December 10, 2013

How the Moves App Can Track Your Steps, Places and Commute

Ever since jumping feet first into the Fitbit fanclub last year, I've been quantifying just about every step, finding excuses to take a walk, parking further away, and generally being more active. I lost 30 pounds from my peak weight, and have found many people doing the same, as we battle on the weekly leaderboard for the most steps. If I don't have my Fitbit tracker on, my activities simply don't count. But on top of my daily Fitbit habit, for the last few months I've been tracking my comings and goings with the Moves app for Android, and have found it a strong companion that tells me information about where I've been, even if it lacks the social component that has Fitbit play such a big role in my need to be competitive.

Unlike Fitbit, which requires a dedicated device, be it a tracker or armband, to glean data from your walking, running or cycling, Moves leverages the built-in accelerometer and GPS data from your phone to pick up on your step count. So if you're someone who doesn't want to carry yet another device, and you just want to keep tabs on your own activity, Moves does exactly that.

A Big Day On Moves Shows A Long Walk on the Steven's Creek Trail

Moves initially didn't get a lot of interest from me for three reasons, after colleague +Scott Knaster introduced me to the app. The first is that when using Fitbit and Moves in tandem, Moves almost always counts 10 to 20 percent fewer steps than does Fitbit, for the same ground covered. Having been a staunch believer in Fitbit's data, and always wanting the higher numbers, Moves lost. Second, Moves always requires you to have your phone on you, so if you run low on battery, your steps don't count. Fitbit's battery goes for days and that's never been an issue. Third, Moves is done in complete solitude. There's not yet any ability to follow people or share with them your activity - which is a keystone of Fitbit's intrigue.

You Know It's Bad When It Takes an Hour from Mountain View to Milpitas

With all that out of the way, Moves gets more interesting for what it does do. As I move from place to place, Moves makes a best effort to find destinations along my path. If I go to the office, Moves taps into Foursquare's map data to find the office building. If I am on a scenic trail, again, Moves taps into Foursquare. And Moves is smart enough to know, based on my speed, whether I am walking, running, cycling or driving - which is labeled as transport.

The latter bit, transport, now makes it easier to show my wife just when I left the office, or how long I was in the car, or can be shown to demonstrate just how ridiculous traffic is getting in South Bay with the tech economy doing so well.

Two weeks ago, Moves made its first move (see what I did there?) into making their data get out of your phone and possibly onto the Web (like Fitbit) and into new applications with their launch of accounts and connected apps. One can easily see a future with your historical data on the Web or sharing with friends by email or other connected services, including Moves Export, which promises to take the activities you're already doing and take them to RunKeeper or compare with Facebook friends, further bringing the two apps closer.

You can find Moves free on Google Play. If you're an iOS user, don't fret, Moves is on the App Store for 99 cents too. It may be double counting for me to track all my steps twice, but as you can see, there's a good reason. Even if you already use Fitbit, check out Moves. And if you don't, there's really little reason you shouldn't give it a shot.

Disclosure: It could be assumed Foursquare Maps compete with Google Maps, and yes, I work for Google. But then, I don't see how that makes this post biased more or less. I just like writing disclosures.