If there’s one thing almost as certain as death and taxes, it’s the gastronomic over-indulgences during the holidays and the consequent new year diet needed to undo the damage. In my particular case, a temporary drop in my main form of regular exercise–cycling–didn’t help matters.
But if there’s anything that can provide that added incentive to lose the holiday pounds, it’s an excuse to involve some gadgets. Two new connected scales from Escali seemed tailor-made for the job, automatically logging both weight and calorie-intake to an iPhone app, so I decided to put them to the test …
You may recall that I reviewed the Drop kitchen scale in December. The USP of that product was a link to an iPad recipe app that walked you through baking recipes step-by-step, making them as foolproof as possible.
The USP of these Escali connected scales is that the kitchen scale can measure in calories as well as weights, and both scales connect to the same iPhone app, making it easy to track both food intake and weight.
Look & feel
Both scales have matching designs: ABS plastic casings on the rear, glossy black glass facings and mono LCD displays with a blue backlight. These scales are smart in appearance as well as functionality. The black color worked out particularly well for me as both bathroom and kitchen have a black-and-white theme.
The mono LCD display could easily look a little old-fashioned in these days when just about everything seems to have a full color one, but the blue backlight gives it a suitably hi-tech appearance when in use.
The bathroom scale is otherwise featureless aside from the Escali logo at the top and a discreet ‘Smart Connect’ label at the bottom. The kitchen scale centers everything around the display, adding four touch-sensitive buttons for power, tare (zeroing the scales if you place a container on them first), unit conversion and a built-in kitchen timer.
Pairing with the iPhone
The process for pairing the scales with the iPhone app is a little odd. First, the instruction card tells you to download the app then visit a webpage which contains the instructions. I guess doing it this way keeps the app a little lighter, but it’s slightly inconvenient, especially if you’re viewing the instructions on the same device to which you’re installing the app.
Second, while there is a ‘Use as guest’ option on the opening screen of the app, you can’t actually pair a device without creating an account. It seems odd to have an option there you can’t actually use. (I guess it may be there as you could use the app manually, without connected devices.)
Third, the bathroom scale has a button on the underside that you press to begin the pairing, but the kitchen scale doesn’t. There’s nothing to press on the kitchen scale except power, then you just wait for the app to notice the iPhone with app is waiting–which took around 30 seconds for me.
Not a big deal, just a slightly strange approach.
The button on the underside of the bathroom scale also allows you to switch between the three units offered: pounds for Americans, kilos for most Europeans and the very odd stones and pounds system we still tend to use in the UK (one stone equals 14 pounds–no, I don’t know why either).
Once you’ve selected your units, weighing yourself couldn’t be simpler. Stand on the scale and your weight is displayed. Tap the Weigh In button on the health screen of the app and it adds that day’s weight to the automatically-generated graph. (And no, that’s not my weight above–that’s a standard screengrab. My holiday feasting was bad but not that bad.)
The really smart bit about the scales is that they not only tell you the weight of the food, but if you tell the app what the food is, it will tell you the exact number of calories.
Tapping the ‘Add to Journal’ button displays the full nutritional details, and tapping the plus button confirms that you want to add it to the log of the food you’ve eaten. This integrated approach is far easier than having to weigh things, calculate calories and log them as separate steps. It is, however, not perfect.
The issue is that the search functionality didn’t seem particularly intelligent. For example, my usual breakfast is a bowl of Alpen with milk. I placed the bowl on the scale and switched it on, the scale automatically zeroing itself. I then searched for Alpen, with ‘Cereals ready to eat, ALPEN’ coming up right away. So far, so good.
I then touched the Tare button on the scale to zero it and went to add the milk. I had to scroll through three screenfuls of options before I got actual milk.
I went back into the search bar on the second screen to see whether I could narrow it down, but none of my ideas worked. Similarly, when I searched for an apple, Apple Strudel came up before an actual apple.
Now, this may be a cultural thing. I’m British, the app is American, so perhaps the choices make more sense in the USA, but sheep’s milk and soymilk before cow’s milk?
However, that aside, the process is very slick–and it remembers your recent searches, making it far quicker to select them next time. Adding several different ingredients is otherwise very simple.
One other weakness is that there’s no way to manually add calories to your food journal. Very often, eating out, the menu will tell you the calories for your meal, but the app doesn’t allow you to enter these. That’s definitely a feature I would like to see. You can, however, pick a food and then select the weight or number of servings manually, so I resorted to picking a food at random and then adjusting the manual value to match the calories. Not quite as slick!
What is slick, however, is building-in a kitchen timer, meaning one fewer device needed in the kitchen.
Tracking both calorie intake and weight couldn’t be easier. The Health screen of the app displays your weight graph and a box showing ‘Today’s Calories.’ Tap any of the dots on the graph and it will display the exact weight. Swipe left on the graph and it will display your BMI. Swipe again to see a graph of your calorie intake.
You can also review exactly what you’ve eaten on any given day, scrolling up and down to see the list, and using the left and right arrows to move between days.
The log shows you the calorie value for each individual food item, the sub-total for each meal, and the total consumed during the day. There’s all the detail here you could possibly want.
This is a great concept: making it as easy as possible to monitor both weight and calories, and integrating everything into a single app.
The hardware is excellent. The design is modern and attractive, and it feels like quality kit. Pricing is right at the top end of what you’d expect to pay even for hi-tech scales, at $150 for the bathroom scale and $100 for the kitchen scale, but you can pay significantly less on Amazon.
The app isn’t perfect. As I mentioned above, I think the search needs work, and I’d like to see a simple method to enter the calories for a meal directly.
But overall, this is a very, very slick approach to both dieting and–equally importantly–monitoring your weight and food intake after the diet, to ensure you don’t end up doing the classic thing of allowing the weight to creep back on again afterwards. With an app update or two, I think this will be the perfect solution.
The Escali SmartConnect Body Scale is available for $149.95 with free shipping direct from Escali, while the Escali SmartConnect Kitchen Scale is $99.95. On Amazon, you can find the kitchen scale from $69.95 and the bathroom scale for $99.95.