Health and fitness-focused startup Noom has today launched Walk, an Android app that is essentially a ‘social pedometer’ pitched as a rival to the likes of Fitbit and Jawbone UP, only without the need for dedicated hardware.

The idea here is simple. You install the app and it runs in the background, counting your steps as you move around. It keeps a running tally of your current day’s and week’s steps and you can also compare your progress with that of friends via a leaderboard. In addition to that, there’s a global feed of the number of steps taken by other users of the app so you can get a feel for how you stand against the rest of the world.

Noom isn’t the first company to go down the ‘Use your phone to track activity’ path. European startup ProtoGeo’s Moves app has been acclaimed on iOS, tracking your steps but also acting as a location diary and being smart enough to tell the difference between walking, running, cycling and traveling in a motorized vehicle.

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Walk lacks those additional features but Noom defends the app to us by noting that it consumes less battery power than Moves and emphasizes social elements that Moves lacks. While the social argument is a fair point (after all, different people want different things from their apps) we’ll only really get a fair comparison in terms of battery consumption when Moves launches on Android later this summer.

Noom Walk suffers from the problem that any phone-based activity tracker will – it’s really tracking movement of your phone. It’s sensitive, too; I tapped my phone’s screen slightly harder than usual while using that app and saw the step count increase by one. (UPDATE: Noom tells us that the app’s sensitivity reduces when it is running in the background, making it less susceptible to measuring shakes and bumps that aren’t related to walking). You’ll also need to carry your phone around with you everywhere at all times to get an idea of your movement levels – no leaving your phone on the sofa while you nip to the kitchen to make a cup of tea.

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Criticisms aside, Noom Walk is a free, lightwieght, easy way to get into ‘quantified self’, and it will be interesting to see what direction the startup takes the app in from here. The company says that it wants to develop Walk as a motivational tool to get users to think about how much they move around and increase their activity levels.

Noom has offices in New York City and in Seoul, South Korea. The company has raised a total of $6.8 million from Kleiner Perkins, Qualcomm Ventures, m8Capital and Harbor Pacific Capital and it’s already seen success with its Weight Loss app for Android and iOS and its currently Android-only Cardio Tracker app. The company has claimed 17 million downloads from Google Play for its apps so far.

Noom Walk 

Image credit: Getty Images