Wednesday, January 28, 2015

This New Calorie Counting App from CARROT is Rude, Offensive, and Downright Mean. And I Love It.

Technology / Mobile

The folks at CARROT have a whole suite of apps corralled into a family of products with the same concept, tone, and art direction. The premise is this: An artificial intelligence is living in your smartphone. It’s watching you and your every horrible decision. It has disdain for the human race, so it bullies you into being a better person with insults, jeering, and jabs not unlike your personal wolf-pack. These are my kind of productivity apps. And they should be yours too.

CARROT’s new calorie counting app.

I took the newest of the bunch, CARROT’s calorie counting app CARROT Hunger – The Talking Calorie Counting App, on a test drive this week and I’m blown away. From a psychological sense, it works. I’m entertained. I want to see what CARROT’s going to say when I please it – and more so,

the full suite of CARROT productivity apps

Make sure you’ve got the audio on because so much of the humor hits harder with the robo-voice. You’re onboarded with some healthy quips mirroring the sales message. You enter your personal information about your weight, age, and height. It then calculates a daily allotment for calories for you to consume, but not exceed. You tell CARROT what you’ve consumed after every meal by searching through a database powered by the Nutritionix API, and it adds it all up. As you enter each item, it gives you a real-world activity you’re going to have to do to negate the effects.

For instance, if you tell CARROT you’ve consumed a Nutrageous bar, it tells you to walk 3.1 miles to counteract your transgression. It really makes you think twice. I personally made better decisions about what I ate just because it was top of mind. We’ll see if that sticks


Pages within the CARROT Hunger app displaying how to track Calories and Exercise.Pages within the CARROT Hunger app displaying how to track Calories and Exercise.

Pages within the CARROT Hunger app displaying how to track Calories and Exercise.


Pages within the CARROT Hunger app displaying how to track Calories and Exercise.


It works the other way too. If you’re exercising, you can tell your new A.I. overlord you’ve hit the gym and she’ll (yes, it’s a she) knock back your calorie count.

The copywriting is brilliant.The consistent tone of a race of robot overlords whipping the human race into shape persists through every communication. Every prompt, selfless promotion, notification, threat, and ad (yes, ads) is funny. It cross-markets the rest of the family of apps in logical and welcome ways too.


 CARROT Hunger app page displaying the user hitting a record amount of calories eaten

CARROT Hunger app page displaying the food database with calorie information

CARROT Hunger app page displaying the user going over their daily allotment of calories

CARROT Hunger app page displaying a prompt to share a photo of your food with friends

A received phone message including a photo of oatmeal topped with strawberries, and a text message sent from the CARROT Hunger app with a link to the app’s iTunes page

CARROT Hunger app page displaying the diary section with a user summary page

The design choices are not entirely intuitive. The cancel button while you’re entering calories is not where you’d expect it. Even after a week of use I wasn’t fully trained to cancel the action and return to my home screen without multiple glances and searches for a button that should be in the upper left. (hint-it’s in the center of the screen under the calorie entry field)

But I know what they’re doing. They’ve mistakenly decided to put recent caloric entries across the top for ease of use just like iOS 8’s “recent” contacts area. I get that. The problem is that in iOS you always know the “home” button can bail you out of any task. So there’s no need to give you a cancel button always. Here in CARROT though, that same action – the user's default when no “cancel” or “x” is present, bounces you out of the app. It’s pretty annoying.

Let’s Talk About the “Robot Ad Network”.

CARROT feeds you a regular mix of display ads. They appear at the bottom of the screen in typical, “I’m going to ignore you” fashion. But I couldn’t ignore them. They’re brutally funny at times.

I’m an ad guy at heart and I relentlessly critique the craft. In mobile though, 99% of the time I’m like every other user – I avoid and ignore them at all costs. CARROT’s a different story.

I found myself hanging out on the main screen many times waiting to see what wacky message was going to be served up next. Not because they’ve partnered with actual services and goods I’m interested in, but because they’ve got a ton of fake ads they serve up in the same placements – All perpetuating the hilarious fiction they’ve created.

Here are a few of my favorites and the payoff when you’ve taken the bait. (tapped on it)

Pages within the CARROT Hunger app displaying how to track Calories and Exercise.


There are so many funny details baked into this experience that you’re only going to get it if you actually take the time to download and spend some time with it. Do yourself a favor and subject yourself to the abuse.


In conclusion, it’s an awesome product.

We all know there’s a boatload of calorie counting apps out there, but this product stands out above the rest because it has personality. It’s not boring. CARROT Hunger – The Talking Calorie Counting App is a great example of how sweating the details makes for a delightful product that people want to talk about and will pay for. The experience is immersive. It successfully sucks you in with humor and creativity enough to let minor off-kilter design issues slide. Pain points can be overlooked and the good outweighs the bad. And even folks that can’t stand in-app ads or marketing messages disrupting their use of their tools will delight in the holistic and thoughtful ways the folks at CARROT have devised to make the necessary evils of the app world fun and sticky

Adam Nelson can be found here on twitter.


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