In Search of the Perfect Quantified-Self App. Part 2: The Apps That Track Them All.

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review of best quantified self apps by measured me blogTwo months ago, tired of juggling between paper questionnaires and Google Spreadsheets, I embarked on a quest to find the perfect mobile app for self-tracking. The objective was to identify the single app that would enable me to log any kind of personal structured data, in any domain of my life. By structured data I mean data that can be stored as a number or a short text (letter, word or two), as opposed to images, video, sounds, maps, and long texts; think heart rate, weight, responses to psychological questionnaires, etc. In my previous post, I described the search methodology, and how I reduced the initial pool of 185 tracking apps down to 11, applying the versatility criteria. Today, I will narrow down the results even further, and reveal the winning apps.

First, the eleven apps, listed in alphabetical order:

Daily Tracker
Daytum
meTracker
myLogger
NumRecorder
Optimism
Repeatables
rTracker
TallyZoo
Track and Share
TraxItAll

Again, unlike the rest of the tracking apps, these apps are versatile, in a sense that they could be potentially used to log any kind of structured data, and are not limited to only one or two specific lifestyle niches (e.g., sports or mood). Such versatile apps are especially handy if you are trying to interrelate variables from different domains of your life (e.g., mood vs. work performance or physical activity). But versatility is just a pre-requisite. The perfect Quantified-Self app, in my opinion, should possess three additional important characteristics:

  1. The app has to be customizable when it comes to measurement scale. Depending on the type of question, I should be able to log data using either Boolean (yes/no), ordinal (e.g., not-much/somewhat/.. /very much,), continuous (e.g., weight or cost), categorical (e.g., cardio type: stationary bike, elliptical or treadmill), or n-point Likert scale (e.g., 7-point scale). In other words, the app should be able to handle the mix of variables of various measurement types.
  2. The app has to offer data portability. I should be able to export data in “csv” or other common format, any time I want, so I can analyze and manipulate it myself. Sorry, but showing me only those pretty charts and trend lines simply won’t do. And remember: that’s my data. I should not pay to access it.
  3. The app has to be truly mobile. That is, it should be able to work in an offline mode, without wireless or WiFi signal (e.g., on subway), at least at the moment of the data entry. If I want a web app, I will use my computer.

After testing each of the eleven apps for at least a couple of days, I rated them with regard to these three characteristics. Some of the apps had to be tested more than once, just to make sure I discover all their potential. The results of my work are presented in the chart below. I used five-point scale to rate customizability and data portability (1 = Terrible, 2 = Poor, 3 = Acceptable, 4 = Good, 5 = Excellent), and a binary scale to rate mobility (0= Not mobile, 1 = Truly Mobile). The final rating was a sum of all three scores. You can also download Quantified self apps ratings matrix  in Excel format.

comparing best quantified self apps
Yep, it’s a tie! The two apps that both scored the highest 10 points are rTracker and Track & Share. No doubt, the rTracker has a better selection of scales. I am particularly impressed with the rTracker’s  “sliding” scale: you can set any range you like. Alas, the choice of ordinal scales in Track and Share is limited to 3-, 4- and 5-point scales (although you can always use numbers). However, TrackNShare offers much easier data export: you can simply e-mail yourself csv-file (the rTracker data can only be accessed via iTunes). Both use interesting approach to grouping items into categories (“trackers” in rTracker and “screens” in TrackNShare).  At the end I personally prefer rTracker, because it’s cheaper (.99 cents, versus 9.99 for the full version of TrackNShare).

Some screenshots from rTracker, showing different measurement scales:

review of best apps for self tracking rTracker

And similar scales in TrackNShare:

comparing quantified self apps features by measuredme blog

Just one point behind these two are Daily Tracker and NumRecorder. The Daily Tracker has a better selection of scales (NumRecorder only accepts numeric values), and is also perfect for logging unstructured data: you can add photos, notes, voice memos, locations, etc. The NumRecorder, on the other hand, is very simple to configure and use.

At this point, my search for the quantified-self app is over. Starting next month, I will be using rTracker. Let’s hope I made the right choice, and it will work well in the long run. I will definitely keep you posted! Just to be fair, my search methodology was limited to only iOS apps. But who knows, maybe Android market has a better selection of QS tools? I would love to hear back from the Android users (and will be happy to link to the blog posts).

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Best Apps for Self-Tracking: rTracker and Track & Share
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12 Responses to In Search of the Perfect Quantified-Self App. Part 2: The Apps That Track Them All.

