Back at the end of March, Samsung announced that its S Health app was getting a makeover. So much so that the S Health moniker was dropped in favor of the new ‘Samsung Health’ label. Shortly after the announcement the updated version started rolling out and is now available on the Google Play Store as a free download. This is an app which works with a number of phones, including non-Samsung devices, although if you want the fullest and richest experience, then you will need to pair the app with a Samsung device. Arguable, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are the best devices to make use of the service with.
Before you get started
Before considering Samsung Health, the one key thing to understand is that this is a very feature-rich app. When used to its potential, it is designed to be much more than a simple calorie or step counting app. Instead, Samsung is looking to help its users have a more integrated and interactive health experience - essentially, the app has now become a one-stop solution. Although, in spite of its greater number of features, the app itself is also designed to work with a number of popular third-party fitness and tracking apps. So if you have a fitness app that you prefer the interface of, there is nothing stopping you from using that app and having the data pulled over to Samsung Health. Likewise, the app is also able to pair with a number of third-party products that are outside of your smartphone. Like for instance, connected scales or glucose monitors. Once again, this is a highly feature-rich app and one which can track as much of your health and vital signs, as you want it to.
Samsung vs Non-Samsung devices
With this being a Samsung core app it is not that surprising that it is designed to work better with Samsung phones. Yes, it can be downloaded on a number of non-Samsung smartphones, but you will be exposed to a limited version of the app. Think of it as a ‘lite’ version, although one which still does offer full functionality for the features that are available. So this is not like a 'download now and pay later to use the same features' sort of app. In contrast, where the lite bit comes in, is that not all of the features are available. You will however, be able to make full use of the various integrations, the general tracking abilities, and data feedback. Below is a quick overview of how the main screen looks on a non-Galaxy device (Pixel XL) compared to a Galaxy device (Galaxy S8).
The app is fairly simple to set up. Once installed, it is just a matter of signing in or creating a Samsung account with an email address. Once done, the app will prompt for various permissions and then ask you to set some goals. These goals are not necessary for the general functioning of the app, but as many will already be aware - goals help to keep you motivated and the more information and goals you set through the app, the richer the feedback and the overall experience will be.
What it can do
Once the app is ready to go, the interface is fairly simple. The main screen is the overview screen and provides a quick summary of what is being monitored. Depending on how many aspects you opt in to, will determine how much of a summary it can provide. When all in, you will see a quick view of how close you are to your exercise goal for that day, as well as your food intake goal, and your sleeping goal.
Any of these goals can be clicked on to provide greater insight into the data. Like for instance, exactly when you were active, how many calories you burned, distance traveled, as well as comparisons against the previous days. So if you are the type of user who just plans to monitor walks taken and/or steps made, then there is very little for you to do. The app will monitor these aspects, in the background, and provide feedback whenever you open the app.
In contrast, for those who are focused on more rigorous activities, then the app also comes with the ability to monitor activities beyond walking. An example being running. This mode can be initiated by simply hitting the start running icon and telling the app that you are now entering an exercise phase. The app then uses GPS to track your running and differentiates the data from that collected for walking.
Interestingly, you don't actually need to hit the start icon to tell the smartphone that you are entering this mode. As the smartphone is able to automatically detect when you start running and will collect the data for you. As well as sending a notification noting that the app has detected a period of exercise that it was not informed of.
Generally speaking, the other aspects (eating and sleep) are a little less intuitive and do require some feedback from the user. For instance, with the calories section, users are expected to manually input the details of what has been eaten. However, the interface works really well. The user simply starts typing what they have eaten (or where they have eaten, if out) and search results will start to show up. Allowing for an easier (and more accurate) way to integrate and include the relevant data. In particular when eating out, as once the app knows where you have eaten, it will provide the menu allowing you to click the exact items you ordered. At which point the app then uses the nutritional information provided by the eating establishment, including the calorie intake.
