For counting steps, smartphone apps do as well as fitness trackers

Researchers found that fitness apps and wearable devices are equally accurate at this task

You don't need to splurge on a fitness tracking device to record how much you've walked, because smartphone fitness apps do the job just as well, and sometimes better.

That's the conclusion from a University of Pennsylvania study, which compared the accuracy of fitness wristbands and of smartphone apps in counting steps.

Researchers gave participants an iPhone 5s running three fitness apps, a Galaxy S4 running one fitness app and six wearable devices, including products from Fitbit, Jawbone and Nike.

Next, the 14 participants walked on a treadmill while an observer counted the numbers of steps each person took. Fitness apps and tracker devices use step counts to calculate physical activity metrics like distance walked and calories burned.

The apps and the devices were similarly accurate. There was an average 7 percent discrepancy between the counts of the smartphone apps and the human observer, while wearable accuracy ranged between 2 percent and 20 percent.

Fitbit's One and Zip devices were the most accurate, while Nike's Fuelband fared the worst. Nike didn't immediately reply to a request for comment.

A motivation for the study is the scarcity of data about how accurate these apps and devices are at tracking physical activity, said Meredith Case, who co-authored the study. People must be able to trust the data if they're using it to make health decisions.

However, owners of wearable fitness trackers shouldn't feel remorseful over their purchase. Instead, they should "rest assured" knowing that most of the devices tested are properly tracking their workouts, she said.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'connor@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Applesamsungconsumer electronicsFitbit

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Fred O'Connor

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?