Fitness apps for your mobile device are readily available for download to track various data not only appealing to the fitness buff but also to those just starting out on the road to a more active, healthy lifestyle. There are apps for tracking walking, running, cycling, workouts, weight loss, heart rate, etc. The list is endless. The best thing is most of these are free. Which brings me to question if we can easily access these free fitness apps from our smartphones, do we even need to have pedometers or activity trackers? Will these free apps eventually phase them out?
Smartphone Fitness Apps versus Pedometers
The Disadvantages of Smartphone Fitness Apps:
Smartphone apps running all day in the background will cause a huge battery drain to the point where you may have to recharge even before the day is over. This is even more so if you are also using your phone’s GPS. Even the iPhone 5s with its M7 co-processor, which Apple boasts as being less of a battery drainer, has to be recharged nightly according to users’ reports.
Although you almost always have your smartphone with you, whenever you put your it down on your desk or leave it in your bag, the fitness app will stop tracking your movements. Basically that means you must carry your smartphone on you all the time, always on, which is not always conveniently possible. I have my phone with me all the time but there are many times in the day when I just leave it on my desk or am required to turn it off.
Last but not least, your smartphone’s track accuracy is determined by its Gyro-meter and GPS. There are accuracy limitations associated with these two. The Gyro-meter is what conveniently turns your phone screen around to adjust accordingly when you’re holding vertically or horizontally but it lacks in tracking accuracy. GPS signals are weakened when surrounded by such things as tall buildings, or trees or when you are indoors and this affects the tracking accuracy. However, maybe as a sign of improvement trends to come, there have been positive accuracy results for the new M7 co-processor in the iPhone 5s.
The Advantages of Pedometers or Activity Trackers:
Pair your pedometer or activity tracker to your computer or smartphone and all your recent fitness stats will be synced for the most part wirelessly. This is convenience at its best.
Both the wristband and clip-on models are meant to be worn 24/7 so tracking will not be interrupted allowing for a more accurate total count at the end of the day. Put them on in the morning and forget about them until bedtime unless you intend to track your sleep quality too.
The majority of them are water resistant and a few are even waterproof. I don’t think I will be taking my smartphone with me while showering or swimming any time soon like I can with my activity tracker!
The latest pedometers use a tri-axis accelerometer. Simply adjusting your personal stride length and selecting where best to wear it on your body can guarantee excellent tracking accuracy. Some also come with an altimeter which can track floor or stair climbing.
The biggest plus is the battery life which depending on the model can last anywhere from 5 days to 6 months. That is a huge difference from having to charge your smartphone every night.
Signs of Things to Come
Technological advancements occur so rapidly these days. It seems no sooner do you buy a new computer or smartphone, than a newer, better model is released. I’m sure the same will hold true for smartphone fitness apps. Accuracy will improve as will battery life (like the iPhone M7 co-processor already has). Maybe so much so that they will indeed make pedometers obsolete? Even Fitbit has recently made its app tracker non-dependent.
However, there are many indications that the pedometer is here to stay. The recent buzz out of the 2014 CES (Computer Electronics Show) in January had major companies exhibiting fitness trackers all wanting a piece of this $238 million market with expectations that it will double next year. Intel just recently bought the Basis, a fitness tracker company, for $100 million. So it seems the consumer demand is still high with products like the Sony Smartband SWR10 providing maybe a great preview of what’s to come.
Another interesting development is that fitness bands have started to be seen as trendy fashion accessories. This will not be restricted to the wristbands in the future. As an example, Fitbit has partnered with designer Tory Burch to come up with stylish pendants as an alternative to the wristband. I’m really looking forward to seeing what this will bring in terms of wearable fitness devices as jewelry.
Personally, I prefer using a pedometer, warts and all. Sure sometimes the clips are faulty and you can end up losing your tracker but I feel pedometers give you the best of both worlds. Smartphones have many purposes. You use them to phone, text messages, browse the internet, check your emails and so on. Pedometers have one purpose. Just the awareness of wearing one narrows your focus and brings attention to your goal on achieving a healthy lifestyle and therein lies its present and future saving grace as the great motivational tool that it is.
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