Here's what the iPhone reveals about suburbanites vs. city dwellers

Motion blurred pedestrians crossing sunlit street

I grew up in the suburbs. The first 20 years of my life, I was stuck, dumb and happy, in the Midwestern suburbs. I thought the 'burbs had everything I needed: Targets, Applebee's, corporate chain restaurants and car dealership after car dealership. When I moved to Chicago for my junior year of college, I realized how closed-minded my existence had been. Cities, I found, offered everything the burbs did not: art, culture, neighborhood family-run restaurants, diversity, hope for a job that wasn't based in an office park.

I loved the city so much, I lived in Chicago for eight years before moving to London, where I've lived for the past five years. This Christmas, I returned home to the 'burbs for the first time in two years. And thanks to the iPhone 5s' M7 motion coprocessor, which allows me to capture and quantify my movement data, I made a startling discovery that further drove a wedge between city life and suburban life: Compared to city dwellers, suburbanites are just lazy.

Below is a screenshot from the Pedometer++ app I use on my iPhone 5s to view my motion data. That app is set to make sure I hit 10,000 steps a day. Days in green are where I have met or exceeded that goal. Days in orange are where I've hit it about halfway, and days in red are where I wasn't even close. Take a look at it and then scroll down.

At the very bottom of the image, from Monday, December 16 to Sunday, December 22 is a normal day/week for me in London. That's me going about my normal activity in the UK's capital: walking to the train, walking to the grocery store, walking to the café. Then look what happened on December 23rd. Most of the morning I was in London, but then I hopped on a 12 hour flight back to St. Louis where I was met with something almost everyone in the suburbs have: a car. Now look at December 24 to January 2. That's me, back in the American suburbs, with a car. I'd drive everywhere I'd normally walk to in London. Seeing friends, going out to eat, running to the grocery store.

I was never under the pretense that people in the 'burbs walked more than people in the city, but I had assumed they walked at least about 75 percent as much as city dwellers do. But thanks to the iPhone's M7 motion coprocessor, I could see for the first time ever -- with indisputable quantified data -- just how wrong I was.

To be fair to all my suburban friends, calling them "lazy" is a bit much. The American suburbs, after all, are designed with cars in mind, which has led to a mindset that it's completely normal to drive everywhere -- even if you could walk there in 20 minutes. Matter of fact, one day I decided to walk to the grocery store from my mom's house and when I got to the major road in town and crossed it drivers in passing cars cast glances at me like they were sure I had gotten a DUI since I was walking somewhere.

At the very top of the screenshot from January 3 on up -- back in the green -- is me, back in London where I first looked at Pedometer++'s data since I had left. Looking at the data, I was shocked at what I found, but it also made me hopeful. In today's world, it's ever-harder to live healthy, but thanks to advanced sensors that now live in our phones, we at least have the tools to help us better keep track of our lifestyles -- and maybe help us make choices based on that data to lead healthier lives.


The iPhone 5s' M7 motion coprocessor also has an added benefit: It shows just how ridiculous United Airlines' scheduling is. The screenshot below is from the Moves app, which takes advantage of the M7 to show how much you run, walk, cycle and use transport in a day. On December 23, the busiest traveling day of the year, United decided that international fliers arriving at Washington Dulles only needed a 45-minute window to disembark, get through US customs, claim their bags, recheck their bags and then make their connecting flight (when the flight was originally booked it was a 95-minute window--something United decided to change three months after the tickets had been bought...a discretionary change at the airline's whim that is legal under US aviation laws).

Thanks to the M7 coprocessor in my iPhone, I can view my experience of getting off my plane from London, walking (in green) to US customs and immigration, where I was greeted with a three-hour wait and 600 fliers in front of me. That white blip is the five minutes it took me to decide to cut in front of those 600 now screaming people, run through customs, and then (in pink) sprint two miles like a bearded madman through the airport (after abandoning my bags, no less) to make my connecting flight home to see my family for the first time in two years (United wanted to bump me to a new flight on the day after Christmas).

Thanks, Apple, for the M7 and the data it shows you -- and a big "no-thanks" to ever flying on United again.