Review of Fabulous – an app to help build healthy rituals

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This post is not sponsored. It’s an honest review of Fabulous. 

I downloaded Fabulous because I was looking for a routine tracker. I believe that solid routines are essential to my health, happiness, productivity… without them, I plunge into depression, erratic meal times, and insomnia.

I’m also a smartphone user, like most of us, and I like to track things. I tried a couple of different habit trackers, most of them based around simple tick lists.  None of them are very exciting or fun.

Review of Fabulous - an app to help you complete routines

Fabulous looked and felt different. The website makes the big promise to ‘reset your life’ and ‘rewire your brain’. It’s also science based, and is developed in Duke’s Behavioural Economics Lab. It’s got beautiful imagery, and just feels colourful and vibrant.

So I downloaded the app on the 17th June 2017. Here’s my review of Fabulous after two months of use (Note: review has been updated for 2019).

What is Fabulous?

A screenshot from Fabulous
Screenshot of my morning routine

Fabulous is an app available for both the Android and the iPhone that helps you track habits and create routines. The app is based around the concept of ‘journeys’. Each journey allows you to set a routine up in small steps. The initial, free routine is all about the morning and setting yourself up for the day. The very first habit is small and simple: drink a glass of water upon waking up.

Over time, it adds more habits, chaining them together to create a complete routine.

You can also customise the routines and add habits of your own choice into them.

An alarm triggers each routine at a time you specify. You can set your morning routine to start at 6am, your afternoon routine to start at 1.30 and your evening routine to start at 7pm.

2019 Update: They have also added a new feature that allows you to ask other members of Fabulous questions, e.g. “what are the best stretches for your back” or “what is the best thing to eat for breakfast?”. These questions pop up on the screen every now and then. If I am honest, I have mostly ignored them! Apart from anything else, I’d be wary of taking (or giving) advice to anonymous internet strangers…

Review of Fabulous

The good

Screenshot of Fabulous
Screenshot of the Fabulous library

For the most part, this is a very smart app. The images, music, and alarms are gorgeous. It allows you to start small, and it encourages you to celebrate your wins.

You can add habits from a library to your routines. This customises the routines to meet your needs.

I like that it forces you to put a timer next to each habit so you can see how long each routine will take. We can often underestimate how long it will take us to achieve all  the things that we want to do, whereas this app makes it explicit.

One of the things I like about the app is the library of meditations and exercise routines that come with it. If you have a spare five minutes you can trigger the ‘Make me Fabulous’ button, and pick a meditation, a stretching routine, or even a power nap. This is much more productive than browsing Facebook!

The bad

Despite that, the app is not intuitive – it took me a while to figure out how to get rid of suggestions I didn’t want. In also doesn’t cope well with you coming out of the app in the middle of a routine (e.g. if you get a phone call). You end up having to tick things off multiple times. And finally, if you don’t complete the evening routine, it doesn’t ‘vanish’ at midnight but is still open in the morning. I have then ticked off the evening habits, only to discover I’ve done them for the current day, rather than the day before.

Small things like this do interrupt the experience for me, but it’s still leaps and bounds ahead of any other habit tracker I’ve tried.

2019 Update: As of 2019 they have started to really push extra habits and signing-up for the Premium content (Fabulous Sphere) in the routines. I find this quite irritating! However, it’s not enough to make me stop using it.

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Review of Fabulous: is the Premium content worth it?

There is the option to subscribe for premium content. This gives you access to extra journeys. I will be honest: this is where the app falls down the most. Whilst their suggested morning routine lined up with my own ideal of a morning routine, I struggled with the next two journeys I attempted.

My issue with the Sleep journey was that one of the habits was to ‘disconnect and unplug’. I am very much in favour of not using screens before bed. Unfortunately, it then asked you to remain on the smartphone to complete the rest of the routine and tick it off.

Screenshot of Fabulous
Screenshot of a ‘healthy eating’ tip from Fabulous

My issue with the Healthy Eating journey is that it started to label some foods as unhealthy. Some people do well with food rules, but I don’t. And, as we’re starting to see with the rise-and-rise of the ‘clean eating’ movement, that kind of language can trigger and justify orthorexia.

