Apple has spent the last few years tying up the health monitoring market thanks primarily to the Apple Watch. It knocks most other tracking devices into a cocked hat, thanks to its comprehensive range of sensors and impressive data collation, not to mention the fact that the device does loads of other things too.
When paired with the Health app on your iPhone, the combination provides a great way to monitor your activity and get an overall picture of how you're looking after yourself. At least, it would if it wasn't hamstrung by only being available on the smallest displays Apple has to offer.
Where are the iPad and Mac Health apps?
I've struggled for a while now with a variety of low-level ailments and injuries. Nothing too serious, but it did lead me to look into the idea of the Quantified Self, a movement of enthusiasts that track loads of behavioural and health details about themselves so they can spot the early onset of illness and generally improve their standard of health and fitness.
While much of this is a bit too much information for me, it did illustrate how seeing progress (or lack thereof) when it comes to exercise, diet and sleep could truly be beneficial for keeping myself in shape and avoiding any of the classic 'silent killers' that pursue those who dare to arrive at middle age without a BMI of 20.
Apple Health seemed like the perfect solution. Wear my Watch all day, have it analyse my standing, sitting, walking and sleeping, all while keeping an eye-like sensor on the regularity of my heartbeat and blood oxygen levels. Then, armed with all that data, I could build a greater understanding of the adjustments to my lifestyle that would bring about better results.
To be fair, it does all this, but with one glaring omission. Where are the Health apps for iPad and Mac?
Less pies, more charts
Why do I want apps for those devices when the iPhone is the centre of the Apple universe? Well, because it's the least efficient screen for examining the kind of data that the Health app collects. Sure, it's fine for seeing how you've been moving for the past few days, but we will be gathering this information for years, and the only accurate way to get a true reflection of your overall behaviour is to look at long-term trends rather than a few weeks.
Think about how useful it would be if Apple gave you granular controls over how the information was presented. Pie charts, graphs, tables and whatever inventive visual representations those clever chaps and ladies at Apple HQ could come up with.
For example, when looking at the Activity tab on the Health app you're able to see the tracked results from the past 24 hours, week, month or year. Sounds good, but when you select the Year tab, the information on show is condensed so much it looks less than the Month tab, plus there seems to be no way to dig down deeper into the month in question.
It feels like all that data you've collected is now just some vague idea rather than a detailed record of your life. What is that point of that? It's an incredibly wasteful approach from Apple and a real missed opportunity.
Why not keep the iPhone as it is, due to the fact that the screen and format are very poor for examining anything in detail, and create bespoke Health apps for the larger devices in the Apple kingdom?
Imagine a Mac version which lets you cross reference data, analyse in detail your walking and exercise trends by comparing years to other years, maybe even incorporating your Calendar. Why did you lose so much weight in June 2019 but put it on in July 2021? Ah, that's because I stayed in Cornwall and walked every day, but took a road trip across America on the latter dates.
That kind of stuff could be hugely valuable when it comes to making sense of your life. Plus, it's just much easier to understand the ups and downs of trends when you see the data laid out on a large surface rather than the cramped confines of an iPhone.
Yes, there is the new Apple Fitness+ app that works on iPad, but it's not covering the same ground, plus it's a paid service which feels the wrong way to offer health information that's generated by the customer.
For ages Apple has been talking about securing your information, which is a good thing, but with Macs and iPads now featuring biometric security, it feels like time for Apple to open up the Health data to the devices where it could prove the most useful. Oh, and while we're at it, Apple, for God's sake buy MyFitnessPal. It would be one of the best additions to the Health suite, especially if you add that ol' Apple design fairy dust.
Different Think is a weekly column, published every Tuesday, in which Macworld writers expose their less-mainstream opinions to public scrutiny. We've defended the notch, told Apple to stop being so successful and argued that nobody needs a foldable iPhone. See you next week!