John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

The new Google Fit

Back in December I reviewed Google Fit and was utterly amazed how lacking the app was. Fast forward 8 months the app is at Version 1.52.44 and it has come a long way. The app now includes an estimation of active time, distance walked, calories burned and steps taken (for the pedometer). It does a reasonable job of tracking cycling too although there is no way to add a heart rate monitor (or any other sensor for that matter) to your activity. There is also no way to manually start/stop an activity. Theres still is no measure of stairs climbed but other than that Google have really brought fit up to par. Google have also not added the ability to periodically take your heart rate from the Android wear smartwatch. Add in an an app like Cinch and you can overcome that limitation. Google have included a portal to allow you to view all your data online rather than stare at a phone. A nice touch. If you don’t have an Android wear device (or it is disconnected) Fit will use your phone’s accelerometer to calculate steps. And since all this data is in the cloud changing devices does not mean loosing all the data that you’ve accumulated (as it does with Samsung S.Health).

Accuracy on Fit calories or steps is an expectation thing. If you expect it to be better than +/- 15% I think you will likely be disappointed. I’ve seen pedometer numbers all over the map. And calculating calories is somewhere between a fine act of fiction, magic and science. What’s more important IMHO is not necessarily the number (calories or steps or whatever) what is important is the trend. Are you doing more or less activities?

A number of fitness tracking apps including two of my favorites RunGPS and Endomondo both can automatically sync back to Google Fit. Both have to be manually setup in the app to enable this feature. Both seem to have quietly added it without much fanfare or notice. When the activities comes over Fit keeps all of the data, (heart rate calories, distance etc) that the app has. The data shows where it came from. And Fit itself does not double count for runs/cycling which it could have easily done had they not thought of that.
Setting up Google Fit in RunGPS/Endomondo
You can also add manual activities on the portal. The benefit of this feature is you can get a complete picture of your exercise all in one place. This was always elusive in the past. It’s definitely a nice to have!

There is no way to manually import activities from other sources. Also missing is an ability to manually export ANY of the data.

From the app or the portal you can manually log your weight. I am not sure if there is a way to get a wireless scale to work with fit, I haven’t played with that.

I was playing with a sleep tracking app Sleep for Android and it has integration with Google Fit, although I can’t for the life of me see where that data goes. It’s no where in the app or the portal.

Also missing is an ability to enter your food eaten or liquids consumed.

You can see graphs of the various items like calories, steps etc, but it would be nice to be able to see daily/weekly/monthly summaries. The orange colored line by the way is inactive calories. I am not sure how they calculate that. If it’s basal calories then I have no idea why it’s not constant. It almost seems like Fit only calculates inactive calories when you are indeed inactive. I am not sure what Fit is using as a basal calorie count. Some apps are smart and tell you straight off what your basal calorie count is.

So all in all Fit has moved WAY forward. There are still LOTS of places Google needs to improve just to catch up, let alone innovate. A number of these programs are data rich information poor. Add some intelligence to the data, interpret it for me, and tell me something, anything, that I can use to help me make sense of the data and guide me to a healthier life style and your providing value add. I look forward to seeing Google continue to advance this now useful tool!

August 11, 2015 - Posted by | Android, Android Wear (Smartwatch)

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