My favorite iPhone app is the one that irritates me the most — here's why

Fitness app on an iPhone 12 running iOS 17.5
(Image credit: Future)

There's probably no other app on my iPhone that provides as much use to me as Fitness. It is also the iPhone app that has the best odds of driving me insane. That's quite the duality, so let me explain.

I approach exercise with the same enthusiasm a cat has for a bath — we have mutually decided we have little use for one another. Yet, my wife and daughter have, perhaps unwisely, decided they want me around for the long term, so exercise I shall.

Fitness, added to the iPhone as part of the iOS 16 update, has been one of the primary motivators to get me up and moving. With Fitness, you can set a daily move goal, and the app dutifully track how many steps you take and how far you travel as you attempt to meet that goal and close your move ring. Fitness does all this without the aid of an Apple Watch — good news for those of us who don't want to spend $249 and upwards to track something we're doing at point of bayonet.

To keep you moving, Fitness awards badges — little graphical acknowledgements when you've met your goals every day of the week or fulfilled the requirements of a monthly challenge. You can roll your eyes at the concept of gamification, but it's an effective motivator for me.

Fame, power, money, the love of another human being — I have never wanted these things as much as I've wanted my phone's Fitness app to give me a virtual pat on the back.

And herein lies my aggravation with Fitness. Sometimes, the app is a little slow when it comes to handing out kudos. And that's enough to drive me right up a tree (assuming the Fitness app remembers to include the distance up that tree toward my Move goal).

Awards in the Apple Fitness app shown on a blue background

(Image credit: Future)

Above, you'll see a look at my trophy case of Monthly Challenge badges taken at the start of July. Eagled-eye viewers will notice that the June 2024 badge is missing in action. Guess ol' Phil didn't meet the requirements of the challenge, huh?

Monthly Move rings displayed in the Apple Fitness app for iPhone

(Image credit: Future)

Reader, I most certainly did. The challenge in June was to surpass my average for calories burned 14 times during the month. I'll spare you the trouble of having to count all those closed rings in the above screenshot, but I met the challenge 25 times, and the last time I checked 25 was more than 14. GIVE DADDY HIS BADGE.

It gets more irritating. My movement-filled June contained two perfect weeks, in which I closed my ring without fail. The Fitness app insisted that my last perfect week came at the end of May. This should not be something that is subject to dispute.

I'd be the first to admit this is a pretty silly thing to get worked up about — oh, is baby not getting his precious badges? But then I remember Apple's increasing presence in tracking health data to help everyone from patients to doctors get glanceable, actionable views on trends. It's a valiant aim that could help a lot of people take control of their health — if the data's collected and conveyed in a reliable way. And seeing something as simple as gamified exercise data acted on with some delay doesn't exactly fill me with confidence.

Put it another way: if the Fitness app occasionally stumbles when being asked to figure out if seven completed Move rings represents a perfect week, can I really trust the larger Health app to handle more complex data any better? Maybe that's an unfair question, but it reflects the tracking experience I've had with Apple's software.

As it turns out, my badges did appear once I updated my iPhone 12 to the iOS 17.6 public beta. I do wonder if the fact that I have different iPhones running different software versions causes the Fitness app to trip on some of my Move data. It shouldn't — the iPhone 12 is the only one I take when I exercise — but you never know.

That said, I don't think I should have to check for software updates when my Move badges don't appear as scheduled or that my wife should have to keep rebooting her Apple Watch when it stops sending data to the Fitness app on her phone. These should be things that should simply work — especially if Apple wants to be taken seriously as a monitor of health and fitness info.

All that said, I'm very glad to have the Fitness app on my iPhone because the alternative is a less active me. I just wish that Apple recognized that gamification without prompt rewards just isn't going to work in the long run — and that I expect to see that July 2024 badge show up the minute I close the appropriate number of move rings.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.

  • MusoZA
    This frustrates me too, and I have sent feedback to Apple about it.

    I find that if I restart my iPhone, then when I launch the Fitness App, it "wakes up" and gives me the missing award.

    Not a satisfactory solution though....