You’re probably a bit more active than your iPhone’s built-in pedometer suggests that you are, a new study carried out by researchers at the University of British Columbia claims.
The study found that the iPhone misses around 1,340 steps during a user’s typical day when compared to a purpose-built accelerometer worn on the waist. That’s an average of 21.5 percent of the steps that you take on a daily basis.
But don’t be so quick to blame the iPhone. It turns out that this is partly the fault of users!
Life on the treadmill
The UBC study involved 33 participants, and consisted of two distinct parts: a lab test, and a test under normal living conditions.
For the lab test, participants used two iPhones — one belonging to themselves and another belonging to the lab — which were compared to see if they produced different results. The participants were then asked to walk on a treadmill at various speeds for one minute, during which the steps were also counted manually by the researchers.
At the slowest speed of walking, the personal iPhone underestimated steps by 9.4 percent, while the lab iPhone underestimated them by 7.6 percent. At faster walking speeds, the iPhones were both off by under 5 percent, a number that is considered acceptable for a pedometer device.
The difference with living conditions
In the living condition section of the study, the iPhone differed from the fixed accelerometer data by around 1,340 steps per day. Before you think about rattling off an angry email to Apple, however, the explanation is that users typically forgot to take their iPhones with them wherever they went — thereby missing out on recording their steps.
The researchers’ conclusion? That “the accelerometer in the iPhone actually does a pretty good job when tested under lab conditions. You just have to have it on you at all times.” (Or, heck, wear an Apple Watch — which is designed with fitness tracking in mind.)
The study was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Sports Sciences.