Review: Run, don’t walk, AWAY from “Steps” - Macenstein

Review: Run, don’t walk, AWAY from “Steps”

One of the coolest things about the iPhone’s applications is their ability to tap into the iPhone’s accelerometer. Based on my experiences playing some of the iPhone’s accelerometer-based games, (such as the ultra-sensitive Super Monkey Ball) it seemed perfectly logical to me that the iPhone could be used as a pedometer. And maybe it can, but Steps, the first such iPhone pedometer application available on iTunes, isn’t the answer.

I love the idea of Steps, and the thought of the iPhone being able to take the place of yet another physical device in my life. I hope that in time we well see a better pedometer app, perhaps one that takes advantage of the iPhone’s GPS to track distance/speed, or even show your route on a map. Unfortunately it appears we will have to wait for that.

The Good

Steps has a couple things going for it that make it an attractive purchase. First, it is cheap, at only $1.99, its one of the least expensive applications out there. Second, it has a very simple and easy to understand interface. Simply enter your height and weight, and start walking. Lastly, it actually boasts pretty much all the features you’d want in a pedometer, such a steps taken, distance traveled, time spent walking, average speed, and calories burned.

In fact, the only real drawback is it doesn’t work.

Above: Steps doesn’t have much of a learning curve.

The bad

Unfortunately, despite the clean interface and wealth of features, Steps suffers from its inability to accurately calculate steps taken. Steps suggests it will work best if placed in a pocket on your belt clip (as most pedometers are worn) and I tried both locations. As a means of comparison, I used my trusted “regular” pedometer as my testbed for gauging Steps’ accuracy. I first went on a 3-mile walk with my iPhone held vertically in my pocket (this is actually not all that comfortable, as the iPhone is relatively heavy, especially when in a pair of easily pull-downable jogging shorts). My pedometer told me I had taken 6454 steps, while Steps claimed I had taken 4209.

Above: Woah! Check out that crazy math! If I traveled at an average speed of 2.17 mph (it was actually closer to 4.5mph, thank you very much) how could I only go 1.97 miles in an 1hr 16 minutes?

Thinking perhaps flopping around in a pocket was the problem, the next morning I used my Speck case’s belt clip. I set out on a my usual morning walking route, which I have measured to be 4.4 miles. Unfortunately, the more “predometer-friendly” hip location actually made things worse for Steps, and it said I had only taken 4823 steps, where my pedometer told me I had taken 8356.

Furthermore, Steps’ math seemed a bit off, even discounting its wrong numbers. Despite getting the time right at 1 hour and 5 minutes (a little over 4 miles per hour), Steps claimed my distance covered was 2.8 miles, and my average speed was 1.7mph. If Steps thought it took me 1 hour to travel 2.8 miles, why isn’t my average speed 2.8 mph? Did steps think I really kicked it up a notch at the end, and ran a 1-minute mile?

Another drawback to using Steps is it will stop counting steps when you exit to do something, like take a phone call or choose a song in iTunes. For this reason, you must leave Steps’ screen on all the time, which is a battery drain. I realize Apple has put restrictions on developers running background apps, but you CAN at least put the screen to sleep by hitting the sleep button for most apps. AOL Radio still plays songs while the screen is shut off, it would be nice if Steps could keep counting as well.


Steps is a bad implementation of a great idea. While the app is visually appealing, and the price even more so, not being able to deliver on the basic “counting of steps” premise makes it a $1.99 stopwatch, and a better one already ships free on the iPhone.

Steps by Edovia Inc.

Price: $1.99

Pros: Simple, clean interface, all the features you’d want in a pedometer app, cheap

Cons: Doesn’t accurately register steps, thus making it useless

11 Responses to “Review: Run, don’t walk, AWAY from “Steps””
  1. ma77 says:

    wishing now i had read this last night and not this morning.
    as i just bought steps. It two have a regular pedometer.
    maybe i will test steps against it tonight.

  2. Hilken says:

    I bought Steps last Friday and while results are approximative, I’m happy with my purchase. For me it was a bit off but I find the app still useful…

    It would recommend a buy if you want a pedometer that will give you an approximative figure.

  3. Jonro says:

    If Apple would just make the iPhone compatible with their Nike+iPod system, you would have your pedometer plus a lot more for less than $30.

    I wondered why Apple had not done this already and realized that their apps generally don’t run in the background. Apple may need to do a significant amount of programming to get the Nike+iPod software to continue to run on an iPhone when a call comes in. At any rate, it’s a first-class solution to tracking your walks and runs.

  4. Lil_n_ooomy says:

    “it was actually closer to 4.5mph, thank you very much”

    So you traveled 7.24 kilometers in about an hour, just by walking???

    China called – they want you to participate to the Olympics.

  5. you think walking at 4.5 miles per hour for an hour is something impressive? I’m flattered, but that’s like a 13 minute mile. I think the olympics needs 5 minute miles…

    -The Doc

  6. Lil_n_ooomy says:

    According to Wikipedia :

    “An average walking speed is about 4 to 5 km/h (2 to 3 mph), although this depends heavily on factors such as height, weight, age and terrain.”

    Were you running?

  7. I’m not out for a leisurely stroll, this is part of my morning workout.

    No, I was walking fast. I am 6 foot 3. I walk very fast, on the verge to a slow jog (but my knees don’t love the jogging anymore).

    Get on a treadmill and set it to 4.5 mph. I think you’ll find if you are under 30, and not a midget (nothing against little people), you can walk it.

    -The Doc

  8. Suspect math all right. Hope you get a free upgrade when the developer fixes it. I’ve already received an update from the NYTimes app.

  9. K says:

    I’m with the doc here, naysayers are idiots

  10. edovia says:


    Just to let you know that Steps 1.2 has been submitted to Apple and should be available in a few days.

    We’ve added a new calibration tool to make Steps more accurate in all conditions. We’ve also re-wrote our algorithms and added some new features.

    Visit our blog at for more details.

  11. ayb says:

    There is always StepTrakLite. Don’t know if it is any good, but it is free.

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