Fitness and activity tracking has suddenly become a hot topic and there are numerous apps, bands and watches that promise to record every move you make. Apple has built in a Health app to iOS 8 and the iPhone 6 tracks every step you make, Microsoft just launched a wristband with tracking capabilities and a HealthVault website, and now Google has launched its own app. I have been running Google Fit for the past week on my Samsung Galaxy S4, so how has it been?

Initially, the Android app looked very bare and lacking in features, and I nearly dismissed it as not (yet) worthy of space on my phone. However, the lack of features is really just because of a lack of data and once you start using it, you discover that there is more to it than you first thought.

The aim is be active for 60 minutes a day and you must carry your phone in your pocket as much as possible so as to record the activities you engage in throughout the day. The app does this in the background without you having to start and stop timers when you walk run or cycle. Just start the app, switch back to the home screen and leave it running in the background.

The home screen shows a large display showing graphically and numerically how many minutes you have recorded today. It shows the number of minutes left to reach your goal. For some people, one hour’s activity isn’t enough and it is quite easy to clock up an hour just with normal everyday tasks like getting to and from work, walking around at work, and so on. Go into Settings and there is an option to increase the goal to whatever value suits you.

Google Fit . Google Fit app

Swiping across the screen switches the minutes to steps and this shows today’s steps and the number you need to do to reach the average. It is easy to see if you have under-exercised today.

Swipe up the screen and you can see your history and the previous week is shown. I don’t know how far back the history will stretch as I have only had the app a week. You can see each day’s activities. There are four types of activity and in addition to the auto-detected walking, running and cycling, there is an option to manually enter ‘other’. This could be a gym session, for example.

Tap a day’s activity and it expands to show the individual activities. Initially there is an overview that shows each time you walked, ran, cycled, or ‘other’, and tapping one of these expands it further to show the active time, elapsed time, steps, and a maps pin.

Tap the maps pin and you can see a map showing the area the activity took place. It does not show a detailed route map like some running apps, and instead it shows a broad circle on the map. You can see roughly where you were in the world, but not the street. Perhaps this is purely for privacy and you don’t need to know which streets you walked or ran down down, the important issue here is making sure you get enough exercise each day. If you want detailed maps of your activity, Google has a My Tracks app for that.

Google Fit . Google Fit

A daily activity chart is available that shows the time of day across the bottom and bars that show when and how much activity you engaged in. You can add your weight and heart rate and display this on charts too. You will need to manually enter them though. The Google Play Store blurb does say that it connects to third party apps and devices, but I don’t have any. Maybe if you have Bluetooth scales or a heart monitor it will connect and pull off the data. Has anyone tried this?

Activity trackers increase battery consumption because they are always running in the background monitoring your movements, but Google Fit has been very light on the battery use over the past week. It uses so little battery that you will not notice it, which is great.

Google Fit is also on the web and it is an exact copy of the Android app. I think it would be better if the website did something different. I can’t see a use for it because the app is in your pocket and it does everything the website does.

I like the simplicity of the app and it has a minimalist design. It isn’t packed with features, menus and buttons, and it does just enough and no more. I have tried a few activity/walking/running apps and this is one of the few I will keep on my phone. I think the website could do more, along the lines of Microsoft HealthVault though.

TitleGoogle Fit (Google Play Store)
Price: Free
Developer: Google
Size: 13MB
Android: 4.0 and up
Rating: 4/5

Alternative activity and fitness trackers: Nike+ Moves, HumanArgus