Human for iPhone

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Human is a recently released free app for iPhone that is designed to track and encourage users to achieve at least 30 minutes of physical activity or movement per day. It joins many other systems such as the Fitbit, Jawbone Up, Nike+ Fuelband, and apps like Runkeeper currently on the market, however the philosophy differs to these offerings. The overall philosophy behind Human is to provide simple, elegant and meaningful data about your daily activity entirely through your iPhone, with an emphasis on the health benefits of achieving at least 30 minutes of daily movement (The Daily 30).

Human was released in the App Store on August 31, with a further update on September 5, said to improve both movement detection/tracking and battery life – two critical features for the success of the app. Users of these types of products expect (and rightly so) accuracy of information without excessive drain on battery life. Having just activated my account, I have not yet had the chance to determine what impact the app has on battery life though it is something I will be monitoring. From the developers:

Human is a passive tracker, which means that the software runs in the background of your phone, and tracks your activity automatically. You don’t have to check-in, log, or record anything manually. We access your phone’s location services and sensors to achieve this. Our primary concern has always been tracking activities accurately without draining too much battery life.

Why Human?

My interest in Human came about as I spend the usual work week sitting at a computer (to the detriment of my overall health and productivity), however routinely walk when I get the chance, getting off the bus two stops early in the morning (after a 45–60 minute commute), with additional walks mid morning and at lunch time. I am keen to see how much of this incidental activity actually stacks up.

To do this, I require an app I do not have to think about, one that will provide accurate results, and equally as important, something that is visually interesting and thoughtfully designed. I have said this before and will say it again now and no doubt in the future, ugly apps have absolutely zero appeal to me, regardless of the feature set (though I acknowledge the eye of the beholder). Finally, I prefer not to wear any additional receiver on my wrist or anywhere else, so using my phone for the entire process also appeals to me.

Using Human

Once an account is set up, the app really is a set and forget system, though you are obviously required to have your phone with you for measurement to occur. Checking the app a few times today showed my progress towards the 30 minutes with an elegant dial, and upon tapping this, a timeline of activities so far (see below).

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Activity is logged in various categories including walking, running, biking, and transport (vehicle etc). Upon reaching 30 minutes of activity in a day, users receive a push notification advising this has been achieved. This app is not filled with excessive statistical data, nor does it provide a timeline of all activity on launch – two positive features as far as I am concerned. If I’m after more specific details around an interval workout, I will continue to use Runkeeper, however as mentioned above, I am simply looking to assess my incidental activity over the course of the day. It doesn’t hurt to receive a pat on the back once you get there either:

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The beauty of Human lies in its simplicity in both measuring your movement (which goes completely unnoticed, with nothing to wear, launch or log), as well as the flexibility in allowing input of various activities (30 minute gym workout for example) or changing those that may have been inaccurately tracked. For example, an 8 minute drive was today picked up as running, which was easily corrected, though may be worth keeping an eye on for accuracy. Reverting incorrectly assigned modes of movement is easily done, and does not require you to remember what the activity was, as it is visually represented on a map within the change screen. The usual sharing options to Facebook and Twitter are also available.

An article by The Verge compares the various systems currently available for tracking and measuring both overall activity and individual workouts, and other reviews of Human can be found at Techcrunch and again at The Verge.

I am looking forward over the coming weeks to see whether my intermittent walking affords the benefits I think they are, though regardless of whether I achieve “the daily 30”, they are certainly worth their ‘head clearing’ benefits. Given my son was with me today in achieving the daily 30, I wonder if we can claim 60 all up…

Human for iPhone is available free in the App Store now.

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