ReadWriteBody is an ongoing series in which ReadWrite covers networked fitness and the quantified self.
For the second time in two weeks, Apple has jerked fitness- and health-app developers—and like-minded consumers—around.
Apple’s HealthKit, a set of tools for sharing health data between iPhone apps, was supposed to be a key feature of iOS 8, Apple’s latest operating system for its mobile devices. Many developers raced to include it in new versions of their apps in time for the release.
Instead, Apple yanked their HealthKit-enabled apps from its App Store on the morning of iOS 8’s release, and hastily informed that they had to remove HealthKit from their apps.
On Wednesday, Apple released its 8.0.1 update to iOS and announced it was ready for HealthKit apps again. The problem—8.0.1 itself wasn’t ready, and Apple pulled it amid reports that updated phones couldn’t make calls and had trouble with Apple’s TouchID fingerprint sign-in feature.
Apple has promised a new version, 8.0.2, will come out in a few days, and hence so will HealthKit—in theory.
Hurdles For HealthKit Apps
The problem is that Apple wasn’t even allowing HealthKit apps in the App Store until yesterday—which isn’t much time to rewrite an app, test it, submit it to Apple, and win approval. The pullback of 8.0.1 would have stalled anyone trying to do so anyway.
Given all the troubles Apple has seen with iOS 8, some developers are now taking a wait-and-see approach. (An Apple representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the issues with HealthKit’s rollout.)
“We are waiting for the update to iOS before we resubmit a version of FitStar Personal Trainer that integrates with HealthKit,” says Alexis McDowel, a spokesperson for FitStar, which had originally planned to release a HealthKit-ready version on September 17 along with the introduction of iOS 8.
Runtastic is waiting until “we are sure the bugs have been squashed” to rerelease its apps, says Josh Shaeffer, the company’s vice president of business development.
RunKeeper opted not to join FitStar and others in launching alongside iOS 8. That saved them from the troubles others saw. “RunKeeper wasn’t affected because they haven’t integrated HealthKit yet,” says Dorothy Jean Chang, a spokesperson for the company.
RunKeeper’s namesake app and Breeze, a newer fitness-tracker app, work on iOS 8, and the company’s optimizing them for the new operating system, with HealthKit coming later. “They’re doing this to make sure they’re thoughtfully optimizing the user experience, rather than blindly racing to the front of the line,” says Chang.
HealthKit’s botched introduction may not hurt Apple in the long run, if it’s able to fix its software problems. But in the short term, it’s cost the company significant goodwill with the bleeding-edge developers it needs to popularize the feature.
It’s also annoyed consumers who were promised a brave new world of smarter fitness apps since this summer when Apple first revealed HealthKit.
HealthKit remains an iPhone-only solution, which means Google has an opportunity with its Google Fit software on Android and potentially other operating systems as well. Google Fit’s architecture allows for cross-platform development in a way HealthKit doesn’t.
And, as I’ve argued before, there’s an opportunity for someone to come along with a better solution for connecting fitness apps together. HealthKit ultimately aims to consolidate your vital signs and workout stats on your phone. That makes sense for a company that makes vast profits selling hardware. But where that data really belongs is on a secure server in the cloud, where you can access it from any device and connect it to any app.
If anything, HealthKit’s delays give everyone who’s working on fitness apps a chance to catch their breath and ask what the right way to gather and store health data really is.
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