Study Says Smartphone Apps More Accurate than Fitness Trackers

Posted by at 5:57 am on February 12, 2015


People looking to track their exercise may want to avoid spending money on fitness tracker and stick with smartphone apps, a study from the University of Pennsylvania claims. In tests, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine and the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics found that smartphone apps counting steps were more accurate than those of fitness trackers attached to the wrist.

The tests involved the use of a treadmill, with 14 healthy participants walking for 500 steps and 1,500 steps multiple times. While walking, the subjects wore the Digi-Walker SW-200, Fitbit One, and Fitbit Zip at the waist, the Fitbit Flex, Jawbone Up24, and the Nike Fuelband on the wrist. The iPhone 5s running the Fitbit, Health Mate, and Moves apps represented smartphones, alongside the Samsung Galaxy S4 running the Moves app, with both devices located in pants pockets.


Compared to the observed total, the smartphone apps reported step counts between 6.7 percent under and 6.2 percent above the actual value. The fitness trackers on the wrist under-reported the step count from between 1.5 percent to 22.7 percent. Lastly, the waist-mounted pedometers proved to be the most accurate, being between 0.3 percent under and 1 percent over the actual figure.

“Compared to the one to two percent of adults in the US that own a wearable device, more than 65 percent of adults carry a smartphone,” commented assistant professor of the Medicine and Health Care Management at the University of Pennsylvania Mitesh S. Patel. “Our findings suggest that smartphone apps could prove to be a more widely accessible and affordable way of tracking health behaviors.”

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