Apple's Next Big Move in Health

Why Journal + Health apps in iOS 17 Matter

In 2014 popular journaling app ‘Day One’ won a coveted Apple design award. In the years that followed, Apple gave Day One regular visibility and support in the app store. Then in 2020 that mysteriously stopped.

In April of this year, Day One founder Paul Mayne expressed dismay at being ‘sherlocked’ by Apple. Sherlocking is term that many who follow Apple will be familiar with. It describes the tech giant’s casual integration of a feature offered by other software companies into their operating system or embeded applications. Mayne had got wind of Apple’s new Journal app being developed which is due for release in a few weeks time along with iOS 17. Hence the shutting down of support 3 years earlier.

Why is this important? At the same time, Apple is using a similar strategy to allow users for the first time to track their momentary emotions and daily moods in a revised Apple Health app. Tracking of mental health symptoms has been around for years in other health products, so what’s the big deal now?

The Space

In recent years, mental health has become a topic of significant concern, and the importance of self-care and mindfulness has been increasingly recognised. Journaling and health tracking have emerged as powerful tools to aid individuals in managing their mental well-being.

In parallel, health tracking has revolutionised the way we approach personal well-being. Fitness apps have long been popular, but the focus on mental health tracking is a relatively recent development. Using various sensors and AI capabilities, these apps enable users to monitor sleep patterns, stress levels, mood fluctuations, and more. By identifying trends and patterns, users can take proactive steps to manage their mental health effectively.

With the launch of iOS 17, Apple is taking a giant leap forward in integrating journaling and mental health tracking into a seamless and empowering experience. If done well this could significantly impact the many applications which already offer these features.

Journal app

Journal is a new app that helps iPhone users reflect and practice typical journal activities such as gratitude which Apple tout as having been shown to improve wellbeing. However, unique to Apple’s product, they are using on-device machine learning and personalised suggestions to help create prompts. These will examine your recent photos, activities, people integrations and workout data to kickstart a journal entry. I do worry about the accuracy of these prompts – my digital footprint and photos are all over the place, I’m not sure if even Apple’s tech can suss out what I’m really thinking / feeling and want to be reflecting on!

Health app

However, when you combine this data from the Journal app with Apple’s new features in their Health app for iOS 17 you can see how this is Apple’s next big move. The fusion of data, journaling and mental health can be transformative if done well.

The first thing you’ll notice about the Health app is a beautiful new way for users to track their state of mind. They can move through pulsing shapes and colours (well done Apple!) to log how they’re feeling. At the same time they can quickly add the context behind this data. If users need more support then they can answer questionnaires to determine their risk level, create a PDF and share it with their doctor.

The Future

For the first time Apple are tying up some loose ends that have pervaded the mental health aspects of their Health product. By integrating a journal app they are stealthily joining the dots. Using the data from so many sources Apple will be able to build a picture of your health and mental health trends, hopefully providing you with the causation and effect of your activity and the resulting mood or ‘feeling’. This is hugely powerful. I’d like Health to say to me that based on my journal I need more sleep because I wasn’t feeling great over the past ‘x’ months for example.

For me, this is Apple’s biggest move yet in the consumer health tech space and I’m excited to test it out over time and will provide an update soon.