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iPhone app – HandyPoints

This is the draft of the App Store info page:

HandyPoints is an easy-to-use points calculator which makes it simple for you to work out the points score for any food item, and helps you on your journey to your goal weight.   Use HandyPoints to help you diet responsibly.

Just put in the right values and tap Calculate.  To start again, tap Clear or just shake the iPhone to erase.

Did you know that for the USA we use a different formula than in other countries to calculate points?  Most foods in the USA show dietary fiber values on their nutritional information packaging, whereas foods in other countries show saturated fat instead.  So the USA uses a formula based on calories, total fat and fiber; non-US countries use a formula based on calories and saturated fat content.

So HandyPoints looks at your current locale and decides whether to use the US or the Rest of World points formula initially. You can change this in your application Preferences (tap the Info button) if you want.  You can also choose to work with kJoules instead of kCalories.

Sometimes it can be good for your diet plan to know that a chocolate muffin really scores 6.8 points even if you have to enter it into your tracker as 7.   HandyPoints shows you the correct points to put into your tracker, and also shows you the exact non-rounded answer just for information.

This program was not developed, supported or endorsed by Weight Watchers or WeightWatchers.

Now the background: Liz has been following Weight Watchers for a couple of months, and needed a quick calculator for her iPhone.  The ones on the App Store had some pretty mixed reviews, and she found the ones she tried inaccurate for some cases.  So Liz has been my main beta tester for this.  She has put a lot of effort into reviewing the user interface, and checking (and double checking) all the calculations.  The app is free, and will remain so – it also has a very simple (functional) user interface, as befits such a simple app.

Now for some details about the app itself: yes, the intention is to calculate points using the Weight Watchers system.  They use one algorithm for the USA, requiring calories, total fat, and fibre, as that is what they can see on the nutritional information panels; and a different one for the rest of the world, using calories, saturated fat, but no fibre.  They also round differently – the USA rounds to the nearest point, the rest of the world to the nearest half point.  So that’s how we work it out, and we have checked the results against various web sites of food manufacturers that list points values for their products.

The UI is intentionally as simple as we could make it, which means non-glitzy; I apologise for not making it flashy and glittery, preferring to keep it in accord with human interface guidelines and functional.  I make my own custom UITableViewCells, with label and text field, with a standard keyboard attached.  Unfortunately, there isn’t an option for a numeric keyboard, so I had to use the (rather lame) numbers and punctuation keyboard.  The numeric keypad that you will sometimes see is intended for numeric only input , such as for PINs- no decimal points.  When you return in one field, it calculates using the current input and moves to the next field, clearing it for entry; on the final field, the keyboard drops down when you enter.  The calculate button is really unnecessary, but it’s there for comfort; a user can feel that they know what to do.  The clear button also isn’t essential, and exists to give the user the impression of a transactional structure to their calculations.  I don’t support rotation, either – it doesn’t feel right in landscape mode (or upside down).  

I have tested this with all variations; permitting rotation, entry into a form rather than table view, a clear button, keyboards dropping at the end of each field.  The version that I am releasing is the one that worked the best for all testers.

The App Store submission should go off in the next couple of days; I realise that things can take a little while to arrive after that.

Please post any support requests or other comments on HandyPoints as comments to this post.  And if anyone likes it a lot…

{ 2 } Comments

  1. natalie | July 19, 2009 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    So this app has a database of foods with their ponts values? also I cannot find it on the iTunes store. Has it not been approved by apple yet?

  2. paul | July 19, 2009 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Not quite – it’s a points calculator, you just look up the calories and fat content on the nutrition panel, and it calculates the points.

    However, Apple are being a bit sticky about it. We’re trying to get approval from Weight Watchers to release it, as Apple are refusing to do so without documentation from them. Despite there being a couple of apps they have approved that promote themselves as Weight Watcher points calculators (and not being as accurate as HandyPoints, of course!).

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