Food is complicated. It’s personal. And an app that tells me off for eating potatoes – equating a perfectly sensible carbohydrate with a mars bar – is not one helpful to me.

The journeys are not particularly flexible. You either complete a habit or you don’t, and an uncompleted habit means not being able to get 100% on a journey. And yet many of the actions are beyond some people.

For example, in the initial routine, it asks you to throw away all your ‘junk food’. This is a sensible thing to do if you want to limit your consumption of certain foods, but it assumes that:

  • You have full control over the food in your house. Most of us live with another person, who may not be impressed if we throw away their crisps.
  • You can afford to waste food.
  • You know what ‘junk food’ is. This is something many people struggle with, given how many conflicting ‘ingredient x is bad’ messages we are exposed to.

The Healthy Eating routine also assumes you want to lose weight. Whilst that is the primary goal for many people, it isn’t true for everyone. My own interest in healthy eating is driven far more by supporting my mental health than it is about my weight. And for many people, maintaining or gaining weight may be more appropriate for their health.

Other issues with Fabulous

The app also doesn’t cope well with ‘sometime’ habits. For example, one of the habits you can add is ‘call your parents’. This then gets added to one of your daily routines. I would suggest that calling your parents daily is overkill for most people. But there is no option to trigger it weekly instead.

I had the same issue with eating fish. As part of the healthy eating journey, it recommends you eat fish three times a week. But then the habit gets added to your daily routine, and you have to skip it for the days you don’t complete. This, in turn, breaks up your rows of green ticks, which is demotivating.

Finally, the app is very time orientated. This is great with wake-up and sleep routines, but is less helpful for things such as eating more fruit and vegetables. With that, you want to be able to track how many portions you eat over a day, rather than ticking it off at a specific time.

Summary of my review of Fabulous

Pros:

  • Smart, simple habit tracking with great visuals and music
  • Great for setting up and motivating yourself to complete time-linked routines
  • Great library of meditations and exercise routines

Cons:

  • Journeys are inflexible, and don’t take into account different people’s goals
  • Buys into ‘clean eating’ language
  • Doesn’t let you set weekly or non-daily habits

Overall, I will continue to use the app. Despite my criticisms, it’s still the best habit tracker I’ve found. I won’t use the journeys, but instead develop my own routines based on my own needs.

Decided to give Fabulous a try? Download the app here.

Have you used Fabulous? What did you think?

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31 comments

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  • I’ve never heard of this app – thanks for sharing your thoughts on it. I would definitely find the bits you didn’t like very hard to keep up.

  • I used this app for a while when I had an Android phone – I LOVED it! I changed to an iphone and missed the app. I even thought of going back to Android just so I could keep using it! I am a big fan of Dan Ariely (Google him and take his book out at the library!) so I was very happy with his app. I remember some of the cons you mentioned, like ticking off yesterday’s evening routine only to find I had ticked it off for today too, and thought of them more as “bugs” than cons. In any case, I have recommended it to many friends, and we have even used it at home for the children’s chores and morning routines. 😉 I got it again when it came out for iphones, but it wasn’t the same happy experience: I had to start over at the very beginning again with a glass of water in the morning, a habit I had finally learned as an adult (thanks to the Android version). Darnit. I will give it a try again, because I need to get in the habit of taking my vitamins and being more disciplined. Your review was excellent. Thank you!

    • I feel your pain. I’ve just switched to an iPhone version myself, and am right back at the glass of water. But I know it’s better to take it slowly and in small steps! Hope you find it as useful as you did before 🙂

  • Hi! I recently tried the Fabulous app and was looking around to see if the advertising (“you’re one of our first users!”) was true or not when I found your blog.
    Have you heard of Habitica for tracking your habits? It’s an RPG setting, and you can network with others. You get experience points to level up, mana or magic points for casting spells, and item drops when you accomplish a task or do a habit. I started using it when I wanted to stop looking at an ex’s social media. (If I did, I would lose hit points) No one else can see your habits, daily activities, or to do lists.
    I will say— the goals in Fabulous I have plugged into my Habitica because I’ve been in a bit of a rut with my habits? So in that sense, I’ve liked fabulous so far… but I don’t want to cut out my coffee consumption!!

