Comparison Review: Blood Glucose iOS apps

[Note: If you are not a diabetic, or do not know a diabetic, this comparison chart will be of little interest to you]

MySugr

Glucose Buddy

Version Tested

3.9.0

3.7.0

Grade

B+

D+

Cost

Free/Pro up to $139.99

Free/Pro up to $13.99

Data Entry

A

D+

Charts & Graphs

B

F

Export

F/B-

D

Import

F/D-

F

Backup/Cloud

C

A

Email Data

F/B-

D+

Desktop Integration

N/A

N/A

Web Integration

B

A

Printing

N/A

N/A

Reminders

A

F

Insulin Correction Calculation

N/A*

N/A

Nutrition Calculator

N/A

F

A1C Estimator

**

N/A

Community

A

B

Annotation

A

C

 

 

 

* Not available in this version

** Need to be validated

Background

Looking for a proper blood sugar logbook really shouldn’t be this hard. You would think that at this point creating a small database of blood sugar readings and their corresponding metadata should be a breeze, but it isn’t.

Aside from the actual finger prick, the most onerous aspect of taking one’s blood sugar is the recording of the data. I have always been terrible at recording the numbers into a logbook, mostly because I rarely had a logbook with me, and secondly because my readings were often so depressing I didn’t want to put them down, knowing that I would only be scolded by my doctor later.

Yes, I know, there’s a part of me that is still a petulant 14-year-old.

With the prevalence of smartphones and corresponding apps, I had hoped that I would at least be able to solve the problem of having a logbook handy for the recording part. After all, I did know that when I did record my sugars, they tended to improve.

Criteria

When looking for an app for my iPhone, I had some very simple criteria that were must-haves. It’s important to keep in mind that many bells and whistles simply don’t matter when the app makes recording the data a chore or, worse, getting meaning out of the data an impossibility.

To that end, there were a couple of things that an app absolutely must do well.

Data Entry

As much as developers want to think their app is the greatest or pretties thing in the world, the last thing I want to do is spend more time in it than I have to. I don’t want to have to spend all my time tapping or swiping on the screen. The faster I can enter in my sugars and insulin dosages, the better.

Graphs

Graphing capability is crucial to be able to see – at a glance – trends and patterns. Assuming a regular testing pattern (*cough* *cough*) it should be possible to see if there are problem hours during the day, or long-term effects of exercise on sugars that can possibly hit hours afterwards. A simple log book won’t tell you this unless you’re specifically looking for it, and even then it’s nearly impossible.

A good app will have charts that are easy to read and interpret.

Export

Just like you need to be able to put data into the app easily, it needs to be easy to get it out as well. Sometimes you want to move the data from one app to another, or sometimes you want to be able to look at the data using Excel (or Numbers, if you’re an Apple person), and do some of your own analysis. Maybe you want to make your own charts from the data that an app doesn’t do.

In order to do any of that, and possibly even simply send the data to your doctor, you need to be able to export it. Doing it in a variety of forms (not just a large PDF file) is necessary.

Import

The corollary to that is the ability to get information into the app. If normal data entry is onerous, imagine having to input data into a new application one at a time, up to 7 (or sometimes more) times a day, every day, for weeks.

Why do this? Because you don’t actually see patterns or trends until you’ve got several weeks (or even months) of data to work with. If you happen to have this information in a table or spreadsheet form, it should be possible to import at least the raw numbers into an app in some form.

Cost

Diabetes is an expensive disease, and I don’t see any reason to add to the expense if I don’t have to. However, I’m a big believer in the fact that people should be paid for their work. Somewhere in that continuum lies the value of an app, and I think that it should be reasonable. If so, I have no problems paying if it’s going to make my life easier and, hopefully last longer – within reason.

Nice-To-Haves

There are some other features that apps tend to have, but by and large they aren’t nearly as important, or they simply aren’t features that I’m going to use. For instance, I will never, ever post my results to any social media site – but several of these apps think that broadcasting your readings to the world is an enticing feature.

Some apps have an integration into Apple’s HealthKit, which looks like it could be useful. However, I have concerns about privacy with Apple’s servers to start with, and even when I’ve attempted to get some of the apps to work with dummy data it never seemed to happen. Still, if the apps can do this and work for someone, it can be a feature for someone who wants that sort of thing.

Even so, I can see how it would be useful in my case, however. For instance, MyFitnessPal has access to thousands of food items and their nutritional value. Some glucose apps have the ability to calculate how much insulin to bolus based upon how many carbohydrates you’re eating. In theory, then, it might be possible to enter in the food requirements into MyFitnessPal, which would then sync with Apple’s HealthKit, and populate the carbohydrate field in my glucose app, which would then calculate how much insulin I need to give myself.

Yes, that would be cool, but as of this writing that kind of connectivity and automation has eluded me.

Still, some of the apps appear to be working in that direction, which means that it falls into the “nice-to-have” category.

Another example of nice-to-haves is an option for gamification, like MySugr has. In an attempt to make it more appealing to manage blood sugars properly, some apps create challenges to encourage good, healthy behavior. Is it a requirement? No, but if it works well, it’s definitely a nice-to-have. If it doesn’t work well, it can penalize an app’s overall score.

Individual Reviews

Despite the summary here, please make sure that you read the individual app review articles. The numbers presented here never speak for themselves, and I also show some information about the experience of using the apps (and, if appropriate, their related websites).

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