I have been waiting for Apple to deliver on its health promises for the last 8 years. There was so much smoke around this that the result being what’s currently available for Apple Watch and Health.app coming to iPad are hardly the ecosystem I thought we would have by now. In a few minutes of searching, I pieced together the following:
- May 24, 2016 Apple’s Cook Says Health Tracking Ripe for a ‘New View’
- MAY 9 2017 – Apple has acquired a sleep-tracking app called Beddit
- AUG 2 2018 – Apple’s first hires for its health clinics show how it’s thinking differently about health care
- SEPTEMBER 13, 2018 – The Apple Watch is inching toward becoming a medical device
- DEC 12 2018 – Apple now has dozens of doctors on staff, showing it’s serious about health tech
- JAN 8 2019 – Tim Cook: Apple’s greatest contribution will be ‘about health’
- JUNE 2 2020 – watchOS 7 adds significant personalization, health, and fitness features to Apple Watch
Everything Tim Cook was saying publicly about health lead me to keep my base model Withings smart scale purchased in 2016 and continue using it well into 2023. I did purchase a Beddit sleep tracker and used it from 2017 (after Apple’s acquisition once it was added to the Apple Online Store) until 2023 when I decided that Apple Watch sleep tracking (paired with the amazing Sleep++ app) had gotten so great that I didn’t need Beddit anymore. Beddit by then was removed from Apple’s store and the hardware was no loner available should my unit ever fail.
Apple Watch Ultra is a great health device. I wear it 23 hours a day in every environment. 2023 was a year for me when I decided to own my health by setting a goal to lose 50 pounds (I’m half way there) and assemble a team that includes a nutritionist, doctor, chiropractor, personal trainer, physical therapist and acupuncturist who would help me reach my health goals paired with weekly doses of Mounjaro and this year getting surgery on my shoulder and ankle.
I started getting hungry for more data and Apple, despite signaling to me that they would have created an ecosystem (starting with Beddit), has chosen to not build on their hardware offerings and rely on 3rd parties. There’s not much wrong with that except how can we trust an app or hardware device would have Apple’s quality and focus on privacy.
I got tired of waiting and decided to look at what was out there….and arrived at Withings.
Withings has a few product categories:
- Watches with tracking
- Blood Pressure Monitors
- Urinalysis Monitors (U-Scan)
- Body Temperature
- Sleep Tracker
I purchased the following devices:
All of this is made better by Withings’ very nice app (with Apple Health integration) and their Withings+ subscription which costs $10 a month with 3 months free for buying their most expensive scale.
To make everything work together and start finding trends, I committed to an 8AM reading every single morning, 7-days a week. I collect all of my data after my shower and before any workouts and before I eat breakfast. Withings+ app has daily challenges like certain activities logged (via the Apple Fitness / Health apps) and other pushes to step onto your scale. You can pick challenges that last 2 weeks and it uses Health data (such as me logging food in MyFitnessPal which sends calories to Health.app) and displays this in the Withings app with Kcal trends at the macro level alongside fitness activities and has a great UI to show trends such as my decreasing weight and BMI but also helpful data showing my muscle mass is decreasing (a result of moving to running & hiking and not having enough protein intake instead of high-protein and a lot of resistance work as I was doing pre-baby).
I’m not going to go wild with this blog post on every single measurement these devices collect in aggregate but it’s pretty vast and it’s like going to a center for biometric measurements every single day even if the accuracy isn’t quite as good but those are $250+ labs and I’m getting it for free. These are not medical devices or FDA approved for any use. They are “clinically validated” features in most cases and that’s good enough for me.
My experience has been really fantastic in 2 key areas. First, these devices are really easy to use even if you have 8 other household members (including a baby mode where I can hand my wife the baby and it’ll recognize Matilda and get her weight added to her profile). My wife and I share these devices and can easily tell each device which one of us is using it. Also, they use WiFi so data is uploaded to Withings without needing to think about my iPhone being in the same room. The other area is how well everything is integrated into App and Apple Health. The app is powerful and easy to use and I feel like I can dive really deep or see the larger trend picture. After a week of use, I sent a high level report (with one-tap) to my nutritionist who was very impressed with how much data was collected and how detailed it is.
One thing worth mentioning, used daily, the scale’s battery lasts an entire year and the other devices lasts 6 months or more on a charge. Everything is rechargeable or simple AA/AAA batteries.
In short, these are Apple-Class devices. They are well built, well packaged, easy to use and also nicely designed. Everything you need, nothing you don’t.
Spending $760 on non-Apple hardware is a tall-order especially when I’m already wearing a $799 Apple Watch Ultra. My first Withings scale lasted almost 10 years before being obsolete and I imagine these will last just as long.
The elephant in the room….Apple who is presumably very invested in health as a product and service yet has done nothing but incrementally improve the Apple Watch and offer a subscription fitness service. I’m pretty disappointed with how slow Apple is moving in this area when Withings and many hundreds of medical device companies are doing more smarter tracking and getting all of that FSA/HSA/Insurance cash that Apple could be getting with their focus on Privacy backed by HealthKit. I hope Apple will finally share with us all of this great technology they’ve been building since 2016. Maybe they lost interest? I don’t know.
Withings is as close to Apple-quality as you can get and I have zero regrets in going all-in with their ecosystem.
Here are a few screenshots of my Withings App with some first week measurements: