I’ve been practicing self quantification in one form or another for a over 5 years now. During my journey, quantified self apps have become more commonplace than when I first set out. The proliferation of quantified self apps has been so great, if I were starting over, the problem would be choosing which app or tool to use rather than trying to find one.
Whether you’re just starting out and trying to find the best quantified self apps or you have a mature practice, I’m hope you’ll find this list helpful.
This page is organized into 2 sections:
Below is a list of my favorite quantified self apps and tools I use in my daily practice.
Research suggests approximately 1/3rd of life is spent sleeping. Sleep is an incredibly important component of overall health and well-being, so why not track it with a quantified self app? Even better, sleep tracking apps have become more accurate and can track more dimensions of sleep as mobile device sensors evolve.
I’ve used Sleep as Android for over 3 years and can’t say a bad word about it. A good sleep app should offer far more than simple alarm clock function.
Sleep cycles, duration, regulatory, and chronotype, which measures where you fall on the morning bird or night owl spectrum, are all key features to look for. Sleep as Android uses the device’s mic and speakers for a sonar like method for tracking.
Don’t use Android? No problem. Check out Sleep Cycle for Apple OS.
Go beyond sleep tracking by integrating with an aggregator to correlate with other datapoints. This helps spotlight how sleep behavior impact other dimensions of life.
WELLTORY: KING OF THE QUANTIFIED APPS?
Welltory is the newest quantified self app in my toolbox. At its core, Welltory is a heart rate variability tracker (HRV).
HRV measures the time between hear beats vs. beats per minute. It uses the same measuring technique – photoplethysmography or PPG for short – as most wearable fitness devices. PPG is accomplished using a Bluetooth connected heart rate monitor or your mobile device’s camera and light. Welltory’s a fascinating app that uses self learning algorithms to review the largest HRV data set in the world (so it claims). This is key as these algorithms factor in a other self-reported attributes like mood and sleep quality to measure physical stress, resiliency, recovery potential, etc..
So was I, before I tried 30 days with Welltory and concluded that even if it’s only accurate 75% of the time, it’s still a gold mine of data.
The list of quantified self apps featured so far have centered around health and wellness.
But the self quantification spectrum extends far beyond measuring health and well-being. It’s no secret that money factors in to some part of an individuals overall wellness (studies here, and here). But keeping track of your financial comings and goings can be a manual, tedious task. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be.
Enter the personal finance aggregator.
These tools securely link up with banks, lenders, and other financial service providers to centralize and summarize your financial life.
From there, you can begin experimenting the link between money and wellness. For example, when you overspend, how does that impact your physiology such as blood pressure, weight, or heart rate? What about mood or productivity?.
I’ve used a few aggregators over the years and keep going back to Mint. It’s free, secure, and plays nicely with thousands of financial services providers. Another great alternative is Personal Capital, which focuses more on investments.
QUANTIFIED-SELF APPS (FOR NON-RUNNERS)
If you’re a runner, good for you. Picking an app that syncs with any number of popular health aggregators is as simple as picking the first one to catch your eye.
For everyone else, it’s a bit more involved.
If you use Google Fit, there’s no app currently on the market that syncs non-running data. For example, if you use kettlebells or lift weights, there’s no automated linking between the tracker and Google Fit. The ability to write exercise data in Google Fit will hopefully be enabled and developed down the road.
I use FitNotes to track exercise and body measurements. The latter is especially important over to correlate over time as weight loss usually isn’t linear. Whatever exercise tracking app you go with, make sure you can export into CSV or other raw data file type for richer analysis.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT
Nutrient trackers are so ubiquitous most people don’t even realize they’re part of the quantified self apps segment. Whether it’s MFP or Lifesum, nutrient trackers measure calories and macro-nutrients: fats, proteins, carbs.
There’s different flavors of food trackers geared towards specific diets or level of involvement. At the simple end, use it to keep track of nutritional intake. Full blown features range from personalized diet plans, communities to motivate and encourage, and real time coaching.
