GPS Run Tracking: Some Applications Are Better Than Others


Recently, I joined the modern age and switched from a BlackBerry to an iPhone 4s.  It has taken some time to adjust to the new operating system, but you can definitely do a lot more with the iPhone.

In addition to its advanced features, the iPhone also provides access to a wealth of applications.  One of my interests was finding a good GPS run tracker.  The App Store happens to offer several free run tracking application options.  Given the choices, I decided to test four different free applications to evaluate which run tracker to use.



iMapMyRun – First up was iMapMyRun.  I really wanted to like this application, as I knew other iPhone users who run with it.  In comparison to other applications, though, I thought it fell somewhat short.

  • Access – You can’t just activate iMapMyRun and use it without creating a login name and password.  Logging in through Facebook is possible, but you still need to go through the process and can’t just immediately use it.
  • Features – The free version has a nice looking interface, with icons for routes, past workouts and even a feature on nutrition.  It’s also pretty easy to start a workout (touch “Record Workout” and then “Start”).
  • Results – The workout detail has an easy-to-read summary with your start time, end time, duration, distance and pace.  You can also check out your route on the map.  There is, however, no feature for your splits to see how you fast you were going per mile.  As far as accuracy, it tends to add a little bit to your route as mapped by Google Maps.  A route that was mapped as 11.6 miles on Google was recorded as 11.8 miles on iMapMyRun.  Another 11.7 miles “on paper” route came up as 11.92 miles.

RunKeeper – RunKeeper also came recommended by a running friend. It has a simple look and yet has many of the features I seek.

  • Access – No need to log in or log out unless you’re looking to upload your stats to an account.  You can upload the application and use it immediately.
  • Features – There are only three options on the main screen: Start, Activities and Settings.  Really, do you need much else?  On the Start Page, you can specify your activity type and even set up a music playlist.  Be warned though: there’s no default countdown when you hit the start button.  Make sure to schedule it on Settings.  Also, there’s audio cues given during your run when you hit a distance (per mile) or time (10 minutes) standard.
  • Results – The results page gives you your time, average speed calories and mileage.  Additionally, it has really detailed statsistics of your speed at each minute of your workout.  The time splits at each mile are also provided.  Accuracy, which has been the subject of some concern by other users, is a little bit of an issue.  A mapped workout on Google of 5.1 miles came up as 5.31 miles.  I’d like to think I wasn’t weaving back and forth that much over a short distance.

Endomondo – I actually had Endomondo as my tracker on my BlackBerry though I never used it too much.  I think it was probably an issue with picking up the GPS signal or something.  No such issue with the iPhone.

  • Access – You’re given the choice to sign up, log in or have the application “Remind Me Later.”
  • Features – The main page is the Workout page, so you can pretty much start up with a basic workout as soon as possible.  There’s a choice between starting immediately or using a countdown.  As far as I know, however, there was no option for an accompanying music playlist unless you started one manually.  Audio cues provide your time splits per mile.
  • Results – Your workout results are divided up into a map, data and splits.  What I did like about the map was that it wasn’t as “messy” as other maps.  The data page provides the distance, duration, average speed, max speed, calories, and elevation change.  Splits per mile are provided, with a notation of your fastest (a hare icon) and slowest (tortoise icon) mile splits.  Also, the accuracy was pretty spot-on.  A 1.0 mile segment on Google was recorded as 0.99 miles (probably on account of me cutting a corner).  The 2.5 mile mark also was recorded as scheduled.  The only thing I wish it had was actual mile markers on the map.

Runtastic – No one I know uses this application, but I saw it online, so I wanted to give it a try.  Pass.

  • Access – The login page provided you with the option to log in, sign up, use your Facebook account or create an account later.
  • Features – On the workout page, there’s option for history, portal, settings and to upgrade.  There’s a lot of numbers on the page surrounding the “Start Session” button in the middle.  But even after you touch “Start,” you then need to choose the type of activity.  Then, once you press start again, there’s a default 15 second countdown.  That’s all good and well, except that if you touch the screen during the countdown, the workout immediately starts.  I also did not like the mechanism to pause or stop a workout.  Rather than simply touching a button, you have to actually slide your finger across, as if you were unlocking your phone.
  • Results – When you finally get the application working properly, the results come out in a nice presentation.  You’re provided with a wealth of data, including duration, distance, elevation gain, max speed, calories, average speed and average pace.  The map also shows you the location of each mile.  Splits provide your pace, speed and elevation change during that mile.  There’s even an altitude chart.  You can also enter your own notes, feelings and weather on the run workout.  That’s a nice option.  Accuracy was not great.  What was supposed to be a 12.0 mile workout was recorded as 12.32 miles.

So, overall, accuracy was more of an issue for these applications than I thought it would be.  I found Endomondo and RunKeeper to be the best of the bunch, but that’s for my own needs.  I’m sure the other applications may be more suitable to others.


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