Ever wondered whether Apple or Garmin is more accurate when it comes to counting your steps? After putting the two brands head to head at the London Marathon, I turned my attention to finding out more about the step-counting capabilities of both watches. To find out more, I strapped the Apple Watch Series 8 and the Garmin Forerunner 265 to my wrist, and manually counted my steps to see how the two watches compared. One was a lot more accurate than the other — read on to find out which took the crown.
Let’s start by taking a look at how the best fitness trackers on the market count your steps. Both the Apple Watch Series 8 and the Garmin Forerunner 265 track how many steps you’ve taken by using an internal accelerometer, which measures the swing of your arm. Each swing counts for two steps. It doesn’t matter whether you wear your watch on your dominant or non-dominant hand, or whether you’re walking with your hands in your pockets, or holding something, the accelerometer should still measure your body’s movement.
I walked 5,000 steps with the Apple Watch 8 and Garmin Forerunner 265 — and one was way more accurate
For this test, I did two walks of around 2,500 steps. On my first attempt to write this article, I lost count of my steps waiting to cross the road about 500 meters from my house, so I decided to use a manual counter instead. As I knew I’d never find a use for a clicker counter, I compromised and downloaded the Tally Counter app on my iPhone. Holding my phone in one hand and my coffee cup in the other, I walked along, manually clicking every time I took a step.
The first walk I did was 2,500 steps exactly, measuring 1.19 miles, taking me 20 minutes and 57 seconds. A couple of hours later, I walked another 2,700 steps (I forgot to stop at 2,500), which measured 1.14 miles and took 22 minutes and 7 seconds.
Next, I downloaded the data from my Garmin Forerunner 265, and then spent about two hours trying to figure out how to view my activity steps on the Apple Watch. While Apple likes to give you a running total of your daily steps, they make it impossible to view your actual steps taken in a recorded activity, unless you download a third-party app. In the end, I managed to upload the .gpx files from Apple to an app called Run Gap.
Here’s the difference between the two watches:
- Manual recording: 2,500 steps
- Garmin Forerunner 265: 2,516 steps
- Apple Watch Series 8: 2,453 steps
- Manual recording: 2,700 steps
- Garmin Forerunner 265: 2,710 steps
- Apple Watch Series 8: 2,548
- Manual recording: 5,200 steps
- Garmin Forerunner 265: 5,226 steps
- Apple Watch Series 8: 4,996 steps
So, as you can see from the data, the Apple Watch was about 200 steps out, and the Garmin Forerunner 265 rounded up by about 26 steps. Of course, to truly test the accuracy of the two watches, you’d need to do a lot more testing on a much bigger scale, but I was impressed at how pretty much spot-on the Forerunner 265 was.
As a reminder, fitness trackers do a lot more than just tracking your steps, and counting steps alone isn’t the best metric when it comes to getting fitter and losing weight. That said, it’s a good place to start. While that the target of 10,000 steps began as a piece of marketing in 1965 by a Japanese company that was about to introduce a device called a Manpo-kei (it means 10,000-steps meter), it is a useful goal — a review of 32 studies, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that “10,000 steps/day is a reasonable target for healthy adults.”
However you choose to track your steps, there are a number of benefits of walking more, including losing weight, building muscle, and feeling less stressed. Here’s what 30-minutes of walking each day can do for your body.