I had long been interested in buying a pedometer to track my number of steps and walking distance. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine mentioned that she uses her iPod Nano as a pedometer. The newest generations of iPod Nanos have an accelerometer that can be used to track your motion. This got me thinking. My iPhone has an accelerometer. Perhaps I could download a pedometer app for my phone instead of buying a standalone unit.
A quick search of the App Store yielded many such apps. I researched the most popular offerings and decided to try a couple of them. I eventually settled on Pedometer Ultimate GPS+. After extensively reading dozens of reviews of this app and others, I’m fairly confident that Pedometer Ultimate GPS+ is the best solution on the iPhone today. I’ve been using the app for a few weeks now. It does everything I need, and so much more.
I only load the app when I’m taking a long walk or bike ride. Considering that this is on my phone, it isn’t the kind of pedometer that you can clip on and count your steps for an entire day. It must run as an application on your phone, and if left to run all day, it won’t take long to exhaust your battery. The app uses a combination of the accelerometer and GPS to track movement and distance. As with any mobile app, constant use of the GPS radio shortens battery life significantly. If you’re concerned about battery life, you can disable GPS usage in the app settings, but I don’t recommend it.
The fact that this solution uses GPS technology is what sets it high and above traditional pedometers. The app generates a detailed map of exactly where you’ve been and how far you’ve traveled, overlaid onto a Google Maps satellite image, which you can save and export via email or Dropbox. In fact, you can export all of the data collected by the pedometer, including: Step count, speed, pace, distance, elevation, calories burned, and more. Data can be exported in several formats, including a file you can import into an Excel spreadsheet. It can even post your achievements to Facebook and Twitter.
The app interface is customizable, and is filled with information about every aspect of your journey. It can look overwhelming at first, but I don’t feel that it’s cluttered. If you like to listen to music on your device while you’re exercising, it couldn’t be easier. The app has built-in onscreen controls for music playback without having to switch out of the app.
You can use the app to set daily goals about a variety of factors and it will speak aloud and tell you when you have reached those goals and thresholds. The daily goals aren’t that useful to me personally, because I’m only using the app when I set out on long journeys. I rarely would use it more than once in a given day, so daily goals aren’t very important to me.
I do have a complaint about the audio announcements. For some reason, the voice that speaks aloud comes through the speakerphone and not through my headphones when I’m playing music. That doesn’t make sense to me, and I haven’t found a way to change this behavior. I can’t understand what it is saying to me when the phone is in my pocket and I have music blasting in my ears.
Pedometer Ultimate GPS+ has a cycling mode which uses the GPS exclusively to map your course, distance, and speed. It works very well. It even has a dashboard view that displays an analog speedometer and odometer, which I think is a nice touch. In addition, the app supports the use of external sensors, such as a heart rate monitor and the Wahoo Fitness receiver. I have no interest in those, but that kind of support is a nice addition for those who are inclined to use them.
There appears to be some debate within the iTunes App Store reviews as to the accuracy of the pedometer. A number of users have declared that it is spot-on. Others claim that it is way off. The sensitivity of the accelerometer can be calibrated and adjusted manually, if need be. It is also important that your phone be located on your body where it can accurately detect movement. The app tutorial points out that the worst place to attach your phone is on an armband, which many people use when working out or jogging. You won’t get accurate motion readings when it is placed there. The best location is clipped to your waist. I don’t have a belt clip for my phone, so I’ve been keeping it in my pocket. I tested the app alongside a friend who accompanied me on a walk using his own standard pedometer. After more than 1500 steps, my app was reporting a step count that was within 20 steps of his unit. In my experience, the app has been quite accurate, despite using it in my pocket.
The company that makes Pedometer Ultimate GPS+, Vaiden Software, also has two older pedometer apps in the App Store: Pedometer Free GPS+ and Pedometer Pro GPS+. I researched the benefits of each of them. I suggest that you don’t pay attention to either of those apps. The Ultimate app is the newest and most current of the three. The Free and Pro apps are slightly older offerings that do offer most of the features of the Ultimate app, but aren’t quite as robust. Did I mention that the Ultimate app is free?
Pedometer Ultimate GPS+ is available for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The GPS features are not available in the iPod Touch, since it currently lacks a GPS radio. The app itself is free, but there are two levels of paid in-app upgrades that extend its capabilities: Pro and Ultra. The Pro pack is $2.99 and the Ultra Pack is $4.99. Most of the features are available in the free version, but you’ll want to upgrade to a paid version to remove ads, store unlimited history, export maps and data, or use the cycling mode. I bought the Ultra Pack and highly recommend it. If you’re unsure if you want to spend the money, they offer a free 48-hour trial of the Ultra Pack. After the trial, you can still use the free version. But don’t be a cheapskate. This product is well worth five bucks, and then some.