The popular diet and weight loss app MyFitnessPal is moving its free barcode scanning feature behind the paywall. For years, users with free accounts could use this tool to scan food barcodes for easy logging and tracking of daily calorie intake, but the company recently announced that from October 1, a premium account is required.
MyFitnessPal’s daily calorie count is an important part of the app, with the barcode scanner providing a shortcut to find the nutritional content for a specific food item from the app’s huge food database. Much of that database is user-generated, with both free and premium users able to add food by entering a label’s nutrition facts and barcode. Once October 1, free users will still be able to search the database for their food entries, but the barcode scanner will cost $19.99 per month or $79.99 for an annual subscription, along with other premium features. And all new users who create a free account on or after September 1 will be banned from scanning barcodes even earlier unless they pay.
This Grim Move Comes After MyFitnessPal redesigned its app in May, which puts more useful information on the home screen for premium users, while adding more ad scrolling and pop-ups for free users. While the loss of the handy barcode scanning feature may come as a bit of a shock to longtime MyFitnessPal users, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the app sacrifices user experience to maximize ROI after being sold by Under Armor in 2020 to venture capital firm Francisco Partners.
Free features going behind a paywall in the world of tech isn’t a new concept, of course — it’s actually quite common in the fitness category of tech, like when Fitbit moved its sleep data insight to its premium service or when the Oura Ring went from a premium. hardware product with free software to just premium everything, and users were angry. Companies may feel pressured to increase profits by monetizing popular features, but it hits hard when they do so with features that have life-changing benefits.
As a personal user of MyFitnessPal with a check-in streak of 2,632 consecutive days, I’ve used the app to change my habits, lose weight, and get in better shape like many others. Being a free user, I knew the compromises and resisted the ads and onslaught of popups urging me to go premium because I like logging every morning and tracking my weight. That database of food and nutrition information built up by users is such a valuable resource when I choose to be stricter and record every bite of my daily intake.
By losing the barcode scanner, MyFitnessPal is doing its users a blatant disservice. Losing weight and being aware of what you eat is hard enough. I’m embarrassed enough to manually search the app for the nutritional value of half of an entire Costco pizza after letting myself make some bad decisions, so it seems wrong to add more friction to the process when someone just wants to log his cup of Greek yogurt. And anyone who’s made major changes to their eating habits knows it’s a delicate balancing act to maintain weight, and anything that even slightly gets in your way can tip the scales toward undoing it. weeks of hard work in one day.
MyFitnessPal is clearly looking to maximize profits, but if the popular r/loseit subreddit is any indication, many users may consider switching to competing apps such as Cronometer, Loseit or Macros about this loss. MyFitnessPal will likely continue to add more premium features such as recipes, nutrition plans, and anything else the app is into. The reality may be that most people just want the easiest tool possible to log their calories and weight, and MyFitnessPal takes a big L here. Maybe it’s time to end my streak.