Blame the RPG's. After a generation of character building and class development in video games, quantifying our own personal stats has become as second nature as Second Life. And with these handy apps and gadgets at your disposal, you'll be power leveling through your days in no time.
Keeping tabs on your relative level of fitness has come a long way since the days of counting calories and pager-sized pedometers. These days, a new generation of wearable fitness trackers like the Nike Fuelband, Jawbone Up, and Fitbit Force will count everything from the number of steps taken in a day to your average heart rate and blood oxygenation levels—even how much and how well you sleep. The raw data gathered by the devices is then processed into actionable information by the device's associated mobile app. If you're looking to purchase a tracker, the Fitbit Force is your best bet.
Additionally, standalone mobile apps like Sleep As Android (free/$3 to unlock) or Sleep Cycle (for iOS only, $1) can help monitor not just the duration and quality of your sleep using your phone's accelerometer to monitor the number of times you toss and turn each night, they can also determine the optimal time for you to arise every morning. Plus, they double as alarm clocks.
Monitoring your caloric output is only half the battle; keeping tabs on what (and how much of it) you stuff in your face is equally important. Here are a few popular options that make tracking your eating habits a piece of cake:
MyFitnessPal - Boasting a massive database of nutritional information for more than 3,000,000 food items, MyFitnessPal is far more than just a simple calorie counter. This app also monitors your sodium, cholesterol, protein, fiber, sugar, fat, and vitamin consumption to provide a more holistic look at your overall diet. The service is completely free, includes access to a sizable social network for moral support, and can also be used with a number of fitness trackers including the Fitbit. [iOS - Android - WP]
LoseIt - LoseIt combines nutritional and activity tracking functions to make quantifying your weight loss goals a seamless experience. It offers a barcode scanner for packaged food, a calorie calculator for ingredients, and offers a wide variety of logging functions including weight, body fat, hydration, sleep cycles, exercise, and nutrition. What's more, the app can sync with the Fitbit as well as its scale, the Withings Smart Scale, the Nike Fuelband, and the Jawbone Up. While the app itself is free, you're going to have to shell out for a premium upgrade to do anything more than track your weight and body measurements. [iOS - Android]
Weight Watchers - The mobile app for this national weight loss brand tracks both your nutritional and exercise habits. I currently use it and, quite honestly, it's really clunky. The UI is a slogging mess, the food list consists of almost entirely of fast food menu items—making inputting what you eat an adventure—and the list of exercises consists primarily of Wii Sports titles. Plus it costs $20 a month. A month. On the other hand, the Points system employed by the program is easier to wrap your head around and far less intimidating than calculating calories, especially for people just starting to get back into shape and pay attention to what they eat. [iOS - Android]
CRON-O-Meter - If you don't need or want all the bells and whistles that the other apps provide, take a look at the CRON-O-Meter. This streamlined app does one thing—track your diet and exercise regimen—and does it well. The service itself is free, though the app will set you back $3, and tracks the standard litany of nutritional variables. [iOS - Android]
Responsible personal financial management is not a hallmark of the American lifestyle. In fact, American savings accounts have shrunk steadily since the 1980's to their current record lows, which only amplified the pain of the Great Recession for many US households. Be ready for the next financial meltdown by getting your finances in order. Now. Using one of these popular personal finance trackers.
Mint - One of the most popular personal finance apps available, Mint acts as a one-stop money managing guru. The program monitors and reports on your bank accounts, investment portfolios, credit cards, and insurance policies for suspicious transactions; generates reports on your spending habits and lets you set budget constraints for individual spending categories like groceries, restaurants, car and travel expenses, and entertainment. The app itself is free but you will need to both set up a Mint account and provide your confidential banking credentials for each monitored account. [iOS - Android]
BUDGT - This iPhone exclusive differs from Mint in that it requires no personal account information whatsoever—you simply enter your rate of income and manually add expenses as you go. While it doesn't offer the same level of granularity as Mint, it is a solid option for security-conscious users that aren't comfortable giving out their banking info to a third party. [iOS]
MoneyWise - The preferred budgeting app of Lifehacker, MoneyWise is a robust Android-only program with much of the same functionality as Mint. It monitors your accounts, sets and keeps you on budget, and provides detailed reports of your transaction history. MoneyWise is a freemium app and while the basic (read: free but ad supported) version should suffice for most folks, the $7 upgrade eliminates both the ads and the restrictions on how many accounts, budgets, and transactions you can have. [Android]
One of the unfortunate side effects of living in the modern world is our near constant exposure to numerous exotic and dangerous chemical compounds—byproducts of the very processes that make our gadgets, homes, vehicles, and cities possible. But their ubiquitous nature shouldn't dissuade you from at least knowing what you're absorbing.
The Personal Environment Monitor from Lapka, for example, is a component-based system capable of tracking the presence and concentrations of radiation, organic particulate, electromagnetic fields, and humidity (avaailable as individual bits or as a complete $150 set). While it's only compatible with iOS, the PEM draws its 10 mW of power directly from the device itself, rather than a wall socket, making the system completely portable.
Alternately, the Cubesensor from French start-up AirBoxLab are a bit pricier—ranging in price from $300 a pair to $600 for a half dozen, including a base station—but perform a wider array of monitoring functions. Not only does it track the local air quality, humidity, and temperature, it also keeps tabs on air pressure (notifying you of impending weather changes), noise, and light levels. Each individual cube is built to wirelessly monitor a single room in your home, transmitting its data back to the base station which then pushes reports to your smartphone. The Cubesensor app will be available on both iOS and Android once the systems begin shipping first quarter 2014.
Images: De Visu, Konstantin Sutyagin, McIek, PlusONE, Milleflore Images