The Data-Driven Mom: Baby Connect iPhone app review

Edit: I posted an update to this review after using the app for about 2 months—- and then I reconsidered after using it for 10 months.

You should all know that I’m writing this review on my iPhone, as hey! It’s one of the few devices I can carry around and access one-handed while wrangling a baby! And boy, is it a lifesaver: how did moms do anything without smartphones, seriously? It’s a connection to the outside world, an entertainment device, a camera, and of course, a serious data collector.

Which brings me to my review of Baby Connect, the iPhone baby tracking app, as promised in the Baby Log review I posted earlier.

Baby Connect is $5 and well, it’s basically usurped the role of Baby Log on my phone. It provides the robust functionality I was looking for in an app—and to be specific about my situation: my baby is six weeks old, and I use the app mainly track feedings, sleep duration, and diaper changes. So parents of older children might be looking for different attributes, but that’s not what I’m looking for or rating the apps on.

But while Baby Connect is functionally good, it does lack in terms of presentation. Or put another way, while all the data you want is physically in there, it’s a real trial to find what you’re looking for sometimes. Here’s a few examples.

  • The home screen feels overly complex. Most of the screen real estate is given to a bunch of static buttons showing you which activities you can enter, and the really useful stuff about when your kid last fed or last had a diaper changed is relegated to super-tiny-text on the bottom of the screen. You can go to a List view to see this data larger, but that’s two steps instead of one, isn’t it—and time can be of the essence when you’re managing a baby and trying to figure out when you last fed her!
  • Editing prior entries takes a wee bit long. This is an example of some redundancy in the app. You can select entries you’ve made in the app and edit them, but the app always makes you go to an interim screen displaying the info about that entry before you get to the editing dialog—-where the info about that entry is also displayed as well. So why not eliminate that interim screen?
  • All logged entries are just in one long, undifferentiated list. Which is fine if you’re looking for only a chronological approach when investigating your child’s actions. But sometimes you want to sort the entries by different criteria to see what’s going on and how things stack up! For example, in Baby Log, if you tap the Sleep button, you get a list of only all the past Sleep entries you’ve made, which can be very useful (Baby Log keeps its undifferentiated chronological list of actions on its home screen).
  • Graphs are more useful, but still too small and imprecise to use for discerning patterns. There’s a lot of interesting charts here, but you still can’t zoom in and look at the data very specifically—your only option is to go to the .csv files and eyeball the raw numbers. Which is not the same as manipulating the charts visually! Seriously, I want to be able to look closely at the day-long chart of my baby’s actions and figure out if there’s common times when she feeds, sleeps, does poops, etc. Or I want to look at the chart of the common intervals for feedings and perhaps change the data that’s being graphed. If I’m doing all this terrific data collection, why not give me more visual tools to manipulate it with?

However, Baby Connect has taken over from Baby Log for a reason, and that’s because its features are super robust and intelligent beyond the presentation problems. Some favourites:

  • Sync data across devices and online! Yes! Multiple caregivers can be assigned to the same child, so if your partner installs Baby Connect on his or her phone, entries you both make get merged into one data stream for the kid. Also, there’s automatic backups to a central server (baby-connect.com) and you can even enter info through the web interface. Fantastic!
  • Intelligent timers. Say you’ve taken a few minutes to settle your kid into feeding, which means starting a feeding timer would actually be two minutes behind. With Baby Connect, you can just set the actual start time for the feed, and the app will add the extra time and continue the timer ongoing. The app is also very consistent about reporting when your baby last did an action—you can actually set it to count time since the start or the end of the last activity. As well, for past entries, you can just set start and end times and the app will automatically calculate duration for you, which Baby Log couldn’t do for some reason.
  • Export is much better. Data comes in one big .csv package dump, and you can download it from the web interface too. Nice!

So in sum, Baby Connect is the clear winner thus far, though there are some things wanting. And I’ll keep you posted as my app adventures continue!

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