World’s Worst iPad App?

by | Apr 7, 2010

With the launch of the iPad I was excited to review and recommend a few of the early release health apps for Summer Tomato readers. But after spending a few days browsing apps from the “health,” “diet,” and “food” categories it became clear such a post would be impossible.

At this point there is still nothing worthy to recommend.

So far there are only a handful of healthy eating apps, and by far the majority of them are calorie counters and rudimentary or overly complicated food journals. Some of them seem okay for what they are, but I couldn’t picture myself using them or recommending them to anyone looking to get healthy.

But my time searching wasn’t entirely wasted. In my quest it appears I may have stumbled upon the worst (aka funniest) iPad app in existence.

HealthCalc XL is supposed to be a Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator and health assessment app. I’m not sure why you would need this on your iPad, but since it is free I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

So far, so good.

To calculate BMI the interface is pretty close to what you might expect. Since BMI is a ratio of height to weight, you can enter those fields. Unfortunately, however, the default measurement units are centimeters and kilograms, which isn’t particularly useful for most of us here in the U.S. You can switch over to feet and “lbf” (presumably that means pounds) if you wish, but this requires an extra step.

In addition to height and weight, HealthCalc XL asks for your age, gender and physical activity level. No standardization of what is considered “low,” “middle,” or “high” activity levels is provided.

Once you’ve entered this information you hit the “calc” button for a read-out of your “BMI,” “Ideal weight,” “recommended calory” (no, I did not mistype that), and an assessment of your health in the form of: “You are”

This is where the fun starts.

HealthCalc XL does not sugar coat your health assessment for you. And chances are it thinks you are carrying a few too many pounds.

Anything at the higher end of the normal BMI range (typically measured as between 18.5-24.9) HealthCalc XL considers “a little fat” (see top image). If your BMI creeps above 27, HealthCalc XL is sure to tell you “You are fat.”

And if your BMI is higher?

Whether you agree with HealthCalc XL’s assessment or not might be a point of debate if the BMI was calculated correctly. Unfortunately, it is not.

According to HealthCalc XL, a highly active 5’5″ woman weighing 100 “lbf” has a BMI of 19.4.

In reality this height and weight pair calculates to a BMI of 16.6 and is considered significantly underweight.

But HealthCalc XL considers her “standard.” This is more than wrong, it is dangerous. Young girls are the most prone to body images and incorrect BMI calculations can fuel eating disorders and other health problems.

At the end of the day, HealthCalc XL is both mean and incompetent. I hope it never applies for a service job in San Francisco.

Have you found any decent health apps yet for iPad?

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12 Responses to “World’s Worst iPad App?”

  1. NickMMI says:

    Did you have a look at bodyCal2 from MMISoftware? bodyCal2 is a body mass index (BMI) and basal metabolic rate (BMR) calculator and recorder for the iPad. If you contact me by email I will send you a free download code for the App. (I am not trying to spam here, I would have sent this by email, but I couldn’t find an email address on your site.)

  2. Wow that’s kind of ridiculous. I don’t understand how if you have the skill set and knowledge to actually make an app, you end up releasing one that doesn’t meet the basic standards for the function its meant to perform…

  3. Allie says:

    Wow. Apparently I’m a little fat. 🙂

    Really, though, this seems pretty irresponsible…

  4. Travis says:

    That is unbelievable!!!! It would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. Thanks for posting about this Darya.

  5. Alex says:

    LBF is probably lean body fat, aka lean body mass

  6. Colin says:

    lbf is pound-force. This is weight (lbf) vs. mass (kilogram). This is basic physics.

    • fred stork says:

      Sorry, lbf means pounds of force, which is a vector, as opposed to lb of weight, which is a scalar (scale value).
      I have more issues with the writer of the article, than the obviously botched up software. I don’t know how old the writer is, but defending pounds and inches against kilos and centimeters is grosly anachronic, Has the writer ever woke up and realized this a 21st century, and the world is metric, and it doesn’t matter what old aged uneducated americans think about it? Medical system has been metric since ’50s, globally. All the pound and inches you hear or read is a conversion for stubborn public.
      On the similar nnote, if the writer has done the homework, s/he would know the BMI is a statistical tool to assess populations, NOT individuals.
      But admitedly, the writer isn’t the only one who is perpetuating this foolishness….
      Just compare BMI of a 5’0″ person of perfect weight with 7’0″ person of perfect weight, and you will see why BMI is a useless tool for individual assessment. It’s a statistical tool designed to work with average values, not with individual measurements including extremes.
      You are going to hate me, but metric system is much simpler in this — say you are 180cm, and you want to know your proper weight, so just ignore the first digit, and subtract 1. So it’s 80 – 1 = 79, Your ideal weight is 79kg. No need for a calculator.

      • Darya Pino says:

        Thanks for your insight Fred. Since you asked, I’m 30 years old and I’m a scientist. I use the metric system everyday. But this is an iPad app designed for the average American public, who measures weight and height in lbs and feet. I agree with you that BMI is a relatively useless measure for individuals, which is another reason this is the worst app ever.

      • Stacy says:

        Wow Fred! If the writer had done his homework… perhaps a little less presumptive next time?
        Darya, thanks for exposing this ridiculous app and very well done on the way you presented it. There are far too many scientists getting hung up on irrelevant details in their writing and thereby making their topic inaccessible – it’s easy to make something simple sound complicated. Making something complex sound simple (without missing the essence) is a rare art and one you seem to have mastered. Nice work!
        Incidentally – I live in a country that uses metric, and I can’t relate to pounds / inches; that made no difference to my understanding of the article.

      • Stacy says:

        That tip at the end is a gem, thanks Fred. At least it works for me… I’m 176cm, so my weight should be 75kg. I’m 76kg so I’m not going to need HealthCalcXL to help me lose weight just yet 🙂

  7. Marie says:

    I would just add that references for children and teenagers (<18) are not the same as for adults. They are gender and age specific and at young age, a BMI of 16 can be considered overweight… So, they should indicate limitations of this tool since they can not consider values for individuals < 18y (they don't ask gender). Moreover, the picture of a children with an adult is confusing…

    Also, BMI values are used for individuals. In Canada, they are clearly identified as a tool in the clinical practice guidelines. So, BMI is not important only at population level.

  8. Thomas says:

    I’m a 29yo male who is 6’1″ 175lb, it says I should eat 1100 calories a day. That is not right.

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