Aug 31 AT 10:07 AM Clark Wimberly 32 Comments

Check your pulse with Instant Heart Rate

Lately it seems like every few days I discover something in the Market (usually through AppAware) that leaves me highly impressed or scratching my head. Instant Heart Rate did both.

Instant Heart Rate uses your phone’s built in camera (and flash, if you’ve got one) to measure the color of the surface of the skin on your fingertip. In doing so, the app is able to detect tiny shifts in color each time your heart beats. When sitting still and in good light, I’ve found the app to be a near perfect stand-in for a real heart monitor. It really can dial into your pulse, even displaying the beats visually on-screen with a blinking heart icon.

I haven’t tested Instant Heart Rate without the flash- I assume it wouldn’t perform nearly as well. With the flash though, my fingertip was glowing bright red and the app seemed to have no problem picking up my pulse.

There are a handful of other heart rate apps in the Market, but most of them rely on 3rd party hardware (like a bluetooth heart monitor) or on manually entering your pulse/beats. As far as I know, this is the only one doing it using just the phone hardware.

You guys getting accurate readings with this thing? The comments in the Market look fairly positive but I’m always interested in what our readers think. Go try the app then vote in the poll below- I want to know how accurate it is in a large sample test.

Clark is a developer living in Austin, Texas. He runs ClarkLab, a small web firm with his wife, Angie. He's a big fan of usability, standards, and clean design.

    Most Tweeted This Week

  • wirbly

    Wow, that’s just… wow.

  • Tebbe

    I was able to get it to work without the flash by putting my finger on the camera lens, then putting my fingernail against the white background of this page. I assume it would work similarly well in sunlight or with your finger near a desk lamp.

  • http://Website jerry


  • http://Website J


    • http://Website Cesar Trevino

      I think he was having a sporadic heart attack and this app wrote everything he said in caps to imitate what he was really saying in real life.

  • eshaan

    wow this app is amazing

  • http://Website NeoteriX

    I think I need a brighter light… my Evo’s flash is too far away.

    • http://Website mike

      The flash on my Evo is 2 centimeters away from the camera. How far is yours?

  • http://Website b w

    It works fine on my Nexus One running 2.2 stock. Very interesting technology. This is why developers need our support.

  • Nicko01

    This is an awesome idea! I have never seen something like this before. It’s a great use of hardware in a way that most would have never imagined (unless you know a lot about medical machines, that is).

  • http://Website Synr

    Works great on my Droid, even in a dark room. Amazing!!

  • http://Website nate

    It didn’t work too well for me, it had me between 400 and 450 bpm while sitting down for breakfast.

    • Clark Wimberly

      You should get to a hospital.

    • http://Website Ed

      ya, I get between 175- 185 bpm no matter what kind of light i use . am using a samsung captivate galaxy phone

  • http://Website RS

    Worked fairly well for me even without the light turning on.

    I used the app first. I then took my heart rate manually with a stop watch and the numbers were fairly close.

  • http://Website joe

    I wonder if this will work on my MyTouch3g, since the camera gives everything a darker tint from what my eyes see

    • http://Website don

      Mine worked fine when I went outside in the sunlight. I didn’t try the white sheet of paper or a bright light.

  • http://Website Ryan Kim

    My Aria doesn’t have a flash, but it works fine if I hold it up to a bright light.

  • http://Website Asantha

    Working perfectly on the HTC Hero (no flash), but it really depends on the texture colour of your skin. I have a friend with rough hands and it doesnt detect his heart beat!

  • Snafu77

    I’m in awe. That’s how cool this is. I just finished taking my BP and pulse a few minutes before reading this post and installing the app. It works perfectly on my Nexus One (stock 2.2). The room lighting was low and I decided to try it in low light before turning on any big lights. No problems at all. The LED lights up any of my fingers enough to accurately register my heart rate.
    I just can’t tell you how cool this is for someone who monitors their (or someone else’s) vital signs regularly. I didn’t see a method to donate on the company website but that’s how good this is, it made me want to show the developer I appreciate their work.

  • http://na andro


  • http://Website Pete

    Works well, accuracy is great. Just hold to the light or use outdoors.

  • ensee

    Got a friend whose a nurse to check my pulse….58 Then checked it using app…… 57 so pretty good ! Works like a dram on my HTC Desire

  • alfredocoy

    i get several different numbers. do i have afib or do the different numbers mean different things?

  • http://Website Nick

    From all the comments it sounds like it’s accurate, which is why for a pulse rate of 100 bpm I hope you were just doing some brisk walking right before you recorded that… it’s quite high. Right now, my resting pulse rate is 54 bpm and I can’t imaging talking and recording a video bumping that up an extra 40 to 50. 100 bpm is halfway towards a full cardio workout!

  • Tomash

    Wow, pulse oximetry using only the hardware of a smartphone? Smart!

  • vale

    this application is availably?
    in my android market is NOT availably

  • Vishnoo Rath

    To get best results from non-flash enabled phones, light a torch under your fingers and then use the same. Accurate to plus / minus 5 bpm

  • JC

    I took my pulse manually and then took my pulse with the app.
    The app displayed my pulse as one less than me taking it manually. I’d say that’s pretty accurate. :D

  • Lynn

    Yes, technically wow. But, for us, incredibly useful as my son has a heart condition, and we use it to track his racing pulses as his heart beats so fast, over 200bpm it’s almost impossible to count manually. The app seems to cope with this, in as much as it tells us the numbers, and, yes, he is off the graph, but most importantly he will allow me to use it on him, which is most certainly not the case with the pulse oximeter!

  • marie R

    i have seen an new app like instant HR : Heart Beat Rate.
    Moreover, advice is proposed to improve your fitness and limit your cardio risk
    The design is much better
    See you