How to activate the iPhone’s hidden pedometer

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Pedometer calculator hero
Like a calculator or a vampire, the iPhone’s pedometer loooooves to count.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Your iPhone isn’t slacking off when it sits in your pocket. No, it’s industriously counting your every step, ready to tell you the total so you can celebrate by buying cake if you hit your daily goal. The good news is that the iPhone pedometer comes built-in, and requires no third-party apps to do its stuff. The even better news is that there’s a free app — Pedometer++ — that makes it even better.

Setting up the iPhone’s pedometer

The first step is to enable motion tracking on your iPhone.

First, you have to enable Motion Tracking, so that your iPhone will actually record the data from the M10 (or earlier) motion co-processor chip that counts your steps. This is done in Settings>Privacy>Motion & Fitness — just visit that page and toggle Fitness Tracking on. Now your iPhone will count your steps.

Next up, you should visit the Health app. Here we’ll tell the iPhone how tall you are so that it can better estimate your stride length, and then we’ll add the step count to the Health app’s dashboard.

If this is your evening count, you probably need to do more exercise.

Above is the Health app’s Today view. First, we’ll add some personal data. Tap Health Data at bottom left, then tap Body Measurements. Then tap Weight, tap the + button, and add your height. After this is done you can go ahead and add your weight if you like. Both of these categories track changes over time, but unless you’re a child, or are so old that you’re starting to shrink, then the height measurement won’t need much maintenance.

Add steps to the Today view

To add the step count to this view, tap the Health Data button at bottom left. Then tap Activity, scroll down until you find Steps, and tap that. Then toggle the Add to Favorites switch. Now you can view your step count easily. Well, fairly easily — there’s a better way to keep a track of your step count:

Pedometer++, the iPhone’s best step-counting app

Pedometer++ is the simplest and best step-counter app for iPhone.

Pedometer++ is a free app that counts your steps. It uses the data provided by the built-in pedometer, and presents it as a chart, or — and this is the one you want — as a widget on your Today view (also accessible via 3-D Touch on compatible iPhones). Stick the widget on your Today screen, and your step count is just a swipe away from your home screen. Pedometer++ also lets you set a goal (the default is a daily 10,000 steps), and gives you a confetti shower when you achieve it. If you double the goal, you get a special prize.

The other advantage of Pedometer++ is that it obviates all the tedious setup detailed above. Just download it, launch it, and give the app permission to access your Motion data, and you’re good to go.

If you keep the iPhone in your pocket the whole time, and you’re the kind of OCD nerd who loves to count things, you’re going to love the iPhone pedometer function. I switched mine on the day I got an iPhone with a Motion Coprocessor, and it’s been running ever since. I can’t say that it has motivated me to do more walking, but on the days I reach 15km (just shy of ten miles), I use the step-count as an excuse to let me buy a pound of baklava.

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  • CoyoteDen

    FYI if you have an Apple Watch paired, you won’t see the Pedometer option. The watch has a more accurate one anyway.