Over the last few years I have slowly been getting into the “quantified self” space. For those who have yet to hear of the term, it basically refers to any app or gadget that tracks data about you for the explicit purpose of giving you access to the data or an interpreted form of the data to motivate or simply inform you. Most of the time the data is fitness or health related, although it could in theory be about anything.
One of the latest “quantified self” apps I now use is called Moves, and it is a free app available on iPhone and Android. The core of the app is an activity recognizing algorithm the developers call TRACE (for TRajectory and Activity Classification Engine). It is basically a more advanced pedometer which uses your phone’s accelerometer along with location data to accurately determine distance and type of activity. Because it is using more than just an accelerometer, it can tell the difference between running, walking, cycling, and motorized transport with a fair degree of accuracy. The only accuracy issues I have experienced so far is occasionally classifying cycling as motorized transport, but the app allows you to easily correct that.
To the left you can see the apps default view, which is a daily storyboard that shows you where you were, how you travelled between those places, and a summary of distance travelled at the top. If I had cycled or ran that day you would also separately see totals for those activities at the top. On iPhone, but not yet Android, you can also have it display estimated daily calories as well. You can also click into an activity or place to see a map view of your day.
And that is pretty much what the app does. What I really like about this app is the simplicity. It does very little but it does it well. Unlike standalone solutions for tracking activity, this works without having to wear a new device and never requires you to turn it on, or tell it that you are about to start a run. It simply runs in the background and determines your activity and you can completely ignore it most of the time.
Moves has quickly become one of my favourite apps. Even without the app actively pushing me to be more active, just the simple act of tracking activity motivates me to move a little more. A few times now I decided to bike to the grocery store instead of taking the bus simply because I wanted to see the blue biking activity on Moves. It sounds a little silly, but it definitely motivates me. I would highly recommend this app to figure out just how much you are actually moving each day. Then watch this video and try to up your activity a bit every day.
Moves isn’t without a small downside. It definitely has an effect on battery life. If you currently struggle with getting through the day on one charge, this app is probably not for you. If you generally don’t have much of an issue, then you probably will be fine with this app. On my phone, Moves tends to use about 10% of the battery over a day. For most people, that is probably not too bad. You also can put Moves into a battery saving mode if you know you will be away from a charger longer than usual.