Review: The Kito+ iPhone case doubles as a health tracker

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Gizmag tries the Kito+ smartphone case and health tracker(Credit: Simon Crisp/Gizmag)

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Most smartphone cases are used to simply protect devices from knocks and drops – the most you can usually hope for is an extra battery or added water resistance. The Kito+ by Azoi is different in that it has somewhat loftier ambitions: it also wants to keep you healthy. The case doubles as a fitness tracker, and features a detachable module which is able to log metrics including heart rate, blood oxygen, skin temperature, respiration rate, and even give an electrocardiogram (ECG). We recently tried one out to see what it's all about.

The Kito+ is a health tracking unit which can be mounted to your iPhone 6s/6s Plus or iPhone 6/6 Plus using one of two included cases (depending on the size of iPhone you wield). The device, a 97 x 53 X 3.4 mm (3.8 x 2 x 0.13 in) and 20g (0.7 oz) slab with sensors on one face, is held in place by the black plastic case. While not the most attractive phone attire we've seen, the case is functional.

Though the inclusion of iPhone cases in the box suggests this is an iPhone only device, the business section of the Kito+ can actually also be used with other iOS or Android devices. It connects via Bluetooth LE meaning that it can be used with most modern smartphones and tablets (and without sucking ridiculous amounts of battery power). While there are no cases for Android phones that are available or in the works, Azoi says it's in the process of designing an attachment that would make it easier to carry.

The firm says its decision to target the space around your phone rather than your wrist was based on the vitals being measured, and gives users the ability to choose when readings are taken rather than doing it constantly. Unlike activity trackers which monitor things like heart rate, the Kito+ is also designed to be used at rest rather than mid-exercise.

In the box you'll find the Kito+ device, those two iPhone cases, and a USB cable which connects to a charger, which in turn magnetically connects to the face of the Kito+. While fiddly, this enables charging without taking your phone and the Kito+ out of the case.

Getting set up was straight forward and simply involved installing the Kito+ app and pairing the device with our smartphone. From there you can click to start taking health measurements though, as mentioned, this isn't done in quite the same way as most fitness trackers. Instead the process involves holding four fingers on sensors for about 30 seconds.

We found that the sensors consistently worked for heart rate, ECG, skin temperature and respiration rate, but getting a blood oxygen reading was more temperamental. After getting advice from more seasoned Kito+ users we were able to get blood oxygen data (it's all about the force of your finger on the sensor) more often, though still not every time.

The Kito+ app is incredibly easy to use, and lets users log a diary of sensor readings, which can then be scrolled back through to see in more detail. In terms of accuracy, the device is said to record correct heart rate to within 5 BPM accuracy, blood oxygen to within 3.5 percent, temperature to within 0.3 °C (0.54 °F), and respiration to within 3 breaths per minute.

This is all well and good, but left us pondering the question of how to make use of the data it provides, especially as you can only log results. There's no contextual information or insight into what the results mean. Azoi says it plans to add feedback-based features into the app, possibly along with analysis or advice based on the readings from medical professionals.

Until then, the Kito+ will be best suited to those who can interpret and understand the reading themselves, or are showing results to medical professionals. This could be health enthusiasts who want a better understanding of their vitals, health challenged individuals who need to keep tabs on factors which can affect their vitals, or people who are looking after someone and want to remotely access their daily health readings.

To decide exactly how useful the Kito+ device could be to general consumers, we decided to get the opinion of a friendly cardiology expert, someone who is far more used to reading ECGs and other health data, and could give an expert opinion on the device and its usefulness.

He initially dismissed the Kito+ as a toy, but after giving it a try conceded that it could be useful for some patients who need to track vitals over a long period of time. He was impressed by the accuracy of the device for its size and cost, and said that while ECG readings were noisy, professionals would be able to pick out the key markers.

He even felt that the Kito+ could have a limited use in some clinics where it's not always possible or practical to have the medical grade equipment. That said, Azoi does make the point that the Kito+ is designed as a personal health tracker rather than a diagnostic tool.

Kito+ is a strange device in that it arguably doesn't have as clear a target audience as other health and fitness trackers. The information it logs, that other trackers don't, isn't that accessible for general consumers without medical training. Also, because measurements are taken at rest, it's not going to suit the same sort of active fitness users as devices like the Fitbit Blaze, or Garmin Vivoactive HR.

With that said, we can see the Kito+ being a good fit for users who are concerned about their health rather than fitness, and have an on-going condition they are managing. It could also be a much-have purchase for tech-savvy hypochondriacs.

The Kito+ is available now priced at £99 (around US$145).

Product page: Kito+

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