Apple's Health and Google's Fit coordinate data from a number of different wearable devices and fitness-tracking apps.
Happy New Year! Did you make any resolutions? If so, have you kept them thus far? Was one of your resolutions to get in shape and live healthier, happier life?
Welcome to the club.
Three years ago, after finally taking a long look in the mirror, I came to a stark realization: I was overweight. I proclaimed my resolve to get in shape. I would shed some weight. I would eat and act healthier. And unlike past promises I’d made to myself over the years, I’d keep it.
I did, and dropped about 40 pounds.
But that was in 2012. As 2015 gets underway, I’ve regained most of the weight. I hate it. I have roughly 105 excuses as to why I slowly quit eating right and exercising. In addition to going back to my 2012 regimen, I plan on taking advantage of the cornucopia of fitness software and hardware to get back on track. This time, it’s personal.
Watch more about how technology can help with resolutions from Fortune’s video team:
In the past year we’ve seen wearables go somewhat mainstream, with companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Apple having announced or released a product that functions as both a smart watch and an activity tracker. Market leader Fitbit and rival Jawbone have continued to see success with their respective fitness tracking lineups, even adding smart watch-esque features in some instances.
Even with the abundance of hardware available to count our steps, there’s still one glaring problem with all of this data: What does it all mean? Yesterday I logged 6,011 steps and…what? I know that’s roughly 1,000 steps less than my average, but I could tell you little else about the impact of that movement on my overall health.
Apple and Google have taken their own steps to help people find an answer. With the release of iOS 8 this past fall, Apple AAPL introduced an app called Health. For its part, Google GOOG released Fit, a service that’s available both as an Android app and a dedicated site.
In essence, the two services do away with the need to fret over which micro-ecosystem to invest in when it comes to keeping tabs on your wellbeing. Each service is designed to act as a central repository for your health data, whatever the source. That means someone who uses products made by Withings, the French electronics maker, can manage blood pressure and weight information within the same app that holds his step count and sleep stats from a Jawbone Up band, alongside his Runtastic calories and distance data. (And, yes, you can even store your blood alcohol concentration from a portable breathalyzer such as BACtrack.)
By allowing third-party apps and services to store and read information from the same place, Apple and Google are encouraging developers to create products that link to one another without having to worry about the upfront investment in development time for each respective service. Make no mistake, it’s still an ecosystem decision for a developer, just a bigger, simpler one: iOS or Android?
One example, Lark, is an iOS app made to coach you through each day. It reminds you to remain active and discover trends surrounding your activity level. By integrating with the Health app, Lark can see just how many steps you’ve taken or how much sleep you logged last night using the sensors inside your iPhone or through a dedicated fitness wearable such as the Up band. (Fitbit has said that it has no plans of integrating with Health as it continues to stay the course with its own product roadmap.) On the weekends, I’m normally active first thing in the morning with my step count trailing off throughout the day. Lark tells me this, while also encouraging me to get up in the afternoon and keep moving.
Google Fit also takes advantage of sensors found in Android smartphones and Android Wear devices to count steps and monitor activity. Instead of providing a chart of activity data, Fit displays the number of steps taken and active minutes in a given day. The default goal is for you to log 60 minutes of activity every day. I appreciate being able to view and edit my Fit information outside of the smartphone app; the Fit website is formatted for desktops and tablets, giving Google’s offering an advantage over Apple’s iPhone-only offering.
The value of having your health information stored in a single place shines brightest when you take into account an app’s ability to send information directly to your doctor. It’s not quite a telehealth solution; instead, it’s a system to alert your doctor should any of your vitals be amiss. The Mayo Clinic app has already integrated in a similar manner, with the promise of more hospitals and apps to come.
Neither Google nor Apple’s app does a good job at displaying your information. Apple’s version displays a series of cards, each one containing a chart that’s rather difficult to read. The chart used in Google’s Fit is easier to read, but left me wanting more. Either app works for information at a quick glance, but for more in-depth data analysis, it’s best to wait for third-party developers to step forward.
And what of those developers? Apple seems to be winning the war for their attention, as evidenced by an abundance of Health-enabled apps listed in its App Store. Google’s official Fit Play Store listing is stuck at 14 apps, though a search of the store returns many more. A developer challenge centered on Fit integration surely will pad that number.
Like many people, I use technology to tell me when and where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to do once I get there. This year, I can rely on fitness tech without worry of compatibility. I can pick what works best for me and, with perseverance, keep my resolution.
Now all I need is for a developer to find a way to eliminate my excuses.
“Logged In” is Fortune’s personal technology column, written by Jason Cipriani. Read it on Fortune.com each Tuesday.