With sleeping, as this is not actually a device that you wear while sleeping, this is more of a guessing game feature. When setting sleep goals, the app will ask you which times you typically go to bed and wake up. From then on, and on a daily basis, the app will prompt you each day to confirm that these were the same sleeping times for the night before. With the option to adjust as and when needed. So think of this are more of a self-determined and less accurate feature, but an additional feature nonetheless.
With any of the tracking features, the user is constantly provided feedback (by way of notifications) on how they are doing each day. So each time you reach your step goal for instance, you will be notified that you have. Same with general exercise goals, calorie intake, and so on. Likewise, if the app notes that you have been less active than your goals suggest you should be, you can expect more notifications to come through - letting you know (in a positive tone) that it might be time to go for a run.
Overall, this portion of the app works pretty well. It is very user-friendly and does look to remove much of the annoyances often found with tracking apps, as most of what it does, it does in the background. While some aspects do require you to input details, even for those instances, the details which need to be inputted are minimal, with the app still doing most of the heavy lifting. So for those looking for a nicely put-together tracking app, on a non-Samsung device or otherwise, then this is one worth considering.
Samsung Only Features
As mentioned once you pair the app with a Samsung Galaxy device, you really do start to open the app up to its full potential. One of the most obvious and immediately noticeable changes is that the app is now able to track even more health-related data. For instance, Galaxy device owners can also use the app to measure their heart rate, their stress levels, and their oxygen levels. All of these measurements are taken using the rear-positioned sensor and all three readings can be measured at the same time, or individually.
Once read, data is presented in a consistent manner for all aspects including clear feedback on the reading, and the ability to track and monitor readings over a period of time. In fact, what the app does do quite well is provide a substantial amount of background data on each reading - by way of easy to reference reading material. This material provides a good breakdown of what the numbers shown actually mean and how they relate to the general population based on aspects like age. So Samsung Health really does look to offer a more informative health-monitoring experience. It is not just about the numbers.
Experts is another feature that is included specifically for Galaxy device owners and the best way to sum this one up, is that it looks to offer a very quick way to engage with a medical professional and get feedback on any issues, concerns, or symptoms that you might be encountering or worried about. The service is provided by American Well (telehealth company) and Samsung states that there is as many as 1,200 certified experts available through the app. It is clear that this is not meant for anything that is too serious (as you should be calling 911 or visiting the hospital for that), and instead is designed to provide an easy way to engage with someone or find out information, on more common issues or ones which do not require immediate medical attention.
In addition to being able to find a general wealth of information and directly from the health community, the service also provides direct video chat with live physicians, as well as some additional features like the ability to refill prescriptions. Obviously this service does need to be tied in to your medical data to really maximize its effectiveness, which includes signing up with American Well. As well as using the service in conjunction with your insurance. So this will be a consideration for some, as they will want to make sure that any related-charges are covered by their insurance. Something which will likely come to light during the American Well enrollment process anyway. In either case, this could be a useful feature for some, and if all-in, there are some additional benefits to using this service. One example that Samsung offers up - not having to make any co-payments for consultations.
If all that was not enough, there are even more features included in this app. Like a 'Together' feature which lets the user effectively set up their own in-app health community. Once live, the user is able to compare their data with that of their friends and family. Not only might this lead to a more social and fun way to monitor your health, but it could also lead to more of a competitive and motivating approach. This is in addition to the ‘Discover’ tab which offers even more health-related information and general news articles.
So all in all, it is clear that this app is designed to be an app which caters to a wide selection of health-related needs and does offer a substantial amount of features for those who are all-in. However, one of its biggest strengths is that it does not look to highlight the importance of using all of the features, and largely leaves the choice to the user. So you can simply opt-in for just the features you want to use. If you just want to only track your basic exercise routine, then you can and ignore the rest. While those looking for a more comprehensive app and a way to centralize all of their health-related data, this app will just about cover every angle you can think of. Yes, the non-Galaxy version is largely trimmed down in comparison, but even that trimming down does result in more than enough features - and to be honest, the features that most users will actually want to use.