Studies have shown that fitness trackers, like traditional pedometers, Fitbits, the Jawbone UP, and the upcoming Apple Watch (see “Apple Previews the New Apple Watch,” 9 September 2014), help motivate exercise.
But fitness trackers have their share of problems. One is cost. Cheap pedometers can be had for a few bucks, but I’ve never found them to be particularly accurate. A more advanced tracker will set you back $50 or more, and there’s a good chance you’ll forget to wear it regularly or charge it. Been there, done that.
Here’s the thing: If you own an iPhone 5s or newer, you’re already carrying a fitness tracker. The iPhone 5s is equipped with Apple’s M7 motion coprocessor, while the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have the slightly more advanced M8 motion coprocessor. These chips track your movement at all times, without putting additional strain on the battery. You just need the right software to access the data.
Fortunately, developer David Smith (affectionately known as Underscore David Smith, due to his Twitter handle) has just the thing: Pedometer++, which is free in the App Store. It’s ad-supported, but a $0.99 in-app purchase dispenses with the ads. Naturally, an iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, or iPhone 6 Plus is required (sorry, iPhone 5c users).
Pedometer++ is painless to use. Open the app for the first time, and it has already pulled your steps and distance from your iPhone. It shows a bar graph for each day recorded, with steps taken and miles traveled, and it even denotes if you’ve climbed stairs (on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus).
From Pedometer++’s settings, you can set a daily step goal. The popular 10,000-step goal is the default, which I’ve come nowhere near reaching yet. You can also export your information, but only via email. However, from the main screen, you can share a screenshot of your day’s progress to the usual services and apps.
What’s great about Pedometer++ in iOS 8 is that it includes a Today View widget. Add it to your Today View in Notification Center, and you can see your daily steps taken alongside weather, your calendar, and whatever else you’re tracking there. There’s no need to open the app!
Pedometer++ doesn’t currently integrate with the new Health app in iOS 8. However, Health pulls step data directly from the motion coprocessor, so the step count is the same. Frankly, I find the way Health displays step information to be confusing. It measures steps not by day, but by minute, and then displays a daily average instead of letting you see distance per day. The organization of Pedometer++ is much more useful. However, David Smith told me via Twitter that he might consider Health integration in the future.
If you’re looking for a cheap, simple way to track your activity level, Pedometer++ is worth a download.