    • I have heard of Habitica! It’s one of those things I’ve always loved the idea of, but never quite managed to make work for me.
      RE coffee: you don’t need to complete any habit you don’t want to… giving up coffee was really good for me, and I think I’m quite sensitive to it, but some people can drink it all day without an issue. Just remember to check in every now and then and make sure that’s still true for you… our sensitivity to things like that changes as we change.

  • Hi – Great review! I just downloaded Fabulous and start my morning water journey tomorrow I immediately looked for all the tasks I could add lol – then read about the one thing at a time approach. So THAT’s why my super detailed daily task schedule was so painful to follow! 🙂 Deep breath – starting small this time. Wish me luck. Thanks again!!

    • The small task and get it embedded really DOES work! It’s hard when you are full of motivation and want to make lots of sweeping changes to your life, but in actuality building habits that stick require slow and consistent change. Good luck! I hope it works for you 🙂

  • Dear Suzie,
    Thank you for this post. I found it when I was searching for Fabulous app criticism.
    The Fabulous app looks very nice: there are a great design and reasonable texts; but also, there are some ideas I can not accept.

    It is a problem because as far as I don’t accept ideas, which I am familiar with, I can not trust the app in subjects I am not familiar.

    • It is a beautifully designed app, and it’s a fair to say that you don’t need to do their ‘journeys’. You could just build your own routines and enjoy the artwork and music.

      However, they do like to push their journeys, and I’ve noticed an irritating rise in the amount of time they spend pressuring you into upgrading to the premium version, so you may well be better off with something else!

    • Hi Donna
      I let me paid membership expire – now I use the free version, and purely as a habit tracker (I don’t use the ‘journeys’). Hope that helps 🙂
      Suzie

  • Hi, I’m just beginning with Fabulous after downloading it in the Black Friday sale.

    I’ve been looking for a way of forming consistent habits for a long time (reading self help books, using audible books) but particularly now as a Mum to a 3 year old, and with things like getting an evening meal on the table and remembering to eat regularly.

    I too noticed the push on eating to lose weight and found that off putting when you might want to use food in a different habit.

    I also think when they give voice-over views of how it all works, they should stick with non specific examples, as hearing about how I want to make a relationship better or lose weight, disconnects me from the motivating message I’m listening too.

    I’m also finding it a bit unintuitive, in terms of how to use it.

    I have been expecting it to nudge me throughout the day but find I’m having to open the app and tick things off, even though I’ve set times for habits.

    So far I’ve set up a few habits, both suggested and made up for the morning, afternoon amd evening routines.

    I too found the ‘unplug and disconnect’ one weird for the same reasons and the ‘observe digital use’? What is that? I was hoping it might have calculated how long I was using various apps for that day, so I could see how addicted I am but it does nothing but hang there, prompting you to – I guess go, “oh, I’ve been on my phone a bit too much again, well that’s bad!”. I think that’s missing a trick there.

    I’m been a bit put off my the American voices amd think they should be more global in their approach by adding different languages in settings. A UK English voice would be so much more motivating for me. Like being in my head.

    I do sort of get the using a real notebook for lists thing. I use Google’s Keep and have tried using Amazon Echo to make lists but although it makes it easy to find old to do’s, I don’t find them easy to check throughout the day and Echo is too slow for the way my mind works!

    I love the sound effects and art work in Fabulous and it is definitely an accomplished app, however I bought the premium version straight after downloading, because there was 50% off so don’t know what I could have got with the free app.

    Can you still create your own habits or do you only get the morning routine one you mention?

    It also keeps asking to get a buddy to help you on your journey but I know for a fact everyone I can think of would not want to pay the £45.99 I’m doing (sale price) never mind the normal £99 price!

    I’m seeing out the 7 day trial anyway and will probably keep the premium because I’d love a life coach but can’t afford one and really need help organising my life and goals better.

    Thanks for your review too!

    • Thank you for your very detailed comment!
      And yes – I think the app pushes you into quite a specific ‘idea’ about a good life, which includes losing weight, ‘clean’ eating etc. I have abandoned the journeys and just use it as a habit tracker now.

  • Hi. Well done on review of this app. I’m wondering if the app is free or what is the subscription fee and is it worth it?
    Thanks,

    • Hi Aine,
      Thanks for your comment!
      There is a free version and a premium version. In my opinion, the free version is good enough and I don’t need/use the premium features.

