Put together a checklist of things you'd want in a perfect app, and it might include a way to track your fitness data (like, all of it), a seamless interface to record your meals, and maybe a system to set goals and help bust through plateaus. If we're lucky, maybe it could all show up in a simple dashboard that's both informative and easy on the eyes?
As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, it kind of exists. Argus, the newest release by app-making powerhouse Azumio, is designed to be an all-in-one interface that collects, tracks, and offers insights into your health — all of it. The free app is based around a honeycomb-like dashboard that shows snapshots of your day, from meals eaten to distance travelled and calories burned.
Argus seems to have one of everything (it even connects to a number of third-party devices such as RunKeeper and Withings, among others) in a bid to own the space. But with all those bells and whistles, did Azumio try to do too much?
We tested it out to see if Argus is a new classic, or just the latest hot mess.
How It Works
Despite all the action on the frontpage, Argus is a simple app. There are four actions that dictate the experience. Swipe left, and a menu pops up with options to connect with friends via social media, set goals from a pre-determined list, connect with other devices and apps, and track your data-based health trends. (Note: the beta version of the app we tried did not have the social element fully enabled.)
Swipe right, and you'll be able to track and update your activities and stats — anything from swimming or running, to weight, sleep, and more. Scroll up and down on the homepage to see your health history, or click the camera icon to snap a picture of what you're eating. That's basically it.
(Also Check Out: The 64 Best Health and Fitness Apps of 2013)
What makes the app special are the "hidden" features. For example, pressing down for a couple seconds on a particular activity (say, "running") brings up a data page showing a mini-map of your routes, distance travelled, elevation, and speed, which can then be compared against other similar activities.
When you take a picture, a menu automatically pop-ups asking you to tag and identify your meal with popular food groups such as "veggies," "dairy," "oils/fats," and more. It's all effortless and for the most part helpful, especially when trying to break through in-app goals like "walk more."
Why It Matters
Argus is feature-rich, and it tries to connect all that data to meaningful insights. On the "trends" page, users can measure and compare their data from simple relationships like "food eaten" and "weight" or more complex associations like "steps taken" and "sleep." Any data the app tracks can be compared and analyzed over time.
The most powerful part of Argus is how open it is to experimentation. Most trackers operate in a vacuum, but Argus is already integrated with big companies including Withings, RunKeeper, New Balance, and MapMyFitness, with more to follow. Argus plays nice in the sandbox, understanding that the way its users monitor health and fitness is as varied as the options in the app itself. It's important for companies to remember that their apps should help people be healthy, not prescribe one model for them to follow.
While Argus has a lot of great features, it's not perfect. As with any tracker, data — especially distance tracked through a phone's GPS — can be a little wonky or altogether wrong. Argus did as well as most of the other trackers I've tried, but it was still prone to random mistakes. Tracking activities is seamless, but occasionally the app will wig out and prevent you from logging details on previous days, forcing you to record it as "right now" or not at all.
And while Argus is integrated with an impressive list of third-party apps and devices, it isn't close to the full range of trackers available in the health and fitness space (there is a clear preference for apps created by Argus' parent company, Azumio). Notable absences include the Nike+ Fuelband and Fitbit, for example.
There's also a missed opportunity to make photography a bigger part of Argus, as the only photos you can take and post are of food or meals as opposed to the view from a good jog or mood-boosting sunset. Given how prevalent photography is in online fitness communities, this seems like a relatively silly oversight.
Is It Legit?
Almost definitely yes. Argus has all the makings of an incredible app experience. There are still some design issues which need to be fixed, some features which need expansion, and a greater roster of apps and devices to be included. That said, if Argus can keep its spirit of openness and personalization, it could quickly become a must-download.
Do you need another fitness tracking platform? Do you think Argus is special or just more of the same? Let us know in the comment below or find the author on Twitter at @zsniderman.
Photo: forced rhubarb