How to see your step count on Apple Watch face with just a glance

Activity rings on Apple Watch

Logging and tracking your physical activity via a daily step count is one of the best features smartwatches have today. Fitbit is well known for this. They make keeping track of your steps simple and easy. 

Apple Watch, on the other hand, does not highlight step counting. There’s not even a preset option for tracking your steps in Apple Watch’s face gallery.

I’m one of those people who recently switched to the Apple Watch after using Fitbits for years. And one thing I really miss is seeing my step count right on my watch face. 

I’m not sure why Apple does not currently offer a steps complication (or flights climbed and distance traveled) to add to your watch face so you can check your step count with just a glance. 

Instead, Apple’s Activity app focuses primarily on movement, exercising, and standing And you have to scroll past those three focuses so you can catch a glimpse of your step count, distance, and flights climbed.

apple watch activity app step count
In the Activity app on the Apple Watch, users have to scroll far down to view their daily step count.

This lack of options can be extremely frustrating, especially when for users like me that switch from Fitbit to Apple Watch.

We miss being able to track a daily step count. So what can Apple Watch users do to track their step count?

Here’s how we do it. 

Related reading:

How to see your step count on Apple Watch

The best way to work around Apple’s disinterest in step counting is to download a third-party pedometer app. Apps like Pedometer++, Duffy, or StepsApp are great options.

Pedometer apps on Apple Watch screen
Pedometer apps like Pedometer++ and Duffy are popular amongst Apple Watch users.

All three of these pedometer apps are compatible with the Apple Watch. They are also free on the App Store. 

  • Open that App Store on your iPhone or Apple Watch. Search for and install the app.
  • Once you download and install your preferred pedometer app, you have to turn on tracking for all categories in Apple’s Health app and allow access to your Motion & Fitness Activity data. Give app access and permission to Apple Health app data and Motion and Fitness

After you give these permissions, your pedometer app syncs all the data your Health app gets from your Apple Watch.

You can then easily add these apps as an Apple Watch face complication so your step count (or another activity metric like distance) shows up on your Apple Watch screen.

If you’re worried about these pedometer apps counting both step counts from your Apple Watch and your iPhone, not a problem!

Pedometer++ app for Apple Watch
The Pedometer++ app for the Apple Watch shows users their step count clearly.

The Pedometer++ app has a setting where you can disable the merging of your Apple Watch and phone step counts.

Additionally, the Health app should not double-count your steps.

Apple aggregates your health and fitness data from Apple Watch, iPhone, and any other sources like apps or other fitness devices in the Health app and should automatically prevent double-counting of data from different sources.

See your step count directly on your Apple Watch face!

If you wish to have your step count show up on your Apple Watch Face, you can do that too!

You can change it from your Apple Watch or on your Watch app on your iPhone. 

Add a step count complication to your watch face

First, decide on your Watch Face and then customize it by adding your Step app’s complication.

  1. Press the Digital Crown to go to your watch face.
  2. Tap and hold the display and select Edit. Apple Watch edit your watch face directly on Apple Watch
  3. Swipe left or right to choose Complications.
  4. Tap on one of the complications to change it. Apple watch add or edit a complication to the watch face
  5. If you don’t see any current complications, tap inside one of the open boxes. 
  6. Turn the Digital Crown to see all available complications. Look for your pedometer app and tap it to add it as a watch face complication. Duffy pedometer complication for Apple Watch
  7. Press the Digital Crown again to save this complication to your watch face.

Then check out your step count from your preferred pedometer app!

Custom Apple Watch Face with step count
Once you select your image, you can customize your Watch Face with two additional Complications.

And voila! Your steps shall appear on your Watch Face!

It is important to note that your step count data may not update in real-time. While it might not be instantaneous, but hey, it’s better than nothing. 

Is your step count not updating on your Apple Watch face?

If your step count is not updating at all, make sure you turn on Background App Refresh for that app in your iPhone’s Settings app.

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
  2. Scroll all the way down to the section with third-party apps.
  3. Locate your chosen pedometer app and tap it.
  4. Toggle on Background App Refresh and make sure that you also toggled on Motion & Fitness. allow third-party app access to Motion and Fitness data and background app refresh
  5. Open your iPhone’s Health app and tap on your avatar at the top. Scroll down and under Privacy, tap Apps. Apple Health app check third-party app permissions to health app data
    1. Choose your pedometer app. Apps that you allow to read and write to Apple Health app
    2. Toggle everything on or if everything is already on, toggle it off, wait a few seconds, and toggle it back on. Health app on iPhone allow app to read Health app data
  6. Place your watch in the vicinity of your iPhone, so it can sync data back and forth.

Customize your Apple Watch Face with your own photo

If none of the Apple Watch Face presets call out to you, then you can always customize it yourself by using your photos. It’s super easy to do!

  • Find the image you want to use for your Watch Face from your Photos app.
  • Select the image, and tap the share button.

    Share button for iPhone, iPad, Mac, iOS
    To find the share button on any iOS device, look for this icon!
  • Then select Create Watch Face.
where to create watch face on iPhone
After clicking the share button on your selected image, scroll down to create your Watch Face!

From there, you can decide to use the full size of the image or make it into a unique kaleidoscope print. 

Creating a custom watch face on the iPhone
After you press create Watch Face, you have the option to choose between your photo or a kaleidoscope version of your photo!

Final thoughts

With the popularity of achieving your daily step count goal, you would think that Apple would offer more ways to track this data.

But to Apple, getting 10,000 steps a day isn’t a priority. Apple chooses to focus on your keeping your body moving instead. 

But after following this guide, you can now track your steps and overall movement easily!

Happy stepping!

I'm a content writer with a passion for all things lifestyle having earned my Bachelor of Science in journalism from St. John's University. I was born and raised in Southern California. My Apple Watch never leaves my wrist, but I also adore Fitbit. I love all things health tech, including fitness and self-care apps. When I'm not writing, I enjoy traveling, reading, and drinking iced coffee!

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you so much for this guide. I am new to Apple Watch and the instructions were clear, simple and easy to follow. Brilliant !!!

  2. I’m amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both educative and interesting, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is something not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about. Now i’m very happy that I came across this during my search for something regarding this.

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