On the Death of MSN Health & Fitness App

Today Microsoft is killing one of its most popular apps – MSN Health & Fitness. Software giant follows its policy of cutting off older apps in favour of new ones or even in favour of bare promises.

Screenshot of MSN Health & Fitness for desktop data analysis.
Screenshot of MSN Health & Fitness for desktop data analysis.

MSN Health & Fitness is one of the legacy MSN applications, some of which Microsoft has already closed (at least in their mobile form). It came preinstalled on Windows Phones (and available on Android) and provided users with fitness data – steps counter and activity analysis (number of steps, distance, time, calories burnt). Previously this app also let people add food they ate to calculate calories intake. A huge part of the application was given to numerous links to articles on health, science news and fitness information that is posted on the web version of MSN Health & Fitness.

While MSN Health & Fitness will remain as a web service with all those articles, there will be no collecting data on mobile phones (irrespective of the platform), synching it to the web and storing this information online. While the latter is of low importance, the former is what was the best about this app. It managed to collect accurate activity information and present it in a very nice form (with the ability to look at any day since app installation). It must be somehow based on Lumia SensorCore SDK Step Counter as these two counted my steps with the same result (though Lumia Step Counter didn’t count or show distance, time and calories).

A lot of people liked the app for its fitness data presentation. I am sure that most of these people, just like me, don’t care about news and articles. We simply need the statistics shown in a beautiful way. MSN Health & Fitness delivered that.

The reason for killing the app is that Microsoft now has Microsoft Health application for all platforms and this application is focused on statistics. It is also an app that is promoted as part of Windows 10 (though is intended for mobile devices only). In terms of statistics and data collection Microsoft Health is probably superior to MSN Health & Fitness as it allows you to track not only your walking activity but also running, cycling, workouts, sleeping, heart rate and even golfing. For running and cycling, Microsoft Health will show a map of your route.

But all this glory is only a potential, a promise. Most of Microsoft Health functionality is only available if you have a Microsoft Band. Alternatively, as I understood, you can link your accounts to several other apps, like RunKeeper, MyFitnessPal, MapMyFitness or Strava. The question is why do I have to install and operate a number of applications instead of just one?

I understand that Microsoft is pushing its Microsoft Band. These gadgets are extremely popular but still not quite wide-spread and affordable. Since no other fitness gadget is said to work with Microsoft Health so far, it is clearly intended only for those who opt for Microsoft’s own device. From the marketing of devices point of view that might be excellent. From the point of view of a regular crowd with no bands, this is yet another step in alienating the public with Microsoft application policy.

Microsoft Health could be a much better and appreciated application if Microsoft realized that not everybody is ready to pay for the band. OK, I am fine with not being able to learn something new about my sleeping cycles, and I don’t cycle or jog. Golfing feature was actually kind of a laughing matter after the Band’s presentation on October 6.

Yet there are certainly ways to take the best from MSN Health & Fitness and integrate it into Microsoft Health – live tile, quick start and good synching, rich stats and beautiful presentation. My Lumia has a Motion Data activity tracker with a mapping feature (although it tracks and shows your movements only for the past 24 hours). Why not use SensoreCore and Motion Data data in Microsoft Health?

At the end of the day, I need a simple tracker that would accurately count my steps, show a map, calculate the distance, keep the stats for previous periods and not require me to activate it every time I start walking (like many fitness tracking apps do). I agree to keep all this information strictly in the phone without asking for any place in some cloud. I don’t really care if it is called Health & Fitness or simply Health.

What I don’t need is when a nice working application is being killed in favour of another one that has (in my case) extremely limited functionality. If Microsoft read all those angry comments people leave about MSN Health & Fitness deprecation, if guys from Redmond really cared about their app fans then I wouldn’t be writing this post. But those guys are busy marketing the Band and licking iOS/Android’s asses.

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