Review: Glucose Buddy (iOS App)

Prepare to Tap!

Prepare to Tap!

App Name: Glucose Buddy

Version: 3.7.0

Developer: Azumio

Date Updated: October 12, 2012

Cost: Free; up to $13.99 for additional features

Overall Score/Value: D+

A part of the ongoing review of diabetic glucose applications for iOS/iPhone.

Executive Summary

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. An all-around painful experience with useless charting capabilities, whose only saving grace is the tight integration with a more-capable (but still limited) companion website.

Data Entry/Edit: 4/10

Individual data entry points for every single thing made using this app a chore. Coupled with the need to remember the appropriate sequence or risk resetting the entry to square one.

Limited graphs! W00T!

Limited graphs! W00T!

Charting/Graphing: 2/10

A rigid, pointless single chart will tell you the plot points for the high, low, and average of the day. Impossible to determine trends, patterns, as well as difficult to read in the first place.

External Integration

Import/Export Data: Website only, CSV exporting only.

Backup/Restore/Migrate/Cloud: A sync button on the home page provides for upload to website.

Desktop Integration: None.

Web Integration: Website is far more useful for accessing data, viewing charts (still limited), and good community forums.

Email: You can email log entries to any recipient as an embedded table in the body of the email.

Printing: None.

Extras:

Reminders: None. (see below)

Insulin Correction Calculation: None.

Nutrition Counter/Calculator: None. (see below)

Full Review:

Wro-ooong! Do it again!

Wro-ooong! Do it again!

I went back and forth on Glucose Buddy between a C- and a D+, changing the score several times. The app simply is terrible, and I found myself dreading using it especially later in the day, where you have to create an individual entry for each and every thing you do (take blood sugar, take medication, take more medication, etc.).

The experience is mitigated somewhat by additional capabilities of the website, but ultimately I needed to resort to the lower grade because this review is about the app, not the website. The app itself deserves a C-, but combine with the outrageously high price for 2-way sync and add-ons for tracking weight, blood pressure, and getting rid of ads (each!), it brought down the overall value considerably.

Despite the app’s claim for high rankings by various Diabetes organizations, the app simply does not do what it claims to do. Screenshots in the App Store show the ability to provide reminders as well as calorie tracking – neither feature existed in the app itself.

Tap! Tap! Tap!

Data Entry is the key job, and to that end Glucose Buddy was the worst of the first four logging apps that I tested.

The screen shows a large scrolling dial on the lower left-hand side, along with a phone dial-pad for entering in values. In fact, one of the few positive aspects of the app is the large and easy-to-read choices. It does make it easier to make your selection.

Time to start over... again.

Time to start over… again.

Select items in the wrong sequence, however, and you’ll find yourself starting over from scratch.

For instance, the tabs across the top of the screen represent blood sugar, medicine, food, activity, etc. If you happen to scroll down to the time you’re recording this – say, after lunch – and then realize that you are recording your medication and not your blood sugar, whoops! Everything resets back to the default (i.e., “Out of Bed.”). Select the “BG” field to enter in your glucose so that the number pad shows up, and then scroll to the correct timing, and whoops!

Leaving aside the tapping necessary for entering in values, the number of screens to wade through is simply obnoxious. Compared to the other apps, there were easily 5x to 10x the number of steps to do the same process.

Let’s say we’re entering in medication at night. The process goes something like this.

  • Tap the add log button. Switch to new page.
  • Tap the M tab. Switch to new page.
  • Tap the Add Medicine field. Switch to new page.
  • Tap the medication type. Checkmark appears.
  • Tap the “add log” (a.k.a. “back”) button. Switch back to previous page
  • Tap the medication you just added. Number pad appears.
  • Enter the value.
  • Scroll to the meal type (optional).
  • Tap save.

Then you get to repeat from beginning for blood sugar and/or additional medication. Tap. Tap. Tap. Fun. Fun. Fun.

Compare this to, say, MySugr, where all the data entry for all sugars and medications is located on a single page without needing to change screens or make multiple entries, and it’s easily several times the time and effort.

Chart madness

Chart madness

Most disappointing, however, is the charting. Or, perhaps I should say, the chart.

The chart picks the high, low, and average of the day and plots them together as 3 specific points. There is no way to tell when the high hit, when the low hit, or – if you’re looking at a period of time at a glance – whether there is any type of trend or pattern. It doesn’t tell you how many highs or low, or even how many tests you’re looking at through the day.

If you happen to be high once during the day but had mostly normal numbers, the chart does not show this, as statistical outliers are treated as normative data.

Almost to add insult to injury, the graph shows a misleading “normal” range between ~85 to ~115, which is normal for non-diabetics. As you can see from the picture below, however, the impression is that even average blood sugars look irresponsibly high in the chart.

There is a little better hope when going to the website, though. There are some additional charting options where you can see better longitudinal tracking of the sugars, and even match up some trending elements.

Much better graphs on the website

Much better graphs on the website

There is a logic, to it, true...

There is a logic, to it, true…

However, it isn’t practical to rely so heavily on the website to obtain usefulness out of the data that you record. You cannot, for instance, go to the doctor with the app in hand and offer any real form of useful information, and I’ve rarely had access to a computer while in a doctor’s office with Internet access. Even the logbook itself on the phone’s screen makes it difficult to decipher at a glance.

Conclusion

Lest you think that I may have not given the app a chance, during the 30-day review I entered in 260 logs. That’s almost 9 entries per day on average. If there was going to be any useful data to be gathered by the app during this time, I would have found it.

Glucose Buddy is simply an awkward, inefficient application that relies too heavily on the website to be of any use. Which, of course, means that the application isn’t of much use at all. Considering that it hasn’t been updated since 2012 (as of this writing), it indicates the amount of dedication that the developers have for it, too.

Perhaps this closing thought may put things into perspective: my “treat” for writing this blog was not using the app any longer.

I would avoid this app and look at some of the other ones available.

Website is far more readable

Website is far more readable

Overall Grade: D+

[Note: No remuneration or consideration was given for this review. I paid for the app personally. Please be sure to check out my other reviews for diabetic iOS blood glucose/logbook apps]

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