Interesting Lessons from Building a Pedometer

Today I’m releasing a major update to my app Pedometer++. This app started life as a ultra minimalist proof-of-concept that met with far more interest than I’d ever expected.

Before writing Pedometer++ I didn’t really have any experience with writing Fitness apps or the specific quirks of this market. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from having it out in the market for a few months and listening to the feedback I’ve received.

  1. I’ve had a reasonably large number of people convert over from a dedicated tracking device (FitBit, Nike Fuel band, etc). Every time I hear from a customer that they are leaving their old approach it is for one of two reasons:

    • They struggled to remember to have their tracking widget on them all day so it wasn’t being useful, but always have their iPhone on them.
    • They kept breaking their old widgets or losing them. Easy to do with a tiny device designed to be inconspicuous, less so for a $600 device that you can’t live without.
  2. This app has generated more guilt than anything else I’ve ever created. I am constantly hearing from people who say that they open the app and are shocked at how little they actually move in a day. I know for myself it wasn’t until I actually measured it that I realized how sedentary my life was. It is sobering to see that you only took 2,000 steps in a day and realize just how unhealthy that likely is.

  3. The app skews predominately male. Not because they are more interested in counting their steps but simply because they are far more likely to have their iPhone on them all day. I’ve heard from many women who wish they could use the app to count their steps but carry their iPhone in their purse so it just doesn’t work as a reliable measurement for them.

  4. The general advice is that taking at least 10,000 steps a day is a reasonable goal for healthy activity levels. I’ve found that for someone who works a typical office job this is only possible when taking proactive steps to start moving. For me this has meant starting to use a treadmill desk for part of my workday. I’ve also heard from many people who have started adding walks and runs into their days to try and meet their goals.

These lessons and feedback have really encouraged me to invest in this app. It is a rare thing for a software developer to know that what I’m building is tangibly improving the health and lives of my customers. I have to say, it is a great feeling. I’m very grateful that Apple added this to iPhone and really hope they continue to expand in this area moving forward.

So what’s in the new Pedometer++ 2.0? The update brings two major changes plus a few bonuses added in.

  • I’ve added localizations for German, Spanish, French, Korean, Chinese, Russian, Italian and Japanese. I want to make the app useful to as many people as I can.
  • The visual design of the app has been given a complete overhaul. This was most directly focused around making it so that you can now see an entire week at a glance. Beyond just the structure I also spent a lot of effort improving the colors, typography and general appeal of the app.
  • Additionally, there are a number of little features now added. You can share your step counts in a more polished way. You can now export them out of the app in either a list or CSV file. The app shows your cumulative step counts to let you see just how far you have come.
  • As always the app is free in the App Store.


David Smith