Healthcare Privacy

Your smartphone knows how fast you walk and how well you can hear

Imagine someone following every step you take, furiously noting everything you do in a notebook. Pretty creepy, right? Well, that’s pretty much what your smartphone does — but because our iPhones and Androids are so useful, we rarely think about how they keep track of us.

One way you can take your privacy back is by tweaking your phone’s location settings. Within your Apple and Android device is a buried feature known as “Frequent Locations,” which keeps track of where you go and how long you stay. Tap or click here to turn off location settings on your smartphone.

Many of the ways our smartphones track us can be helpful, like fitness tracking. Through this feature, your smartphone analyzes your health to see how your fitness journey is going. But there are a few ways your phone monitors your health you might not know about. Here’s all you need to know.

1. How you walk

Sure, you probably know that your smartphone can count steps and distance. You don’t need a smartwatch for that. But you may not know that your phone can track the way you walk.

For instance, your iPhone can measure your walking steadiness and asymmetry. It also knows how far you’re stepping. Thanks to your phone’s motion sensors, custom algorithms analyze your balance, stability and coordination.

What you need to know about the Walking Steadiness feature

If you have an iPhone 8 or a more recent model with iOS 15, you can turn on this feature. It tracks mobility metrics, like step length, walking speed and even walking asymmetry. This feature categorizes your walking steadiness. If you’re hobbling, your phone will send you a notification like this:

Want to turn this feature on? Here’s how to find it:

  1. Open the Health app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap Summary.
  3. Scroll to Walking Steadiness Notifications.
  4. Tap Set Up and follow the onscreen prompts to confirm your health details. You can even turn on notifications.
  5. Tap Done.

Don’t forget that your iPhone can also collect information about your steps

Your iPhone has a ton of accelerometers that keep track of how quickly you move. They detect the way you move when you’re walking or running. You don’t need to hold it in your hand for it to work, either. Even when your iPhone is stored horizontally in your bag or purse, this feature works.

Enable this feature and you can see how many steps you’ve undertaken. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open the Health app.
  2. Select Summary at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Select the Steps heading.

Here’s what it will look like on your phone:

If you want to view the data for the day, select the D tab. You can also tap the M tab to see your monthly steps and Y to see your yearly totals. It’s a great way to stay on top of your fitness goals.

If you’ve been keeping track of your steps on paper and want to digitize the data, head to Summary > Steps > Add Data to input the information. Just like that, you have one place with all your steps information.

Want to stop your iPhone from tracking your steps? Open the Health app and follow these steps:

  1. Tap Browse > Activity.
  2. Tap Steps.
  3. Select Data Sources & Access at the very bottom.
  4. Under Data Sources, select your iPhone.
  5. Tap Edit.
  6. Tap Delete All.

This removes all of your iPhone’s previous step data.

One last thing: Don’t forget about the Walking Asymmetry feature

This is how your phone knows if you have a limp. High-tech sensors are trained to spot any irregularities in your footsteps. So if one foot is slower or faster than the other, this feature lets you know.

To open it, tap Browse at the bottom of the Health app. Select Mobility and then tap Walking Asymmetry. Here’s what your screen will look like:

It’s helpful for people in recovery who want to keep track of their progress. On the other hand, it’s a practical way to determine if something is wrong with your body.

Do you have an Android? It can also analyze the way you walk

While iPhones use the Health app to analyze your walking style, Androids use Google Fit. Here’s what your phone monitors:

  • Elevation
  • Steps you take
  • The distance you travel
  • Time you spend moving
  • How many calories you burn

You can also track your weight after entering it manually. This can help you stay on top of your goals.

2. How well you can hear

That’s right: Your smartphone can tell how well you can hear. Your iPhone can track audio levels from connected AirPods and other compatible headphones. If set up, it can alert you over volume concerns.

Want to start making sure your hearing is okay? Follow these steps:

  1. Open the Health app.
  2. Scroll to the bottom and tap Browse.
  3. Tap Hearing.
  4. Select Headphone Audio Levels.

This way, you can understand how long you’re exposed to loud audio. If you’re anything like me and you automatically turn the music up when your favorite song plays on Spotify, you might be damaging your hearing.

The Hearing feature can even send you notifications when loud music has been playing for too long since that can hurt your hearing. As with other examples above, you can delete this data by scrolling to the bottom of the feature page, tapping Show All Data > Edit > Delete All.

How your Android tracks your hearing health

If you head to Google Fit’s website, you’ll see all the data types it collects. There aren’t any mentions of hearing, so you can’t use this app to analyze your hearing health (at least, not yet). However, that doesn’t mean your Android is incapable of testing your health.

Ear Health Monitor is a free app that analyzes the audio levels from your headphones. It categorizes the decibel levels from OK to Loud. You can even filter your headphone usage by hour, day, week or month. It’s an excellent way to see the range of audio levels you’ve exposed yourself to over time.

3. How you sleep

You’ll find many surprising answers when searching “How your phone tracks your health.” Here’s one hidden tip you may not know about: You can sync your Apple Watch to your iPhone to get specific sleep data.

Your Apple Watch can track your time in bed, movements, heart rate and other metrics while you sleep. Sending this data to your iPhone means you get highly accurate sleep information when you open the Health app. You might want this if you’re trying to get more sleep. After all, getting a good night’s rest is crucial for your health.

Here’s how to turn it on:

  1. Open the Watch app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap My Watch.
  3. Select Sleep.
  4. Tap Track Sleep with Apple Watch.

Now you’ll get accurate results when you sleep with your watch on your wrist.

Try this Android trick for the same result

If you have a WearOS Smartwatch, you can check your sleep data. You just need the Sleep As Android app. First, download it from the Google Play Store on your smartphone.

Then, download it on your watch. If you’re having trouble finding it, here’s what to do:

  1. Press the side button on your WearOS smartwatch.
  2. Select Play Store.
  3. Type Sleep as Android into the search bar.
  4. Tap on the app once you find it.
  5. Tap the Install button.

Next step

Once you’ve downloaded Sleep for Android on both devices, it’s time to dig around its settings. Open the app on each device and tap Settings > Sleep > Sleep tracking. Here you can set up how you want it to track you.

To start manually tracking your sleep, open the app whenever you’re going to bed. When you wake up, you’ll see a notification from the app on your phone. Tap it to let the app know you’re awake. This data then syncs between your devices.

Learn more about how your phone tracks your health

Add this life-saving information to your smartphone

How to enable and use the health features on your Apple Watch

This Android app can measure your heart rate using your phone’s camera

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