Cell phone monitoring your heart rate

When a smartphone's flash illuminates the skin, its camera can capture the miniscule color changes that happen each time the heart beats. Because you have to hold fairly still for this process, these apps don't provide the sort of continuous monitoring that external heart rate monitors can provide; with these apps, you'll have to stop what you're doing for about 10 seconds to take your pulse. Dozens of heart rate monitoring apps take advantage of smartphones' built-in ability to provide a quick and easy way for users to take their own pulse — no math required.

We recommend looking for one of these apps. Some heart rate monitor apps on the market require users to take their own pulse, tapping their fingers on the screen with each heartbeat. A few are simply timers that do little more than tell you how long to count your own heartbeats. There is little point to downloading these apps, as they don't save much trouble over simply taking your own pulse. Why measure your heart rate?

How to measure your heart rate with any Android phone

Knowing your heart rate can provide you with helpful information about your health, according to the American Heart Association AHA. Changes in your resting heart rate can signal a medical problem, according to the organization, and the number of times your heart beats per minute can hint at your fitness level. For most people, the number lands between 60 and beats per minute. Likewise, exercisers may want to measure their heart rate to see if they're working hard enough. A good target is 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate, according to the AHA.

Your maximum heart rate is approximately minus your age. We tested the app by comparing its results with manual pulse-taking, and found that it was quite accurate — within a beat or two per minute. The app also lets you record your heart rate and tag each measurement with details about what you were doing at the time, ranging from "just woke up" to "exercising" to "resting.

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The app is very easy to use, with clear instructions and a simple interface, and it can be set to remind you to measure your pulse with push notifications. A heart rate target zone calculator is included.

The ads in the free version are unobtrusive. The downside to the free version of Instant Heart Rate is that you can save only your five most recent measurements. However, you can save older records by downloading and syncing your data with Azumio's free fitness app, Argus, or by manually exporting the data in a. CSV file.

A pro upgrade also gets you graphs of heart rate trends over time, and nixes the ads. Accuracy was assessed by comparing the results to the clinical gold standard measurements. These are the electrocardiogram ECG , which measures the electrical activity of the heart using leads on the chest, and fingertip pulse oximetry which uses photoplethysmography.

The Best Heart Rate Monitor Apps

The study included patients who had their heart rate measured by ECG, pulse oximetry, and each app using each phone. The researchers found substantial differences in accuracy between the four apps. The non-contact apps performed less well than the contact apps, particularly at higher heart rates and lower body temperatures. The non-contact apps had a tendency to overestimate higher heart rates.

But the performance of the two contact apps was also different. One app measured heart rate with comparable accuracy to pulse oximetry but the other app did not give the correct measurement. The researchers tried to find the reason for the difference in performance between the two contact apps. But they found that the variation could not be explained by camera technology iPhone 4 versus iPhone 5 , age, body temperature, or heart rate itself. References 1Coppetti T, et al. Accuracy of smartphone apps for heart rate measurement. These apps — often workout trackers — have their own pros and cons.

This app is part pedometer, part sleep tracker and part heart rate monitor. The heart rate monitor feature is simple to use and offers nice stats, including weekly and monthly averages, lows and highs. The app records the time and date of each measurement, but doesn't offer options for tagging entries with user activities at the time. As a result, this app is probably best for people interested in tracking a specific heart rate measurement, such as their resting heart rate, or heart rate during exercise.

Its sleep tracker includes a motion sensor and a microphone to detect snoring or sleep talking, and the app includes a smart alarm intended to wake you gently.

As well as measuring your heart rate with a finger over the camera, this app lets you use your smartphone's front camera to measure your heart rate in your face. Simply hold the phone in front of your face, centered over the app's face icon. The icon will turn green when your face is properly centered.

Our tests of the front camera function showed that this heart rate measurement was accurate, albeit tougher to get than if you were using the back camera and a finger. You'll need to be in bright light and hold very still, without talking. Still, this is a nice feature to have in case you don't want to smear a sweaty finger all over your camera lens while working out. The Heart Rate app also offers a history log and nice graphs for tracking heart rate over time.

Pulse Tracker & Stress Test

Occasional pop-up ads with an elusive "X" button are a downside. This app keeps 30 days of records, exportable in a CSV file.

You can now check your heart rate using only your smartphone and an app

It also includes a cute cartoon cardio workout, consisting of seven minutes of exercises meant to get your heart pumping. The exercises aren't complicated they include jumping jacks, wall sits and lunges , but they're a nice little bonus on an otherwise simple app. One fun aspect of Cardiio is that it offers you comparisons for where your heart rate falls compared to, say, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps' resting heart rate, or the average resting heart rate of people living on the island nation Mauritius.

Overall, Cardio Buddy has a nice display and a fun graph feature that compares your heart rate to both the average heart rate in various nations and to those of random animals. Did you know a goat's resting heart rate averages 75 beats per minute? Without the pro upgrade, this app doesn't have too many perks — you can't even export data.

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But Cardio Buddy's graphing feature, which shows weekly and monthly averages, lows and highs, is one of the easiest to navigate of all the apps we tested.