Save money on activity trackers with Moves app for iPhone [review]

A new app for the iPhone, Moves, a free app for the iPhone that allows users to track their physical activity from their pocket without the need for any expensive gadgets.

The creators say it is designed for users who may frequent the gym less than their friends but would like to know about the activity they’re tracking.

And with the app tracking exercise in the background and sending users a daily notification with a summary, it couldn’t be easier. I’ve been using the app for the past week, to see how well it works…

What is tracked?

The app uses all the tools in-built to your iPhone, meaning the accelerometer and GPS. For a free app, you are getting quite a lot! This means walking, cycling and running are tracked activities, along with the app knowing when you are in transit… unless you can really run that fast!

Unfortunately nothing else is tracked, so no sleep, food, etc. There are other apps for this however, SleepCycle for sleeping and MyFitnessPal for food tracking. When the API becomes available for Moves, this will mean you can hook into other apps and dashboards too.


The app surprised me as it was very accurate, the steps were exactly as I counted during a test walk and although I did see steps accumulate at the start of a car ride, the app soon realises you are in transit, thanks to GPS tracking, and doesn’t take any data during that period.

For a free app the accuracy is fantastic, and makes you wonder whether a FitBit or FuelBand style device is necessary – however there is the downside of the already poor iPhone battery taking a further beating.

User experience

The app is very simple to use and set up. The navigation makes sense, with steps, distance or time shown from clicking the main bubble. You are shown peaks in activity on a timeline, with walks between places and the places shown – you can even define these with a label, which will be useful when the data is made available to export (a feature coming soon, along with the API). You can also label the places based on Foursquare integration.

Battery life however is an issue; my iPhone 5 lasts until 7pm on an average day (which is terrible in itself) but with Moves running I was seeing my phone die at around 4pm. Is this an issue? It depends on whether you charge your phone during the day and whether you don’t mind gaps in data on the times you forget. It’s a free app, so charging your phone more often is a small price to pay.


Moves is a great app – it is free, accurate and so easy to use – I totally forgot about it each day until I received my daily notification. It has some neat features, including the labels for journeys and places, with Foursquare support, and when the API is made available, along with data export, it will become a solid offering.

While the app is aimed at the majority of people who don’t care so much about wearing an expensive fitness tracking device, I think it could work for those of us who do, but have light wallets! The only downside is the battery issue, as it does reduce your iPhone’s battery life to less than a working day – but if you think you will always carry a charger with you and remember to charge it, then no problem.

I recommend you try Moves out, especially if you are yet to buy a device – you might like it and save yourself some money. Download Moves for iPhone here.


The Breakdown

Step counter
User experience
Battery life

There are 11 comments

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  1. Fred Silva

    With this kind of use, smartphone’s battery will run out of juice in a blistering pace. Fitbit runs for a week :)

    • David Clare

      Hi Fred, yes, the iPhone does run out of battery quite fast, I found it dying around 4pm each day. However, simply charging mid-day could be an easy answer to the problem. Personally, I know I will not – hence why I wear a Jawbone UP now (10 days battery – *boom*) but for many, especially those with only a light interest and who consider £100 on a device as ridiculous, this app could be the answer – it works well.

  2. SmarterMuscle

    Just another accelerometer based activity tracker. Not adequate for tracking activity over the course of the day or measuring calories burned – how much published evidence does there need to be before people start taking accuracy seriously! One thing I do agree with is that compared to fitbit and fuelband there is no real different, all based on simple accelerometry, just the iPhone battery limitations that stand out.

    • David Clare

      I think we need to remember the positioning of this product – it is for casual trackers, not the types who will use scientific devices. It also does not track calories burned, all it does is steps. The main thing is that it could encourage people to at least walk more – and if that works then I think it is great. But I totally take your point, it is very inadequate if you need accurate tracking at a scientific level – BodyMedia devices are good for that.

      • SmarterMuscle

        Agree that if it can promote an increase in steps then it is valuable. However with all the emphasis being put on steps, people aren’t getting the real information about how everything counts – not just steps or exercise. I also think that the accuracy is important whether aimed at casual trackers or those who want to dig deep into analysis of their own data. Tthe platforms that are developed to show the data should adapt to the audience and their demands, and put the data in context for the individual and their goals, there’s no question of that – but the data behind it needs to be accurate for the insights generated to be trusted.

        • David Clare

          Very fair point, although if something is consistent, whether that is consistently underestimating steps or overestimating, then you can see days where you improved or did word, even if not 100% accurate. But yes, just steps is not enough. If you’d be interested in writing a guest article on the topic please do get in touch

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