New research concludes that some major brands must improve their apps if they hope to maintain a presence in the health app market.
Increasingly, tech-friendly consumers are becoming dependent on health apps and devices to track their key health statistics. That includes smartphone-only apps as well as apps that work with devices like the Nike Fuelband and Fitbit. A new study, however, suggests that some consumers might drop some of these apps like a hot rock if the apps aren’t tied to their lifestyles.
In fact, a new report from ARC 360—commissioned by app quality firm Applause—has concluded that there may be no direct correlation between an app’s popularity and its usefulness.
To conduct its research, Applause started with 8,851 health and fitness and medical apps, then winnowed the list down based on how many reviews the apps had garnered. For the health and fitness category, an app had to have at least 10,000 reviews, and medical apps had to have a minimum of 2,000 reviews.
Then, Applause used its mobile app analytics tool, Applause Analytics, to crawl every rating and review from both Google Play and the Apple App Store. The software then derived a quality score from user content, ranking apps on a scale of 0 to 100.
Quality scores offer some surprises
As it turns out, app quality scores offered some surprises.
On the one hand, four popular apps achieved elite app quality status. Calorie Counter by MyFitnessPal, Lose It! by FitNow, MapMyRun by MapMyFitness and RunKeeper by FitnessKeeper all got average quality scores over 70 after getting more than 50,000 user reviews.
On the other, apps from two high-profile fitness brands (Weight Watchers and Fitbit), garnered an average app quality score of 54—lower than the 66.7 average for the health category—after receiving more than 20,000 user reviews.
Consumers are willing to put up with apps like Fitbit’s, despite rating them as mediocre, because they were still useful, ARC 360 concluded.
Playing catch up
ARC 360 suggests that given their existing market power, major brands can catch up with higher quality apps if they work at it.
“Due to their large number of users, both [Fitbit and Weight Watchers] can capture new marketshare and mindshare by further refining their apps,” ARC 360 reports. “If they can advance beyond merely working and deliver flawless, reliable and intuitive experience, they have the opportunity to make significant leaps.”
But smaller companies with fewer resources have an even more difficult job to do. Without wide awareness of their brands, their next-gen efforts had better be nigh irresistible. After all, not only are they dealing with a demanding public, health and fitness and medical app developers have deep-pocketed competitors to consider.
With Microsoft, Apple, Samsung, Alcatel and other giants rolling out healthbands, watches and platforms to support data gathering and analysis, it’s clear that they take healthcare app development very seriously. So smaller firms that create health apps better bring their “A” game to every aspect of their products.
The bottom line? While the wearables market is still at a fluid stage in which no one health/medical brand has completely taken over the market, the window is closing for first-class apps to get attention. Health app creators, don’t take your customer base for granted, or you could end up being squeezed out of the industry.
Anne Zieger is a veteran journalist who’s been covering the U.S. healthcare scene for over 25 years. You can follow Anne on Twitter @ziegerhealth.
The nuviun blog is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the author.