Numerous apps are available to measure and track your heart rate. They use a combination of the phone’s camera and flash. When covered by your finger, the flash lights up the flesh and the app measures subtle changes in light reflection as blood pulses through. Basic versions are generally free to download.
Standard features with most of the apps include options to add various types of information, to help track what you were doing when you measured your heart rates. This information can be processed through an analytical engine to provide insights into your state of health, and feed it back to you in graphical views that help you to make sense of the numbers. Cloud storage and cloud processing are common, as are ways to export or share the information with others, either directly via the app or through email or social media.
One of my favourite heart rate apps is Cardiio (rated 4* for iOS) that I’ve written about before. Cardiio adds a novel second way of capturing the heart rate by measuring subtle changes in your face when you look into the camera.
Cardiograph (rated 4* for Android and iOS) adds a geotag to each heart rate saved, helping to create a record of where you were for different heart rates. It also allows synchronization of the readings captured across multiple devices.
Instant Heart Rate by Softonic (rated 4* for Android) is another. It’s available on iOS and Android. The basic version is Free. The preium version, needed to unlock some of the more sophisticated analytics, will cost you R199,99 per month or R579,99 per year.
Among other features, the premium license adds automatic acquisition of sleep length from it’s sleep app, including this data in the analytics that estimate your state of health. Instant Heart Rate also integrates with the Argus calorie counter and activity app to help you plan to improve your fitness levels.
Upgrading also gives you access to its StandUpTM test. It collects two readings, one seated and one standing, and provides additional insights from analytics run on this data.
There are many more heart rate apps available. With so many choices, you may want to examine the field carefully before committing to one. You’ll need to consider which features you need, such as:
- Other information you’d like the app to collect
- Insights you’d like analytics to provide
- Ways to share information form the app with other people
That should narrow the choices. Next, consider:
- How easy do you find the interface to use?
- Is there support for when you get stuck?
- What’s the cost of the feature package you need?
- Have there been any formal reviews of the app, in reputable publications, and what do they say?
- Does you doctor, nurse or other health worker support integration between their systems and the apps, possibly even accepting automatic alerts if your readings raise any red flags?
Working through these questions is likely to be tedious, so I expect many of you will simply download the apps that look interesting and use the first that seems to fit your requirements. That’s what I did. But as the role of apps and their health-enhancing potential grows, more rigorous evaluation and reporting, in more accessible ways, is likely to become valuable.
In the mean time, email eHNA if you discover something you’d like to share with other eHealth enthusiasts in Africa. We’ll publish your views.