google fit vs apple health

The Best Digital Health System: Google Fit vs. Apple HealthKit

Google versus Apple is turning into a real war for the ages. It’s full of exciting and intriguing battles, with both sides well-armed and well-fortified.

Android or iOS?

Android phone or iPhone?

Android Wear or Apple Watch?

New Battle, Same War

And now, the latest match up: Google Fit or Apple HealthKit.

Choose your sides, ladies and gentlemen, as the major head to head combat is about to begin. Let’s pit these two platforms against each other to see if we can determine a winner in the battle of the digital health platforms.

First, the Problem

There’s a very good reason why these two platforms exist — or a group of reasons, if we want to get particular. With all of our access to mobile technology, it makes sense that we’d carry some of our important health information around with us.

Next, with the recent fitness tracking craze, we’ve got all of this data that needs to be aggregated and collected somewhere where we can look at it and analyse our health trends. And, this data is spread around several different apps and tools, furthering the need to compile it all in a single place.

Both Google Fit and Apple HealthKit offer viable solutions to these very new problems. They address the issue of compiling data and making it mobile and accessible, and they each offer other benefits as well.

What They Measure

medical conditionsYou can use both the Google Fit app and Apple’s Health app (the app portion of the total HealthKit platform) as phone-based fitness trackers. This means that as long as you’re the type of person who carries a smartphone at all times, there’s no need to go out and buy a separate Fitbit, Jawbone, or other fitness tracker.

Using the accelerometer, GPS, and other sensors in your phone, both apps will keep tabs on baseline and standard activity. They can track things like your height, weight, the type of activity in which you’re participating, time active, distance travelled, steps taken, elevation climbed, calories burned, and so on.

Both apps also allow you to set daily goals and can show you where your activity is in relation to your goal, all with easy to read visuals.

However, when it comes to metrics, Apple HealthKit’s list is substantially longer, measuring, recording, and tracking things like gender, blood type, workout intensity, known medical conditions, diet, and all of your sleep data.

Plus, Apple recently announced that HealthKit would track things like sedentary time, UV exposure, and menstruation, that last metric being extremely useful for couples trying to conceive (or trying to not get pregnant).

All in all, Google Fit tracks important data, but Apple’s HealthKit simply offers a more comprehensive picture of your overall health.

Google Fit tracks important data, but Apple’s HealthKit offers a more comprehensive picture of your health

Actual Functionality of the App

healthdata appleBoth Google Fit and Apple Health are intuitive, easy to use dashboard-like apps that utilise a clean design to show you all of your details. They both have nice looking graphics to show you things like your daily fitness, how close you are to your goals, and your progress over time. It’s hard to say that one is necessarily better than the other in this regard — they’re just different.

One advantage Google Fit does have over Apple Health, though, is its web portal. With Apple’s HealthKit, you need a mobile device to see any of your data; with Google Fit, you can log on using any browser.

Compatible Apps

What’s really interesting about the Google Fit versus Apple HealthKit throwdown is that many third party apps aren’t taking sides. Instead, they’re compatible with both. And, while each platform has its own quote-unquote “official partners,” the truth is that many of these partners work perfectly fine with both Google Fit and Apple Health.

It’s probably best for these third party apps. Just like Android and iOS aren’t going away anytime soon, it’s likely that both Google Fit and Apple HealthKit are here to stay. It makes sense to develop compatibility with both.

Therefore, you’ll find that apps such as Nike+ Running, Map My Run, Strava, Runtastic, Withings, RunKeeper, and many more are compatible with both platforms.

Compatibility With the Big Guns

google fit dashboardIf you’ve already got a popular and name-brand fitness tracker, it only makes sense that you’d want it to work with the health platform of your choosing. Some of the biggest fitness tracking companies — those being Fitbit, Jawbone, Polar, and Garmin — agree with this sentiment, while others have chosen sides.

If you’ve got a Fitbit, no matter which health platform you’re using, you’ll need to find a workaround to sync your activity data. This is probably because Fitbit wants you to use its proprietary app. However, if you sync your data with an app that’s compatible with Google Fit or Apple HealthKit, you can get it to migrate over. (There are also sync apps available for a small charge.)

