I have a folder titled “Health” on my iPhone, in which there are currently nine apps. Five apps I haven’t used for months. Three I’ve never used at all.
In order for a health app to work, at least for me, it has to reach a nigh-impossible perfect storm of fun, effectiveness (at least perceived), and easiness. (Forget you, MyFitnessPal, with your endlessly pedantic number-tweaking.)
Take the Superhero Workout. The title gives you an idea of what it is and what it intends: to trick lazy reprobates like me into exercising through that most odious of current tech buzzwords, “gamification”.
Actually, Superhero is pretty choice if you give it a crack. At the most basic level, the app takes you through a seven-minute workout.
What makes it cool is that it uses your phone’s front-facing camera to track you while you squat, push-up and tricep-dip your way through the routine. Oh, there’s a story about a magic space suit that fights aliens which is probably great if you’re into it—after all, these are the guys that created Zombies, Run—but I already feel like enough of a dick when I’m exercising…pretending I’m saving the earth on top of it just seems a step too far.
Does it work? Kind of. The counter isn’t totally accurate and you’ll have to tool around a bit with the set up of your camera and exercise area to get the perfect distance (you can stream the app through Apple TV, which feels pretty flash). The efficacy of the workout themselves depends on two things, the first being whether this sort of thing is a challenge for you—it seems aimed at those who have a low-medium level of fitness.
The second factor—and crucial to the success of an app—is whether it’s enough to make you come back. To some, the mixture of intriguing tech, the privacy of one’s living room, and the motivation of both a narrative and a structured workout routine will be enough to return.
For others, it will be another app that will sit unbothered in the “Health” folder on their phone, gathering pixelated dust and waiting for that day when it’s deleted to make room for another app that might, just might, be the exercise app that makes all the difference.
By Clayton Foster