  1. Wellnowbe says:

    I took a look at some of those tracking apps and ultimately ended up using Podio (https://podio.com/). I started using Podio at work to track leads, sales, and projects so I was familiar with its ease of use and customization. You can enter almost any kind of data including numbers, dates, dollar amounts, contacts, hyperlinks, pictures, automatic calculations, and fixed option categories.
    You should set it up on their website, but then you can add in data on the go with the mobile app. You can load existing data in via CSV or Excel and you can also output to those formats so that you can take your data over to something like Statwing (https://www.statwing.com/) for easy statistical analysis.
    Podio is free for up to five users and 1GB of storage, after that it’s $8 a month, but that 1GB will take you pretty far, especially if you’re not storing files or images on there.
    Ultimately I’m hoping for a combo website/app to track all of this stuff, using API’s whenever possible and doing basic statistical analysis automatically. See my post about that at http://wellnow.be/2012/06/17/the-quest-for-the-one/ and some of the websites that I’m hoping will evolve into this on my resources page at http://wellnow.be/resources/ under the header “Self-tracking – Ways to track your data”.
    As always, thanks for the great post!
    Dave
    http://wellnow.be
    @wellnowbe

  2. Hello Dave,
    Thanks a lot for the comment and interesting leads. I guess the Podio flew under my radar, because it was never presented as a “tracking” app. In fact, their site pitches it as a business collaboration app (similar to ZoHo and Salesforce). I will definitely give it a try!
    Regarding StatWing – the site looks great, and I will definitely check out their 14-day free trial, but the 19 dollars a month service fee seems a bit too steep for me. As an advocate of QS movement, I really would like it to go mainstream, so in my blog, I try to review only those gadgets and tools that are free or affordable to an average person.
    Love the Wellnow.be blog, by the way! Have been reading it often, and just added it to my Blogs That Inspire Me blogroll.
    Take care,
    K.

  3. Winslow Strong says:

    Thanks for writing this review. I was somewhat overwhelmed by the universe of possibilities out there in tracking, and this helps quite a bit in narrowing things down.
    If you do find a similar meta review by anyone for android apps, please link it in the comments.

  4. Hello Winslow,
    I am glad you liked the post. Absolutely, I will definitely post a link to the similar review of QS apps on Android, if any surface.

  5. Liora says:

    I enjoyed this post as I’ve been on the same quest and have yet to find an app that does everything I want it to. So approximately a month later what do you think of rtracker?
    One other idea, if you happen to use Fitbit, is to use their tracking features available to premium members. It’s downloadable as CSV. I agree you shouldn’t have to pay for that CSV feature, but the premium membership may be worth it to you for other reasons.
    Currently I’m using Eternity Time Log to track time spent on various tasks. Optimism is great for spotting trends and triggers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seen like any one app is going to do it all and do it as well as some of these individual apps do. I hope you will disprove that notion with a great update about rtracker!

  6. Hello Liora,
    Thanks a lot, I am glad you liked my post. I have been using rTracker for over 3 weeks now, and could not have been more content. The ata entry, modification of questionnaires (you can add new items at any time without affecting your previous responses), and data export are extremely easy and flawless. I am on track for releasing my October data, and very happy that I won’t have to transfer data into Excel spreadsheet manually anymore!
    Konstantin

  7. Liora says:

    That’s great! You inspired me to purchase the app and start using it. Thanks for your reply!

  8. In my previous post I started describing the quantified self app that I would have built myself if I had access to necessary skills or resources

  9. Dmaien says:

    I tried out rTracker to compare it to Daily Tracker which I’ve been using for a while. It may be just that I’m used to Daily Tracker, but it seemed more ‘clunky’ to me. And the iTunes export wasn’t as easy as the daily tracker upload to google docs.

  10. Measured Me says:

    hello Damien,

    Thanks a lot for suggestion. I could not locate Daily Tracker in the Apple app store. Could you send me the link please? Thank you!

  11. Rick says:

    Thanks for this post, good stuff. Based on your reviews I purchased both rTracker and TracknShare. Wish I could combine them. I love rTracker’s ease of use and flexibility for creating trackers, but the way it displays the data is just garbage. For example, I have a number of yes/no trackers. Did I do a certain workout that day? Did I spend 10 minutes doing heart rate variability training? Etc… It shows that stuff in a graph format, which is really dumb. Graphs are great for displaying numerical content, but we should at least have the option of seeing yes/no data in a calendar format. Show me a month in calendar format and make it visually easy to see which days I did that respective tracker. TracknShare has MUCH more power and flexibility behind how they display data. I can see graphs, I can see a calendar view if that’s appropriate, etc…

    And with rTracker’s graphs, honestly, they’re really ugly. It’s like they spent all this time doing a superb job of letting us define what we want to track and how to input it, and then got bored when it came to helping us use the app to analyze what we’ve entered and just said “ah, this is good enough.” it isn’t.

    I wish I could combine rTracker’s ease of use with TracknShare’s display capabilities. As it stands, I’m going with TracknShare just because rTracker’s data display is just not good.

  12. Measured Me says:

    Hello Rick,

    Thanks a lot! I agree, rTracker is way behind when it comes to visualizing collected data.

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