It seems like a perfect fit – we all want to be more active and eat better, and more of us than ever are using smartphones … so it only makes sense that there has been an explosion of health and fitness apps on iPhone and Android devices.
Don’t get me wrong – there are some great apps out there, things like RunKeeper, FoodUcate, Lose It, Couch-to-5k, and more. Those apps use the GPS, or maintain a great database that is based on established health science, and so on. In other words, they are good health program – made mobile.
But for every one of those, there is an app like ‘Acne Pwner’, which the FTC removed from app stores and fined the company for false advertising. The basic claim was that the light from the screen could cure acne. No, really – that is what they claimed!
Over at the Washington Post they are reporting on a major study that focused on health-related smartphone apps. Here is a snip:
In an examination of 1,500 health apps that cost money and have been available since June 2011, the center found that more than one out of five claims to treat or cure medical problems. Of the 331 therapeutic apps, nearly 43 percent relied on cellphone sound for treatments. Another dozen used the light of the cellphone, and two others used phone vibrations. Scientists say none of these methods could possibly work for the conditions in question.
The basic advice from the article is simple – if an app is claiming the ability to cure something it is bogus. Period. Chances are these apps cost money, which reveals the true motivation. These ‘snake oil’ apps and developers range from something like Mobile Gym that essentially wants you to pay $5 to use your iPhone as a free weight, to one that has you use the vibrate function to ‘vibrate fat cells away’, all the way to apps that claim to perform a Cardiac Stress Test and others that use Light Therapy to treat acne and seasonal affective disorder (SAD)!
While some want more government oversight or app store owners to vet these claims, ultimately the responsibility rests with consumers: apps are utilities – they can help you assess the actual nutrition of that mean at Applebee’s or provide more information about something on the shelf at your local supermarket or even track your walking or running habits … but the lights, sounds, and vibrations are not going to cure anything but your need to hear some great music or knock down a tower with a lightsaber-weilding bird.
Source: Washington Post