  • Susie, I know you wrote this review quite a while back. I happened upon your review and find it quite helpful. Thank you for calling out diet culture BS.

  • AVOID. RUN BY SCAMMERS THAT WILL STEAL FROM YOU.

    I downloaded this app and deleted it after a few days as it was awful. After a few weeks I noticed that these scammers had billed me for a year subscription charging me $37.99. I have written to the scammers to demand my money back but they have casually answered that subscriptions are not refundable. There is no way of cancelling your subscription on their app, and they have made it purposefully difficult to do this step, obviously so that they can charge you for entire year(rather than a month). Total scammers.

  • Great review; I have tried Fabulous before and never quite made it work for me, so was looking around to see if I was missing something about it – it seems I found the same “cons” as you.
    I’m now using an app called Remente instead. It’s set up as a goal oriented to-do list essentially, where you can add miscellaneous daily tasks and also goals with one-off or recurring steps that you check off to complete a goal. I found their pre-made goals quite useful and have now set up completely customised morning and evening routines on it which work well for me.

  • I am late to this – have you found a similar app that is better than this? I currently am trying to build a better daily routine in my life

  • There is nothing free. Be wary of any app asking for payment details for a free trial.
    Downloaded Did Not do anything with it. Couldn’t cancel. It took £33.
    They refuse all refunds
    Google do not intervene.
    Now aware any useful part eventually costs more. Avoid

  • I’m using Fabulous now, but it’s really irritating. I wondered, maybe I don’t know something, maybe there’s some tutorial on this and what I googled out was this review. Wow, it was written 3 years ago, but it’s so true today! I mean I can say exact the same criticism and it annoys me even more to know that they did no changes only bought some advertising which was why I started Fabulous in the first place. Given the name of “Best app of the year” it must be something worth it, but the trial was enough for me to know how stubborn and ridiculous this app was. OK, I don’t drink water first time in the morning, but I don’t want it. Second goal is to eat breakfast. Hey, I have never ever was a breakfast skipper, why do they bother me with it? I uninstalled the app, but never thought it was not enough to get rid of the app. They didn’t notify me that the trial ended and I’m going to be charged for a year subscription. I’ve noticed it only a week later, applied to Google Play for reimbursement, but it was too late, so they suggested to contact the creators of the app. This was even more ridiculous than the app itself, because my email was returned with the message that they don’t follow this email, despite the fact that it was given in Google Play as a contact email. I went to their website for support and their support is working like tones of questions you have to tick the answers relevant to you. And after a load of these questions I’ve got to final answer which was like “sorry, we can not help you”… Afterwards I’ve got an email somehow, where they said that I have to go to their website and fill out those questions I have just did…

    So, I was charged for the year subscription which is not small money for me, so decided to give it a try again and reinstalled the app. The thing is I can not go any further, because I forget to open the app and tick my habits, and it’s always “wow, you did 1”, regardless of how many I actually did. (The biggest “bug”, I think, is that you can tick it only in that moment, you can not tick it for yesterday or the day before yesterday…) And I make my daily timeline and later in the day I can not find the list I made… The app suddenly turns to Chinese and I can’t find where to change the language… The app suggests me to new challenges, but when I tap them, it says I’m not registered user… Then it gives me offers for monthly subscription. Wait, what? I’ve already paid for a year. Then it suddenly says I’m off and encourages me to join back with the help of some behavioral economist. What?

    And all the motivation stuff they want me to read… These are from the books I’ve read long ago and I know it by heart, I follow it and it only irritates me to feel like a dumbass, who has never heard anything about it…

    If you are not a negligent jerk, this app isn’t worth a penny.

  • This app contains multiple undisclosed ads, recommending products the company supposedly likes. Also, when I canceled my free trial, I got a bunch of emails, including one telling me not to “give up” on my goals, as if deciding you don’t want to pay for premium is equivalent to that. I also saw multiple reviews in the Google app store from people saying they were charged money after canceling their free trial (or before if was over).

    • That sounds bad — I truly hate those ‘guilt tripping’ style emails when you try and cancel a subscription! Thanks for letting us know your experience.

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