Thumbthing Writings by Bob Spryn, and Roderic Campbell, iOS Engineers and founders at Thumbworks

How mHealth App discovery improved in iOS 9.3

I’m always excited when Apple releases a new version of iOS. With each new update users and developers get new goodies. One of my favorite releases was 9.3. On the surface, it wasn’t drastic. There were a few nice high level marketing points, but the one change excited us the most was a little module added to the HealthKit app.


As everyone knows, computers and apps take an input and give some type of output. Which means that developers need to design, build, test and maintain both the input end of data as well as the output end. Before HealthKit, if a developer created an app that only took in input, the app would be useless. Likewise if only the output was developed, they would have no data to work with.

Healthkit Background

With the introduction of HealthKit, you develop a display for steps, and focus on the little wonderful details that make sense for your use case and you can allow some other app to actually process the input. Someone can make wonderful displays of cardio or food data knowing that someone out there will complete the cycle and provide data to HealthKit. This is the beauty of a shared data set.

What iOS 9.3 Added

Now with the introduction of iOS 9.3, users are given a list of apps that also interact with a specific data type.

Open up the Health App and take a look at any of your data sets. Let’s look at steps taken for example. Tap on the dashboard, then tap on Steps. Now scroll down. You’ll see a little module that introduces you to a few apps that add or display this data point. See the images below. See the other apps in that 3rd section?

Caffeine HK Dashboard Steps HK Dashboard Heartrate HK Dashboard

This now makes it possible for a small idea to have huge impact. Designers and developers can focus on what they do best. Maybe it is data parsing and processing. Maybe it is highly engaging displays of massive amounts of information. They can get their solution to the masses and know that users can find the other half of the implementation.

This is wonderful for big companies, small companies and independent developers with a niche skill, and for end users who now have the visibility to the apps that they need to give and display the information they want.