How to Use the Pedometer on Apple Watch to Count Steps & Distance

Dec 20, 2015 - 27 Comments

Apple Watch Activity app The Apple Watch has numerous health and fitness related features including a heart rate monitor and built-in step counter, also known as a pedometer. While many users assume the pedometer feature must be accessed from the accompanying iPhone, which can also track steps and mileage on it’s own, there’s actually a separate pedometer feature bundled into the Apple Watch Activity app that is largely overlooked by users, accessible directly from your wrist any time.

If you want to see how many steps you’ve taken and the distance traveled while wearing an Apple Watch, you can quickly look at the step counter on the device without having to use the paired iPhone.

Accessing the Step Counter & Pedometer on Apple Watch

The Apple Watch pedometer feature that tracks total steps as well as total distance and calories used in that activity, here’s how to access it directly on the Watch:

  1. Open the Activity app on the Apple Watch (it’s the concentric multi-color circle icon)
  2. At the primary Activity screen, scroll down with the digital crown (the rotating dial on the side of the Apple Watch) to reveal the pedometer feature, you’ll see your step count under “Total Steps”

Accessing the Pedometer Step Counter on Apple Watch

The Apple Watch pedometer will update the step count even if the paired iPhone is not in reach or unavailable, and the data will sync to the related iOS Health app when the iPhone is in range again.

In the screen shot examples below, the Apple Watch is deliberately disconnected from the paired iPhone but was worn taking a few steps, and you can see the Total Steps and Total Distance measurements increase as expected:

Step counter pedometer on Apple Watch

(not exactly a record breaking day of activity, but it was early morning!)

It’d be nice if the Apple Watch had a glance view or complication (the customized settings on the clock faces, complication is their name and not a problem) for the pedometer feature, but for now you can quickly access it from the Activity app.

For users who don’t have an Apple Watch, you can still track steps and mileage on the iPhone as well using the devices accelerometer, as long as the iPhone is with you while you’re walking around. Like the Apple Watch, the step counter is enabled by default on the iPhone but if you turned it off you can turn it back on again to track motion and fitness with the phone.

Apple Watch is a great accessory for active people and also for those looking to increase their activity, with hourly Stand Up reminders to help minimize sitting, various fitness and health tracking features, a heart rate monitor, calories burned estimator, and much more.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Apple Watch, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Nielsen says:

    I just use Health app on my iPhone and read it from there. Apple Watch estimates higher than Fitbit it seems.

  2. ron says:

    The Apple Watch does not keep steps correctly, with or without the iPhone. Try walking through Costco or a supermarket pushing a cart and if any steps are recorded.

    • hamps says:

      I haven’t noticed that, I tested against a fitbit for a week and both were pretty accurate compared to GPS, if anything the Apple Watch overestimated the steps for the day by about 10-15%. For your case it’s probably because of the cart, but it should still detect the motion and the impact of each step, which is how the steps are counted and measured (motion signifying a stride, a subtle impact indicating each step as foot hits the ground)

  3. jgg says:

    The Apple Watch has an activity complication, contrary to the author’s assertion, that can be added when customizing a watch face from the watch UI.

    I enabled it in mine and it works fairly well. I just checked and it has recorded 3,771 steps or 2.12 miles. I know that I ran 1.7 miles of the 2.12 so the only question is how accurate the 0.52 difference is, and when/how that occurred.

    Undoubtedly, the app’s accuracy will improve over time as Apple is able to gather and analyze metrics. Calculating human body movement and activity from a single body location (wrist) is not trivial and will take time to refine and optimize.

  4. Allen says:

    Thanks for mentioning the UI. “X marks the spot! Found it and it’s great. Still have the issue with accuracy. I have Pacer, and the difference was about 900 steps (watch was higher). But…

  5. Shollybeee says:

    Why is there a difference between the 2 pedometer total steps on the Apple Watch?

  6. Sam says:

    Under ‘Steps’ it says you’ve walked 383 FT! Mine says KM, I want it to say MI – how do I change it?

  7. Nichole says:

    What most of us are saying is that we DONT want the ring complication on the face… we would like to have a complication for steps only… it would be nice if Apple could get their act together because their pedometers are not accurate as I’ve tested my watch and my Fitbit together on many occasions. I really prefer my Apple Watch but it’s lacking on one of the biggest health kicks right now! It would be nice to just look at your wrist and see the total steps just like you see the time or date.

  8. Tammy says:

    I just bought my watch today and have worn it all day and it still says 0 steps. Why is it not recording my steps?

  9. Dubera says:

    My step count is WAY OFF. I was drying my hair with my watch on and it recorded almost 200 steps. Which is frustrating because I got the watch to be a fitness tracker. Also if I’m rolling around playing with my kids on the floor it also records steps?!? Anyone have an idea how to fix this? Or reset the count for the day?

  10. Melissa English says:

    I just bought mine and have been wearing all day and it said I have not taken any steps. Anyone know how to fix this

  11. Debs 🐝 says:

    The fitbit is better at displaying steps and encourages you more and when you’ve reach 10,000 it sets off fireworks and cheers , Apple Watch is a bit disappointing for steps and that you have to go into activity to find it 😔

  12. Cheryl says:

    How do you reset the pedometer app to zero ?

  13. Cheryl says:

    How to reset to zero

  14. Robert says:

    I just purchased a I watch 2. I can’t get it to record my steps . Timer starts but nothing counts? Any ideas?

  15. Karen Percy says:

    How can I find out the total number of steps I have done in a month on my iwatch or my iPhone please?

  16. Elizabeth Hampson says:

    I have been in touch with Apple about my watch. When I knit or crochet it records my wrist movements as steps. I can easily notch up 5000 steps purely by sitting crocheting. Apparently there is nothing they can do about it as it’s all recorded by the wrist movement. Sadly for me this renders the Watch useless as a fitness feature.

    • Denise says:

      Maybe take your watch off while knitting or crocheting? I walked for about 4 hours pushing a cart and logged on 0 miles. It can be frustrating.

  17. Loren Porter says:

    Calibration may improve your step accuracy.

    Pedometer++ is a free app which brings with it a complication where steps can be seen on the watch face depending which face you use. I recommend the bottom long complication with say the Analog Activity face….Or Mickey Mouse, a good walking partner.

  18. Shirley Moran says:

    I just bought an Apple Watch series3
    Can you compete against your friends on who has done the most steps for the day etc , even if they have Fitbits or other brands ?

  19. giri says:

    I was tired asking for people on how to do setup my apple watch. Here is where I got all my questions answered – The best facilitator I ever met.

  20. Lou says:

    Brilliant advice.

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