Saturday, March 1, 2014

Running App Review

I previously compared Nike+GPS and Runkeeper and I'll include an update of those 2 apps. I've also tested the free version of Runmeter and Runtastic. I have been running with 2 apps (big battery drain) so that I can compare apps against each other. That, and Nike won't let me import anything and I'm not ready to give that app up just yet.
Android options are still beyond my experience, but assuming the core features are about the same, this is my experience.

Nike+GPS ($1.99) vs Runkeeper (Free) vs Runmeter (Free or $4.99 Pro Upgrade) vs Runtastic (Free version or $4.99 Pro version)

Nike+GPS is available from the apple store for $1.99. It will coordinate with the Nike+iPod program if you've been using that application so all your runs will be available on your account.  

Runkeeper is free from the apple store, and there is an Elite subscription for $19.99/year that gives you access to additional features such as advanced reporting & feedback options, discounts on fitness classes and live broadcasting of your runs.

Runmeter now has a free version and a PRO upgrade for $4.99.
The free version is a highly stripped down version and, quite frankly, barely worth mentioning in a review, but I'll share a bit of my disappointing experience with this app.

There are tons of features, and I direct you to click on the link above and check it out. It's iPhone-centric, so no companion website. It also offers lots of connected social media features, and integration into iCal, which is the one feature that is missing from all these other apps.

I was so excited to see it had a free version and hopped right on it, but was deeply disappointed in what was available for free. Every time I went to try a feature, it was greyed out and only available in the PRO version. No audio cues, no integrated music, no sharing. It did allow me to save to my calendar - woohoo! At least they could offer a free 30-day option for the paid version, that would allow a true assessment of features.  Unless and until a free trial of the pro version becomes available, I'm staying away from this one.

Runtastic has a free and paid upgrade version for $4.99 as well.
I have to say, the free version is just as limited and annoying as Runmeter's free version, but with less features I'd care to pay for in an upgrade. Again with no audio cues, no integrated music, blah blah. There is some sharing with apps such as MyFitnessPal and social media sharing. There's also a companion website to track runs and download your data (nice if you want to import it elsewhere).

The GPS was a bit more accurate than Nike's, and allowed me to calibrate my Nike runs so that they're now virtually identical. That said, because of the stripped down functionality I nearly deleted it, then I got a coupon for a free upgrade - yay!

The paid version allows for all the features I've come to expect, such as audio cues, integrated music, training plans. There's also a live tracking option with cheers that I was excited to check out. I run alone very early in the morning and somewhere in the back of my mind I find it comforting that someone can track my last known location.

That said, I did find the live tracking disappointing. The 'cheering' is someone speaking something like 'I Like It' or whatever that I can barely hear when someone 'likes' your post. Maybe it tells me who said it, I can't tell because not only is it barely audible, but it's in such a muffled and creepy tone that the first time it happened I grabbed my mace, looked around, and kicked my run into high gear for a bit...NOT the type of motivation I'm seeking on an early morning run that's for sure! I wondered if it was a one-time glitch, so I tried the live tracking again - nope, that's actually the way it is. No thanks, I turned that off :(

Nike+ offers actual cheers when someone likes the post. Wish I knew who was cheering, I have to wait until the end of my run to see, but still, better than creepy scare-cheers...eeek!

Also, if you post the live tracking to your feed and then post at the end of your run, it's 2 separate posts. Nike will merge your start/finish posts into one, which I prefer..

If you're into using a companion website, this one has far more features than any of the others. You can see who's running/cycling/whatever in real time around the world, or near you. Pretty cool if you want to find new virtual friends, or stumble upon one of your actual friends that you didn't know used the app. Otherwise, it's not something I ever use.

You can also track multiple activities manually and still have them shared with other apps and keep a complete training history in your app - I like that. No integration into iCal, that's a Runmeter-only feature it seems, and one that would put this app over the top for me.

Runkeeper has made some impressive updates. A slicker look, which is fine, but the real update that makes all the difference for me is the ability to track more activities within the app. I'm still looking for that one app to track all of my fitness activities, and Runkeeper is getting there. Runtastic allows me to enter different activities and choose the name for them, Runkeeper has an 'other' for that, but I wish I could enter my own title. I teach PiYo and do other activities that aren't on the list. Runtastic still wins out on customization, but Runkeeper is getting there.


The Nike website also has some nice features such as moving to different levels based on total mileage and some positive reinforcement messages from athletes.

Nike also has the ability to receive 'cheers' from your facebook fans, a nice little feature if you're competing in a run, or if you just want some kudos on your every day run.  This feature is only available as part of the Elite subscription in Runkeeper.

Runkeeper is the hands down winner on total feature set.  You can track various activities and you have several feedback options.  Personally, I like having feedbacks at both mileage and timing intervals. Nike only allows one or the other.

Nike+ also integrates with sites like dailymile, which is a really nice feature if you're using that site as it will import all your runs with ease.

The gps function is weaker on the iPod Touch than on the iPhone, and Nike+ has a built-in accelerometer that helps compensate for weak gps signals, and also allows you to use the app with some degree of accuracy on treadmill runs as well.

Runkeeper will integrate with certain heartrate monitors while the Nike+gps app currently does not (though the Nike+iPod (another free app) will and as said before, you can switch back and forth between apps and still save all your runs). 

Nike will loop your chosen playlist if your run goes longer than the music you selected while Runkeeper will not, and there is no option to re-start the music. If your activity exceeds your playlist in Runkeeper, you'll have to manually go back into music and make a selection.

Playing well with others
Importing/Exporting your activity:
Runtastic and Runkeeper will allow you to import/export your runs. You can also log additional activities in both.
Nike is so proprietary that you can only record runs and can neither import nor export without a third-party hack.

LoseIt will sync your activities with Nike+ and Runkeeper. MyFitnessPal will sync with Runtastic and Nike+. 

If you live in an area with spotty gps, you're only wanting to track runs &/or walks, you want to use a single app for your indoor treadmill runs as well (or primarily indoor runs), or if you use the iPod touch, then Nike+gps is a hands-down winner.

If you like tracking multiple activities, prefer more feedback options, and are using an iPhone in an area with decent gps coverage, then Runkeeper is a must-have. Runtastic would be a close third.

Available in Nike+, an additional app will pull Runkeeper runs to monitor shoes.  
Runmeter and Runtastic - nope, not available.

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