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iHealth HS3 Bluetooth Body Scale reveals your weight to iOS

While my long-term quest for fitness has been stymied by a severe lack of motivation to actually get off of my butt and exercise, it comforts me to know that there are plenty of health-related iOS accessories to help me to at least track my stagnant weight. I own a Withings Scale, which sends my daily weight and BMI to a number of health apps, as well as a Withings Blood Pressure Monitor that connects to my iPhone to take my BP. For many people, though, the Withings products are a wee bit expensive. Now iHealth has introduced an iOS-compatible Bluetooth Body Scale that at US$69.95 is a bargain compared to the $159.00 Withings Scale. How does the HS3 Bluetooth Body Scale compare to the more expensive Withings Scale? Read on for details.

Design

What do I mean by iOS compatible? The scale converses with a free iOS app that runs on any iOS 4.x - 5.0 device. That app connects over Bluetooth to the scale, which is an attractive glass slab featuring a large liquid-crystal display. The scale is powered by four included AAA batteries that should last for quite some time if my Withings scale is any indication. The LCD turns itself off after about a minute of non-use, and the scale probably uses very little power while waiting to be connected to your iOS device.

You could, of course, use the scale without the iOS app. That kind of defeats the purpose, though, and if you don't want to record and track your weight over time, it's probably a better idea to just go buy another non-connected scale.

Setting up the device is a piece of cake. You pop in the AAA batteries, turn on the scale by stepping on it, then activate Bluetooth on your iOS device. In the Bluetooth settings, the name of the scale appears -- something like "iHealth HS312345" -- and it shows that the device is not paired with your iOS device. Tapping on the device name pairs the devices, and the word "Connected" appears.

At that point, you just need to launch the iHealth Scale app. Your weight appears on the scale and is entered into the app. Step off of the scale, and the scale shuts off within a minute.

Functionality

The iHealth HS3 scale isn't as sophisticated as the Withings Scale, which also determines your fat content and BMI. Then again, the Withings Scale is over twice the price. If you just want an automatic way to track your weight, then this scale definitely does the job.

The app provides a way to enter information about your height, current weight, goal weight, and the day that you wish to achieve a specific goal. That, along with input of how many calories you've ingested and the calories that you've burned, can tell you how many calories over or under your goal that you are. Confusingly, the app refers to the act of eating as "Absorption of calories" and exercising as "Consumption of calories." It makes sense when you think about it, but it's completely contrary to every other health tracking app I've seen.

To enter food, you tap on an Add button and enter a food into a search field. The app responds with a list of foods, but I didn't find the lists to be as complete as those found in the Fitbit app. The quantities of food must be entered in grams, which is a total pain to those of us who use the US ounce/pound units for weight. There should be a way to enter other units, such as ounces, pounds, cups, fluid ounces, "one egg," etc.

Entering exercise is also somewhat confusing. You can't just tap something that says "I walked for 60 minutes" (like tapping a favorite activity); instead, you need to tap on a search field, enter a search term like "brisk walking," enter the time expended on that exercise, and then it is entered into the app.

The main app display has three windows: one for Bluetooth entry of weight, one for manual entry of weight, and a third that says "Upload Data." The latter window is useful if you take your weight, but don't have your iPhone handy to upload the weight. You can wait until later, then upload weight measurements to your iOS device by tapping the "Upload Data" button.

I found one thing that was rather annoying. The scale didn't automatically connect to my iPhone when I stepped on it. Instead, I ended up having to manually go into the Bluetooth settings and forcing a connection each time. I suppose that I could just have the scale save weights for a week and then upload the weight info once a week, but that kind of defeats the purpose of trying to track your weight daily.

Conclusion

I found that the iHealth HS3 Scale worked just fine, but the app that accompanies the scale is really lacking. It's somewhat confusing to use, even though there's a detailed "FAQ" document built into the app. I also couldn't find a way to share the weight information with any other service or app. For example, if I wanted to send my weight information to Fitbit or my calorie tracking to another service, there's no way to do it. The marketing verbiage on the iHealth website says that you can "Easily share one-time readings or long-term trends with friends, family or doctors," but there is no way to do it with the current app.

If someone is really dedicated to tracking weight information, I would recommend the much more expensive Withings scale and app instead. It works with other services and apps -- Fitbit, RunKeeper, Weightbot, and many more -- thanks to the fact that Withings supplied an SDK for developers who want to include Withings health information in their apps.

That's not to say that the iHealth HS3 Scale isn't worthwhile. As I noted earlier, it's much less expensive than the Withings scale and could improve a lot if the app is updated. It all depends on what information you wish to track, and how you wish to share that information with other apps and services. The inability of the app to automatically reconnect to the scale at the present time is a definite issue that should be addressed.

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