Currently submitted to: JMIR mHealth and uHealth
Date Submitted: Oct 5, 2017
Open Peer Review Period: Oct 5, 2017 - Nov 30, 2017
What is the quality of publicly available physical activity apps? A review and content analysis
Within the new digital health landscape, the rise of health apps creates novel prospects for health promotion. The market is saturated with apps that aim to increase physical activity (PA). Despite the wide distribution and popularity of PA apps, there are limited data on their effectiveness, user experience, and safety of personal data.
The purpose of this review and content analysis was to evaluate the quality of the most popular PA apps on the market using healthcare quality indicators.
The top-ranked 400 free and paid apps from iTunes and Google Play stores were screened. Apps were included if the primary behavior targeted was PA; targeted users were adults; the apps had stand-alone functionality. The apps were downloaded on mobile phones and assessed by two reviewers against the following quality assessment criteria: 1) users’ data privacy and security, 2) presence of Behavioral Change Techniques (BCTs) and quality of the development and evaluation processes, and 3) user ratings and usability.
Despite the popularity of PA apps available on the commercial market, there were substantial shortcomings in the areas of data safety and likelihood of effectiveness of the apps assessed. The limited quality of the apps may represent a missed opportunity for PA promotion.