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Periods are annoying. They’re painful, they’re messy and they get in the way of life. You probably know this.
For me, the most difficult part of periods is the unpredictability. I’m not on hormonal contraception, and my cycle can sometimes last over forty days — resulting in an agonising week of suspense and dark pants.
I know I’m not alone in this anxiety, because there are so many period tracking apps on the market — but how do we know which one will be accurate? Can we really leave the protection at home if some algorithm tells us to?
I decided to take the plunge and download some of the top period apps in the Play Store — Clue, Flo, Eve, Maya and Once. I used them all for three months to give it time to adjust to my cycle, and I come bearing results.
Period tracking app #1: Clue
Clue is by far the sleekest and simplest app on this list. The homepage is clean, featuring its signature circle that represents your cycle. It conveys information on the last period, fertile window, and the current day immediately — meaning you could be in and out with all the info you need in just a few seconds.
If you prefer a calendar style, Clue (like all the apps) offers that too, along with an analysis section that offers averages and the ability to exclude abnormal periods from calculations (like those caused by emergency contraceptive, miscarriages or missed pills).
The app also offers the option to share your cycle with others, and receive theirs in return. This could be especially useful if you are looking to get pregnant and want to share your data with your partner — or if your period affects any other part of your life that loved ones should be aware of.
Clue is by far the sleekest and simplest app on this list
Vitally, Clue is one of the few apps that needed only two months to pick up on my abnormal cycle. While others still think I’m cruising down the 28-day highway, it managed to pick up my average after just two inputs.
On startup, Clue lets you login with Facebook, Google or your own email, meaning you can delete the app or change phones without any worry of losing data or forgetting passwords. It asks you what your average cycle is, and gives you the option to let it figure it out.
The app can also connect to your Fitbit and monitor your heartrate to improve period and PMS predictions.
Use Clue if: you want a simple app that tracks your cycle, free from any frills or fuss.
Period tracking app #2: Flo
Compared to Clue, Flo is a lot less user-friendly. It asks the same questions on startup (length of cycle, length of period, age, etc), but once the homepage hits, everything gets confusing.
The biggest feature on its homepage is a circle indicating when your next cycle is, or how many days late you are (while also letting you know if you’re within the normal late range or if something may be amiss).
The top of the screen is a linear calendar that is somewhat tricky to navigate, and the bottom offers articles based on the data you’ve provided. Articles on why periods may be late, how to alleviate cramps, and surveys on sex are all part of Flo’s library.
Flo also offers a pregnancy mode that changes the look of the app
Flo also offers a pregnancy mode that changes the look of the app (and includes images of what your baby looks like at that very moment). The mode counts down to birth, tracks weight (among others) and will remind you to track your cycle post-pregnancy.
Flo’s biggest flaw (and it’s big) is its inability to calculate your cycle itself — or at least not as quickly as the others. It allowed no option for not knowing how long my cycle is, so I threw in an incorrect guess which it has been using for two months despite my logging to the contrary.
Use Flo if: you have an average cycle, or are looking for something pregnancy-oriented.
Period tracking app #3: Eve
Eve isn’t just a period tracker — it also functions as a forum for those with similar cycles to connect and lament about their bodies together. The issue? It tries too hard.
The app pretends it’s your friend by consistently addressing you as “lady” and encouraging you to “get it, girl” as if you wouldn’t want to punch any real person that spoke like that right in the face. (Unlike the other apps, it’s very woman-centric and doesn’t allow an option for other genders, so make of that what you will.)
Eve is also the app that notified me the most, whether it be for new articles it promoted or incorrect period predictions (it, too, relied on average rather than logged data). The notifications are all optional, but the default keeps all of them on, and it’s annoying having to turn them off.
Eve pretends it’s your friend by consistently addressing you as ‘lady’
What Eve provides that the others don’t, though, is a paid premium package that allows access to “Gems” — short modules on sex, relationships, periods and well-being. Topics include “daring sex moves”, “makeout magic”, “vag TLC” and “health hacks.”
The gems all read like an article in Cosmopolitan and cost around R26 per module — or R51 monthly for a year of the premium version that gives you access to all the gems, user base data and more.
Use Eve if: you want to talk and learn about your body in a safe space, and aren’t too fussed about incorrect period tracking.
Period tracking app #4: Maya
Unlike the others, Maya is solely a period tracking app.
It lets you log cycles, symptoms, weight, contraception and the like, but it isn’t a publication or social media platform. Maya doesn’t impose articles on its users, instead offering quick tips on topics like PMS and why men should know more about female biology. These tips are accompanied by ad banners at the bottom of the screen.
There is currently no special mode for pregnancy, but the app does ask if you’re looking to avoid pregnancy or conceive, and it changes reminders of fertility from the likes of “not fertile” to “safe”.
Maya is the only other app that predicts periods as well as Clue, adapting quickly to logged periods and abnormal cycles.
Maya is the only other app that predicts periods as accurately as Clue based on logged data
Its interface is cute, but it isn’t going to win any graphic design awards. Though relatively simple to navigate (and offering three free themes), it doesn’t quickly show you when to expect your next cycle.
The only info comes in the form of two small pieces of text that show you your cycle “progress” (which day you’re on) and the date of the next D-day, which is hardly as effective as Clue’s circle or a calendar.
Use Maya if: you need accurate tracking and prefer taking in-depth notes on your cycle.
Period tracking app #5: Once
Once has one million downloads, but it is the only app on this list that is entirely intolerable. There is a full-screen ad each time you start the app, and extra banners on the home page.
The incessant advertising would be dismissable if it accurately tracked my period, but it couldn’t even do that, choosing instead to use the average 28 days. What makes the refusal to use my data even more disappointing is the fact it was so difficult to figure out how to log.
Once is the only app on this list that is entirely intolerable
Logging doesn’t happen on the home page, but on the calendar where you have to click a date and hit “start” where you got your period — a method that took five times longer to decipher and execute than any other app.
It, too, offers period tips, but these are overly intuitive, asking questions about the likes of wearing skirts on your period that most people deciphered for themselves the first period they got.
There is a little more that the app does, but none make Once worthy of your time or memory space.
Use Once if: don’t.