In Search of the Perfect Self-Tracking App: The App that Tracks It All

Thu, Sep 13, 2012 2-minute read 415 words

Two months ago, tired of juggling paper questionnaires and Google Spreadsheets, I embarked on a quest to find the perfect mobile app for self-tracking. The objective was to find a single app that would enable me to log any kind of personal structured data (numbers or text - as opposed to images, videos, sounds, etc) on a daily basis. In this post I describe the search methodology and reveal the app of my choice.

Different Folks, Different Logs

I started my search in Apple app store (I have iphone) using keywords “log”,“logging”,“track”,“tracking”,“quantified”,“quantified self”, “record”, and “count”. The iPhone section of the tools directory on Quantified-Self site also proved to be very useful. The initial list was promisinlgy long and had 185 app. Just for fun, I cteated the “word cloud” using the names of the apps:

best apps for self-tracking

The important pre-requisite of the search was versatility. The app should enable me to track any number of custom variables not limited to any specific niche(s). Many apps claimed to be tools for “tracking anything and everything”, but only eleven, in my opinion, were truly versatile:

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

Customization, Portability and Mobility

The next step was to download all these apps, test them for a week, and rate based on the following criteria:

  1. Customizable measurement scales: ability to log data using either Boolean, Likert, continuous, or categorical scales.
  2. Data portability: ability to export data in “csv” or other common format, at any time. Also, I should not pay to access my own data.
  3. True mobility: ability to use it in an offline mode, without internet (e.g., on subway).

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:

comparing apps for self-tracking

The two apps that scored the highest were rTracker and Track&Share. However, with a better selection of scales and lower price (USD 0.99 as opposed to USD 9.99), rTracker was an ultimate winner.

Not far behind was DailyTracker - it also has a decent selection of scales, and can also log unstructured data: images, voice memos, notes, locations, which makes it a great app for lifelogging. The annual subscription of USD39.99, however, was an ultimate deal breaker for me.

From now on, I am logging all my data with rTracker.