Health
Photo credit: Bellabeat

Photo credit: Bellabeat

If you want to penetrate the health app market, go for pregnant women (INFOGRAPHIC)

Interestingly, the most popular health and fitness apps in 2015 were related to women's health, and more specifically, pregnancy. This is why


A new report on the popularity of health and fitness phone applications in the United States has found that women’s health apps — and pregnancy related ones in particular — show the greatest usage. The analysis from Applause rated health tech apps with strong brand backing that also had the most reviews in their respective stores.

The report “The 2016 State of the U.S. Health and Fitness Apps Economy” showed that among the 10 most popular health trackers, three covered women’s health: ABISHKKING’s Period Calendar (94.5 points), GP Apps’ Period Tracker (88.5) and BabyCenter’s My Pregnancy Today (82.5), all of which target those wanting or avoiding pregnancy. Weight trackers Calorie Counter by MyFitnessPal and Lose It! by FitNow placed fourth and fifth respectively.

Image credit: Applause

Image credit: Applause

The report is the latest from Applause’s Application Resource Center (ARC), which produces industrial reports on fintech, wearables, travel, dating, and other markets within the “apps economy.” The report was written by Applause’s Digital Experience Analyst, Ben Gray. The company markets itself on its ability to crawl ratings by app in the App Store and to segment that data for clients. Applause only looked at 65 apps, but that was out of some 8,000 in the App Store and Google Play. While the report distinguishes between the user experience of iOS and Android users, it gives its Top 10 based on a weighted average.

Fitness the largest category, but women’s health the most important

Figure 1 from Applause report. Image credit: Applause

Figure 1 from Applause report. Image credit: Applause

In general, users were most positive about the 11 women’s health apps in the report, which scored between 67.5 and 94.5.

Women's health apps were the highest-scoring, while Period Tracker clocked an amazing 75,748 reviews among Android users. My Pregnancy Today showed the greatest balance between Android and iOS users. (Applause-ARC)

Women’s health apps were the highest scoring, while Period Tracker clocked an amazing 75,748 reviews among Android users. My Pregnancy Today showed the greatest balance between Android and iOS users. (Applause-ARC)

So why did ABISHKKING’s Period Calendar, GP Apps’ Period Tracker, and BabyCenter’s My Pregnancy Today rank so highly? One reason could be that women’s health apps are the most used, particularly around pregnancy and new motherhood. This reporter’s hunch is that these apps address a more critical emotional need than most fitness apps, which many consumers stop using after being unenthused with the UX or unmotivated to keep monitoring their physical progress — or lack thereof. Activity trackers in general have low retention rates. The Guardian reported that half of those that own activity trackers stop using them after six months.

Period counters elicit an emotional need both for those wanting and avoiding pregnancy, which may also impact them to rate the app higher than other kinds of fitness apps. For example, this recommendation shows some of feelings that come along with using Period Calendar in relation to the user’s husband.

Image Credit: Period Calendar / Tracker's Google Play Store

Image Credit: Period Calendar / Tracker’s Google Play Store

And for those that have irregular cycles, these are apps that women can depend on for years, whether to avoid pregnancy or try to conceive. Many of the period counting app reviews come from these kinds of users, such as the following.

Image Credit: Period Calendar / Tracker's Google Play Store

Image Credit: Period Calendar / Tracker’s Google Play Store

Once someone is pregnant, pregnancy apps fill a need to track one’s baby all the time and if the app works well, remind the mother-to-be of this special time in her life. Take these two users, who felt emotional about their usage of My Pregnancy Today.

Image credit: User reviews of My Pregnancy Today on the Google Play Store

Image credit: User reviews of My Pregnancy Today on the Google Play Store

Helping women understand a unique time

Geektime approached a number of pregnancy app users (all of them wanted to remain anonymous) to understand better what makes these apps so highly rated. One explained how fun and useful her pregnancy app was, saying, “Each week you get an update about what’s going on with your baby and your body, according to your pregnancy week. Also, you get a estimate to how big is the baby with really funny comparisions: cute animals, fruits, games, and pastries (i.e. baby is the size of a bunny / half a baguette / basketball hoop) that helps imagining what goes on inside your body.” She also noted that she could refer to the app with questions about medications, symptoms, and food, as well as see a calendar of her pregnancy milestones, such as ultrasounds, etc.

Another formerly pregnant interviewee mentioned that these apps and sites are useful because the first time you become pregnant, you don’t know anything, so you seek out these channels for answers to questions like, “Can I sleep on my stomach?” She also appreciated the weekly updates since ultrasounds only happen once every few weeks or more, adding that it was interesting to see what was happening at the time and what was expected to happen in the next week. In general, she described experiencing a number of new physical sensations, and constantly wanted to understand if what she was feeling was normal or not, if she had to go to the ER or not, etc.

Women approaching motherhood: a missed opportunity for wearables?

Image Credit: Bellabeat

Image Credit: Bellabeat

Activity trackers could gain a lot more traction if they became more “wearable” and women-friendly, particularly for those in child-bearing years. One interesting company attempting to innovate in this space is a startup we reported on last year called Bellabeat. Their Leaf necklace, which looks like something women might actually wear (if they can afford the $250 price tag), collects information on menstrual cycles, stress, physical activity, and breathing, acting as an all-in-one tracking device for female needs.

Still, it’s hard to imagine that most women would feel the urge to buy the Leaf or any other wearable. But they obviously are in great need of pregnancy tracking and resources — and thankfully for the human race, the app market is serving this community well.

Gedalyah Reback contributed reporting. 

Photo courtesy: WikiMedia Commons

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