On its on, a food tracker is generally useful to lose, maintain, or gain weight.
When combined with an aggregator and stacked on top of other data, it reveals how diet impacts wellness. For a while, I was even tracking average cost per 1,000 calories to optimize my food budget. I don’t do that anymore, but if I ever need to dial in my food budget, it’s a useful metric.
AGGREGATORS MAKE IT USEFUL
Sky’s the limit when it comes to measuring biomarkers. From calories to to cholesterol, there’s hundreds, if not thousands of attributes to choose from. That’s health aggregators come in.
At its core, a health aggregator consolidates physical inputs and outputs into a dashboard like experience.Since I have an Android device, I went with Google Fit. In my case, Google Fit pulls from MyFitnessPal, Hydro Coach, FitBit, and others into a visually appealing dashboard. In turn, health aggregators can be used to pass this consolidated data into other quantified self apps or services. Welltory is a great example of this.
I’m not a Google fanboy and at the time of writing this, Apple’s Health Kit is easily the superior product given its deeper level of tracking and integration.
SMART PHONE MOBILE HUB
It’s time to kill the term smart phone.
I don’t have the data to prove it (yet), but it’s a reasonable assumption that most people spend more time on their mobile devices than on the actual phone app.
For all intensive purposes, a self quantification practice has transformed my “phone” into a mobile hub.
I currently use Google’s Pixel 2. I think about this device as a mobile hub because of its small form factor and portability coupled with the ability to track and view measurements throughout the day.
Have you ever stopped and scrolled through the various sensors on your mobile device? It’s incredible. The Pixel 2 has at least 31 sensors ranging from the standard accelerometer to less obvious ones like the AK8789 Hall Effect (used to help identify positioning).
BLOOD PRESSURE MONITOR
When paired with apps like Welltory, measuring blood pressure (BP) can reveal valuable insights. Even without combining it with a health aggregator, BP is a biomarker I’ve tracked for years. If you’re fortunate enough to not have to track BP for a chronic condition, you probably only measure it when you visit your doctor.
BP can be a good gauge of overall health and important as general predictor of heart health.
In my current stack, monitoring blood pressure is still a manual process. Most of the wireless monitors available have issues with accuracy, usability, or both. Models like the Omron 10 store prior readings in the unit, which can be accessed via USB sync and exported as a CSV file for further analysis.
WEARABLES & WIRELESS
Fitness wearables have become nearly as ubiquitous as mobile devices.
From tracking steps to measuring heart rate, wearables are an easy, affordable way to track movement, heart rate, and sleep patterns.
I’ve used Fitbit products for a few years now with the Charge HR wearable lineup and Aria wireless scale. Once these devices stop functioning, I’ll probably switch to the Mi lineup offered by Xiaomi. Xiaomi is a Chinese tech conglomerate that manufactures everything from AI speakers to automated flower pots. There devices have mostly reached parity in terms of accuracy while consistently coming in cheaper than Fitbit, Jawbone, and others.
Whatever brand you go with, having the ability to track weight, body-fat, movement, heart rate, and sleep cycles is a great starting point to measure and improve physical well being. Syncing with other quantified self apps like Welltory or MyFitnessPal allows you to correlate these attributes with other dimensions of daily life including mood, stress, and emotional resiliency.
About 2 weeks into using Welltory’s camera measurements to track heart rate variability, I noticed the accuracy parameter was consistently around 75%. I followed all the recommendations of staying still and waiting to measure until my heart rate had normalized after exercise, but it didn’t seem to help. I took the plunge and picked up a Polar H10 Bluetooth enabled heart rate sensor.
After a few days with the sensor, Welltory measurement accuracy averages around 92%. While this is great and solves the problem I was having, it’s also been nice having access to raw heart rate data, in real time, which is easily exported from the native Polar app. The sensor is waterproof and designed to be worn during pretty much any type of physical activity available, including swimming.
All things considered, if you have the disposable income and want more precise data around heart rate, can’t go wrong with a heart rate sensor.