Jawbone and Garmin both work directly with Apple HealthKit but not with Google Fit, though again, you can use it with Google Fit through a compatible third party app. Polar devices, thankfully, work fine with both platforms.

many third party apps aren’t taking sides

Other Compatible Devices

It probably goes without saying that data collected with any Android Wear wearable will sync perfectly fine with Google Fit, and data collected with an Apple Watch will sync perfectly fine with Apple HealthKit.

In fact, smartwatches, with their continuous heart rate monitoring, are really an ideal device for capturing some pretty important health metrics. As for Pebble wearables, they work with Google Fit. As of right now, they don’t sync easily with Apple HealthKit, though this could change with future versions.

In terms of mobile operating system compatibility, you’ll need iOS 8 to run HealthKit. If you’ve got an older phone or tablet, you’ll probably need to upgrade your operating system before you can install Apple Health and get started. Google Fit, on the other hand, should work on devices running Android 4.0 or higher.

The Issue of Access

apple research kitBecause both Google Fit’s SDK (or software developer kit) and Apple HealthKit are open to developers, compatible apps could have access to all of your health information.

This, as you might imagine, has brought up many concerns over personal privacy. Thankfully, with both apps, you can set permissions to control which apps can access your health details.

It is, however, helpful to grant access to some apps and institutions that want it, like doctors and hospitals. In fact, this is one area where Apple HealthKit really shines, as it works with many hospitals to relay potentially troublesome health information to doctors.

In fact, as of this writing, many more hospitals are using HealthKit rather than Google Fit, and a lot of Apple’s HealthKit partners are health care facilities.

The list includes the highly respected Mayo Clinic, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), Cambridge University Hospitals, Stanford University, UCLA Health, and others.

compatible apps could have access to all of your health information

But is it Really Fair to Compare?

On the surface, Google Fit and Apple HealthKit may look like two sides of the same coin. Furthermore, many tech writers and websites would have you believe that these two health platforms are direct competitors. However, there are tech industry professionals who claim that trying to compare the two is like trying to compare apples and oranges because they simply don’t do the same things.

Apple’s focus, they point out, seems to be on the healthcare industry as a whole, as well as making health data available to individuals and institutions that can provide care. It’s a convenient and digital way, they say, to relay important health information to doctors and hospitals.

Apple’s focus is to relay important health information to doctors and hospitals

In fact, even if you’ve got your permissions set so that no one is allowed to access your information, there is an emergency card that you can turn on so that your vitals can be seen by professionals in a life or death situation.

Yes, Apple HealthKit works with fitness apps, and yes, it tracks your activity, but it does these things under the umbrella motive of keeping all of your medical vitals in one place. You can see them and analyse them, but so can others who can use them to your advantage.

Google Fit, on the other hand, is more of a beefed up activity tracking app that can aggregate and visualise all of your recorded data. There simply isn’t the focus on the medical field that Apple’s got with HealthKit.

Instead, Google Fit seems to be, at its core, a way for the everyday person (and possibly, though not necessarily, serious athletes) to take fitness data from third party devices and apps and merge it all together in one convenient and accessible place. The information it collects is useful, to be sure, but it probably won’t be used to save your life.

Google Fit data visualization

Google Fit data visualization

And So, In Conclusion

In the battle of Google Fit versus Apple HealthKit, which platform emerges as the victor? Well, that depends on a few things. If you’re looking for a robust health and medical app, there’s no question that Apple HealthKit is your best choice.

However, if you’ve got privacy concerns, Apple’s platform might give you pause; as we’ve learned in numerous situations, even if you’ve got all of your permissions set properly, there’s always the possibility of a security breach. Apple collects personal details of a greater breadth and depth, and this concern alone could send many people to Google Fit.

And, frankly, the platform you prefer largely depends on your mobile platform of choice. If you’re firmly entrenched in the world of Apple, then you’re likely to stick with Apple and use HealthKit. Similarly, if you’re an Android fan, you’re going to use Google Fit.

Ultimately, though, despite their similarities, these two apps have, at their cores, different reasons for their existence. If you’re simply wanting a good fitness tracking aggregator, Google Fit will get the job done well. Apple HealthKit, however, is a more complete healthcare tool.
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