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Appiphilia: The skinny on Weight Watchers app for iPhone

September 30, 2009 |  3:50 pm

Weigh-in

Remember to put your iPhone down when it's weigh-in time. Photo by: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times

The battle of the bulge is one many of us have fought at one time or another. It helps to have a buddy going through it with us. So, those of us who never part with our iPhones can have a constant built-in weight-loss companion (or nag, as the need might be).

Now competing with the numerous offerings in the App Store for diet and exercise, Weight Watchers recently added its app to the mix -- and we gave it a try. 

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Weight Watchers Mobile (Free)

What it is: Initially, Weight Watchers promoted its mobile eTools site as the answer to tracking on the go for iPhone, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile phones. And it did serve the purpose. It still is a serviceable scaled-down version that gives you immediate and mobile access to track your points usage and balance, enter food and activity and find the points value of various foods.

WW's new free iPhone application is an even slicker, more visually appealing version. For WW Online and eTools subscribers, the app gives you immediate access via EDGE, 3G and Wi-Fi to your points tracker, favorites and personalized goal that's on the main website. Connected to Wi-Fi, iPod Touches can also get the most out of this app.

The "featured recipes" include attractive pictures, serving info, prep and cooking times and level of difficulty -- and the foods' points value, of course. You can either e-mail the recipe or add it to your tracker with a tap.

When logged in, a user can access a calculator for food and activity points.

For those who aren't paid subscribers or just aren't logged in, they still can get access to the 10 recipes. (The recipes are also available, sans photos, in Airplane Mode.) Meeting information and locations are also available.

What it needs: First off, even though, to do the WW program properly, users have to weigh in weekly, there's not a way to keep track of the "lbs" as they come off. The only way to keep current the weight figure, which is listed within the app and used for calculations, is to track that on the main website. Not very mobile.

Because 10 tasty recipes are featured, it seems as though the application should include a shopping list for each and the ability to tag them as favorites to keep them for later without having to email them.

Believe it or not, not every location has sufficient wireless reception or access to Wi-Fi. It'd be more useful to have offline tracking functions as well, that sync once connected.

Lastly, one of the cool things about the Weight Watchers website and the in-person program is the sense of community. That is missing in the app. To capture this, developers might include a feed of a user-selected or WW spotlighted forum. 

Bottom line: It's kind of like losing that first 10% of your overall weight -- a great start. But it still has a little further to go to meet goal.

-- Michelle Maltais

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