Wearable technology with built-in fitness tracking has become a huge market for casual exercisers and fitness buffs everywhere.
The GPS and accelerometers in our smartphones are also often used as a source of fitness information, like step count, but a recent study from the University of Toronto shows these fitness apps may not be nearly as accurate as some of us might believe.
In the study, three popular iOS and Android apps, Runtastic, Moves and Accupedo, were tested in a variety of situations against a standard $33 Yamax SW-200 pedometer. The tests included walking 20 steps on flat ground, a 40-step stair climb, and a real-life test where participants were asked to use the pedometer and one of the apps for at least 10 hours for three days.
The study found that while neither method of tracking steps was completely accurate, the pedometer was far more likely to accurately measure steps. On the other hand, the apps overestimated step counts, and were inconsistent in their over-estimations.
The researchers concluded that if users are simply looking for motivation, or a way to easily quantify their activity, the apps should be just fine. However, if someone is looking to precisely measure their physical fitness based on steps and related activity, apps will probably give disappointing results.