The idea of looking after yourself is no longer an activity restricted to a reliance on common sense. Where professional sport led, the rest of us followed, and today, personal well-being is a science. The volume of personal data that we can capture, and the depth in which we can analyze it, have provided new insights into how we should be eating, drinking, sleeping, living and exercising.
The mainstream cultural acceptance of fitness-related data logging can really only be attributed to the sporting world’s superbrands. Nike+ and Adidas’ miCoach, for some time, have dominated the market, and have been pushed by their respective parent companies at every opportunity. As the fitness app market has matured, however, numerous apps from infinitely smaller development teams have become some of the most popular offerings in the genre.
One iOS product which falls into this category is Moves. It’s an app which can best be described as a smart pedometer, and its simplicity and high quality design have won it a significant fan base over on the Apple-flavoured side of mobile computing. But now, Moves is making an entry into the Google Play store, and I got the chance to play with the pre-release version. Here’s how I got on…
As you might expect of a pedometer, you won’t be needing an instruction manual to understand Moves (not that one is provided). The process is simple; keep your phone in your pocket or bag throughout the day, and Moves will keep track of your movements via your handset’s accelerometers.
But I did say that this is a clever pedometer. Yes, it records the steps you make, but it’s also capable of a lot more.
Take, for instance, the distinction Moves makes between walking, running and cycling. Using “state-of-the-art activity- and place-recognition algorithms,” the app can somehow tell, with pretty respectable accuracy, how you’re getting around. Any foot-powered travels are logged in steps and distance covered, while cycling is measured in calories and distance.
This is only possible because Moves runs as a background app, and as a result, it is able to log your movements via GPS. This means that the app can see how far you’ve travelled in a given time, which gives a pretty good indication, by itself, as to how you’ve got to your destination.
Geolocation is also put to another good use in Moves. Assuming you leave Moves running throughout the day, the app will create a remarkably accurate timeline of where you’ve been, with your transport methods included. Tapping any point in this history takes you through to in-built Google mapping, illustrating the location and the amount of time you spent there. It’s pretty interesting as a standalone, but for the fitness fanatic, it is certainly a boon.
Battery drainage is always a concern with background apps, particularly of the GPS variety. The developer of Moves, ProtoGeo, clearly understands this concern, and has designed Moves to outsource as much number-crunching as possible to remote servers. As a result, you need to be connected to the internet — either via a data connection or via Wi-Fi — in order for a full analysis of your movements to be produced, but it is a system which relieves your phone’s processor of some of the workload.
In my testing, Moves did shorten my Nexus 4’s battery life — an inevitability. It did, however, resist the urge to slurp energy at an alarming rate, and the prospect of running out of juice never really felt like an imminently impending disaster.
I always enjoy apps which keep things simple, and Moves definitely fits that bill. It’s not going to give you perfectly accurate data, nor is it always going to sense your mode of transport correctly — treadmills are a little tricky, for instance.
However, considering that it is a pre-release version, there’s precious little to fault. Additionally, Moves is an app heavily reliant on simplicity, so I can’t honestly see the need to add more features.
But, as with any form of personal recording device, the most important feature of Moves is the simple nature of its logging. No one is going to spend their life strapped to a Nike+ sensor, but everyone is going to walk round with their phone in their pocket. With that in mind, Moves seems to be a wonderfully elegant solution for those of us who care about living healthily, but are not necessarily in training to be the next Usain.