Trying to lose weight, get into better shape, or just eat more healthily? Many of the health-related apps on the market have a common and very annoying trait — they want users to divulge each and every bite they’ve taken, often asking for specific food types or brands, or even having the poor dieter enter his or her own estimate of calorie intake. A new innovative app called Lark (free) wants to make life easier for those who are working on lifestyle changes by making food and activity tracking as simple as having a conversation with a friend.
After loading Lark from the App Store, users are guided through a simple setup process that includes creating an account, connecting Lark to the iOS Health App, and answering a few simple questions. After that, the conversation starts. Lark has a simple user interface that looks somewhat like Messages — on one side, Lark makes comments or asks questions, while the app user’s responses appear on the other side of the iPhone window. Lark is quite the conversationalist, asking questions about what food was eaten, pointing out how good (or not so good) a day the user is having activity-wise, and providing tips on health-related issues.
The user answers Lark by typing answers on the iPhone keyboard or using Siri dictation. Through the answers provided and by sharing activity information from the Health app, Lark logs activity, sleep, and food intake on an easy-to-undesrtand list. Lark has an Apple Watch companion app that makes it quite simple for Watch owners to answer conversations and receive coaching tips throughout the day.
Lark is a bit odd when it comes to entering meals. Sometimes, it remarks that users are entering information that’s too detailed. On the other hand, not providing enough detail will sometimes result in being chastised — I told it I drank lemonade at lunch, and it told me that I shouldn’t have had that “sugary drink.” It was a sugar-free lemonade mix, so next time my response will be “sugar-free lemonade”.
Activity tracking must be geared towards true exercise in the app. I was working up a sweat for 90 minutes doing some hard cleaning of my house, but Lark counted that as only 6 minutes of activity. Taking a brisk walk did count, however. Through our conversations, Lark is capturing a surprising amount of information about what I eat, my activity patterns, and even how much sleep I get every night. It uses that information to give me short motivational messages and even educate me on what I can do better.
Despite not being perfect, Lark is an app that I’m keeping on my iPhone and Apple Watch. Instead of requiring super-detailed accounting of each bite I take, it wants to know what I’ve consumed in general. It’s like having a friend to talk to about my health, and Lark does a very good job of providing hints, tips, and encouragement throughout the day.