Taking steps is easy. Counting them, well, it depends on which app you decide to believe.
As a former user of a Fitbit, the popular wearable pedometer, I wondered about the accuracy of pedometer apps. When an ad popped up on my smartphone claiming a pedometer app could be better than a Fitbit, I had to test the claim.
Pedometer apps are easy to find. So, I downloaded four of the highest-rated from the Google Play Store to compare side by side.
My time using a Fitbit had given me a sense of how many steps I took on a lazy day (around 2,000) as well as a crazy day that included a workout (around 11,000). This provided a comparison from the start.
All four apps were set to run 24/7, so whenever I took steps and the phone was with me, the motion was counted. The apps used the phone’s built-in sensor to track movement, and you had to enter your weight and height for each one.
Spoiler alert: No two apps tracked the same amount of steps on a single day.
Leap Fitness Step Counter
This app, compatible with Android phones only, is straightforward, simple and easy to use.
It’s 100 percent private, and you don’t have to sign in. It offers a clear step count for each day as well as calories burned and distance traveled.
You can adjust the sensitivity on it to make sure it is picking up each movement.
Daily, weekly and monthly statistics can be viewed at any point.
The app’s animated medals and prizes celebrating various achievements are nice, too.
Not much in the way of extra bells and whistles, however, it’s 100 percent free.
Compared to the other apps, however, this one tracked the third-fewest steps. On a day when one app counted 5,201 steps, this app tracked 4,916.
Cost: Free, no upgrades available
Although this app routinely registered the second-highest number of steps, I had to accept that it was probably the most accurate. It only registered about 100 steps fewer than the highest count of the four apps.
The reason it may be the most accurate is because you can use the pedometer mode to set sensitivity and it works in a purse, a pocket or in your hand.
Pacer, which works on Apple and Android phones, has several interesting free features, including a GPS component that allows you to track outdoor activities and routes; a daily fitness plan and body mass index tracking. If you upgrade, you join a support community, participate in fitness challenges and find more detailed workout options designed by trainers.
Pacer was easy to use and easy to read. This app never shut down unexpectedly. The step tracker was always visible.
If you’re looking for a pedometer app to download to your phone, this is my recommendation.
Upgrade: $3.99 per month, removes the pop-up ads, provides guided workouts, fitness training guidance, data insights and a community
My biggest complaint about this app, and it is a problem, is that it kept randomly shutting down. Plus, every time I reopened it, I had to re-enter my weight and height.
On the other hand, the way it tracked my steps (the highest count each day of the four apps) made me feel like a stepping rock star.
The app, available for Android only, is simple to use with easy to read data. It tracks steps, distance, calories and activity time. By using the training preference, the app also will track a single workout, calculating calories, incline, overall steps and time.
Data for daily, weekly and monthly progress can be viewed at any time.
One surprising piece of information I learned from this app, if it’s correct, my step length is 2 feet, 3 inches.
Upgrade: $2.99 removes the pop-up ads
This app is terrible despite having a 4.7 out of 5 rating, according to the reviews at the Google Play Store.
On days when the other apps tracked 9,000 to 10,000 steps, this one read 5,000 or less. Adjusting the sensitivity was not an option.
Despite setting and resetting it to run 24/7, it would shut off and disappear.
The features it offers are similar to the others: calorie counting and distance. It could also be switched to a running mode.
Honestly, don’t waste your time downloading it.