Apple's activity-tracking platform has been up and running for a few months now, enough time for gremlins to be ironed out, so we thought that before New Year is upon us we should get you suitably briefed for your January get-fit burst. Here's exactly how you can use Apple's brand new app to monitor your daily exercise, improve your overall health, aggregate data from different sources and store your medical info.
The Apple Health app appears in iOS 8 on the iPhone 4s or later and the fifth generation iPod Touch. It will use the data automatically pulled from the sensors in your phone to try and build up a picture of your activity and your habits, but you can plug in third-party devices and services as well: Endomondo, Runtastic, Garmin Connect, Nutrino, Qardio and dozens of others all plug into Health and the underlying HealthKit platform in some way (though there are some big name holdouts).
Open up the Health app on a new iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus and you'll see that steps, distance covered and flights climbed are all being tracked for you courtesy of the M8 motion coprocessor built into the device. If you've hooked up Health with some other apps and data sources, you can also see statistics on calories burned, weight, heart rate and just about everything else here.
The Day, Week, Month and Year buttons at the top of the screen let you see your data over a shorter or longer period of time. Tap on any chart for a more detailed breakdown; the subsequent screen lets you show or hide graphs on the main dashboard, add data points manually, and choose which data is included in the overview. Follow the Show All Data link and you can see exactly what information was recorded when.
Apple Health records so much information that you're probably going to want to limit the number of graphs that are shown on the dashboard and focus solely on the statistics that are most important to you. It's possible to dig down into any of the other screens at any time, if you need to, though checking up on your progress over time isn't particularly easy to do.
Tap the Health Data icon at the foot of the interface to reveal all of the different types of information that Apple's app can keep track of. This covers a wide range of data points, from your date of birth to the number of times you've fallen over. In each case data can be added manually or fed through a connected app or gadget. If you're looking for something in particular, make use of the search field at the top.
For example, tap Sleep and then Sleep Analysis to see how much shut-eye you're getting at the moment. If you haven't connected anything that's able to measure this data automatically, you can log the time you've spent asleep and in bed manually: Select Add Data Point and fill in the relevant details. Toggle the Share on Dashboard button to add the chart to your overview screen.
The other sections in Health Data work along similar lines, though of course in the long-term you want to be piping this information in automatically rather than constantly typing out everything that's happening. The number of apps compatible with Health and HealthKit is growing, though: take Instant Heart Rate, for example, for measuring your heart rate with your phone's camera, or 7 Minute Workout for giving you a motivational prod.
Install an app that works with Health — such as the aforementioned Instant Heart Rate — and somewhere in the app will be an option to share the data it collects with Apple's framework. With this feature activated you should see data begin to be collated: Tap through into the type of data on the Health Data screen to see the information that has been logged and by which app.
All of these apps will work slightly differently, which is why Apple Health has so much potential in terms of being the central focal point for data coming in from multiple sensors and apps. Some apps will send data to Health, some will take data from it, and some will do both. Check the help information supplied with the app involved if you're not sure.
Jawbone's UP app is one of the more high-profile ones to introduce Health compatibility, and it can both read from and write to the Health app. Essentially, that means you can use your UP wristband with Apple Health, or try out the UP app without a wearable using the data pulled from Health and your iPhone's sensors.
To see all of your connected apps in one place, go into Health and tap the Sources button: From the list of entries you can manage which sorts of data are shared (Sleep Analysis and Steps in the case of the UP app) and in which direction.
Your Medical ID
The last section in the Health app is Medical ID and it's here that you can store vital information such as allergies and your organ donor status. Choose to Create Medical ID from the front screen and you can enter details of medical conditions, your age, height and weight, any medications you're currently taking, your blood type and an emergency contact who can be called in the case of an emergency.
It's in an emergency where this Medical ID could be the most useful. You'll notice a Show When Locked toggle switch at the top of the screen, and when this is switched on a link to your ID will appear on your device's lock screen. Whoever picks up your phone can tap on the Emergency button then the Medical ID one to find all of the information that you've left. If you'd rather it was kept hidden, disable the feature.
Apple Health still has a long way to go. Some better data analysis would be welcome, for example, and there's no easy way to go back through your statistics, but it's a confident start and one that's currently more comprehensive than Google's comparable offering. If you're an iPhone user then it's automatic monitoring capabilities might just be enough to get you to take your health more seriously.