Background: Hands-free voice-activated assistants and their associated devices have recently gained popularity with the release of commercial products, including Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Voice-activated assistants have many potential use cases in healthcare including education, health tracking and monitoring, and assistance with locating health providers. However, little is known about the types of health and fitness apps available for voice-activated assistants as it is an emerging market.
Objective: This review aimed to examine the characteristics of health and fitness apps for commercially available, hands-free voice-activated assistants, including Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Methods: Amazon Alexa Skills Store and Google Assistant app were searched to find voice-activated assistant apps designated by vendors as health and fitness apps. Information was extracted for each app including name, description, vendor, vendor rating, user reviews and ratings, cost, developer and security policies, and the ability to pair with a smartphone app and website and device. Using a codebook, two reviewers independently coded each app using the vendor’s descriptions and the app name into one or more health and fitness, intended age group, and target audience categories. A third reviewer adjudicated coding disagreements until consensus was reached. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize app characteristics.
Conclusions: The emerging market of health and fitness apps for voice-activated assistants is still nascent and mainly focused on health education and fitness. Voice-activated assistant apps had a wide range of content areas but many published in the health and fitness categories did not actually have a clear health or fitness focus. This may, in part, be due to Amazon and Google policies, which place restrictions on the delivery of care or direct recording of health data. As in the mobile app market, the content and functionalities may evolve to meet growing demands for self-monitoring and disease management.