them via email with family or your physician.
However, one oddity was the inclusion of the USB cable- used here to charge the battery of the dock. Normally, we'd expect a wall charger, but in theory a rechargeable battery is nice, as it allows some portability. The unit and cables, though, aren't designed for travel, and packing it up is awkward and a bit heavy. The target demographic- older folks, most likely- is also going to have a bit of trouble with the poor instructions. All in all, it's a pretty interesting device, and can get the job done. But compared to other blood pressure devices, like the Omron we tested a while back, it just doesn't meet our expectations. Available for about $90.