Avatar-based smartphone health app launches

Samsung has launched a health app designed for its Android-based Galaxy S4 smartphone that features an avatar that grows fatter or thinner with the user, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Called the S Health Buddy app, it allows users to choose from five different characters--two female, two male and one animal--that act as avatars of the user as he or she eats and exercises. The app, which is free on the Google Play Store and currently only available in Samsung's home market of Korea, calculates how the user is doing in terms of calories based on recorded food intake, hours of exercise, and the user's initial input of height and weight.

The Korean manufacturer is a major competitor of Apple in the smartphone market. Samsung's Galaxy S4 smartphone, designed to compete with Apple's iPhone 5, has gotten the attention of research firm Frost & Sullivan for "transforming the mobile device into a health monitoring tool" with an updated version of the S Health app and its built-in pedometer to track steps and deliver food nutrition information.

Nevertheless, Apple, first with the iPhone and then the iPad, continues to dominate the mHealth market on the clinician side. An October 2012 report from research firm KLAS found more healthcare providers use Apple than any other device, which is fueled by "user preference as physicians bring their own devices into organizations to help them provide patient care."

On the consumer side, Apple is rumored to be unveiling its iWatch by the end of 2013, which may have activity tracking capabilities.

To learn more:
- read the WSJ blog