by Azumio
operating system: iOS | price: $1.99 | size: 22.3 mb | category: Health & Fitness
Compatible with iPhone

In a year with two new iPhones, explaining all of the reason why you opted for the 64-bit, motion co-processor packed 5S over the cheaper but functional 5C to non-nerds can be a bit trying. The improved camera and flashy fingerprint scanner are easy to understand, but aren’t necessarily phone-sellers. For me, the M7 motion co-processor–which tracks accelerometer data in the background without spinning up the main processor–seemed like the reason to own the phone. It’s essentially a Fitbit built right in; of course, there was no way to tap into that potential without an app that took advantage of it. Surely every fitness app on the App Store will pack M7 features by next iPhone season, but for now, we get Argus.

At first blush, it’s hard not to like Argus on looks alone. The app features a cascading honeycomb of colorful UI pieces, each representing a health data point logged by the user. Glasses of water, your daily run, the hours of sleep you got the night before, and pictures of each meal (complete with underlying food groups) bounce and slosh in time with the phone’s movements, a cutesy version of the parallax effect iOS 7 achieves system-wide using motion data. Hold an item to sort by data of that type, or log new activity from a list at the top corner. Food logging is as simple as hitting a camera button up top, snapping your food and adding the associated food groups. You can even save images for later Instagramming, if you’re into that.

Unfortunately, there’s a dearth of custom options, like a note field for logging unusual fitness measures like body measurements other than weight and body fat, but the options that are there cover a wide array of fitness data. The trouble is that each of these handy events has to be manually logged, more or less. While it does track steps in the background, M7 does disappointingly little to automate the process of logging other fitness tasks. Argus can automatically detect when you start a run, but that disables M7’s low power operation. It can effectively track runs that are triggered manually in the background, with minimal impact on battery life. That’s nice, but not a revelation compared to any other fitness tracker out there. And with longer time frame measures–like tracking my commute–I constantly forgot to turn off the timer when I arrived at my destination. I eventually set location-gated reminders to tell me to end my commute tracking, which had me wondering why Argus can’t tap into M7 motion data once I stop moving for a while–or use geofences or background location for that matter–to automatically alert me that my commute might be over. And while M7 mitigates battery drain from GPS, the app’s required background app refresh features rained hell on my battery on occasion (this might be because of an unrelated issue with app refresh on my new 5S, so your mileage may vary).

Other automatic tracking features–like integration with Withings wireless scales, or other fitness and heart monitor applications sold by Azumio–seem promising. But they relegate Argus to a very pretty companion app to higher-end fitness tracking gear, not a standalone solution. Argus is a well-executed fitness app, but doesn’t break a lot of new ground. It demonstrates that developers still have a ways to go before the APIs for motion data on iOS can be used to achieve things currently being tracked more effectively by dedicated fitness trackers.