Five Things – Free Runing Apps for Android Part 1

I decided to see if there was anything useful that I could put on my android phone that came close to replacing my year old, yet already ancient looking Garmin Forerunner 305. I get useful information on my run, audio warnings and then I can load the results onto my PC and save the tracks as a gpx log. I use Sport Tracks occasionally, it’s great for logging trips but falls short as it doesn’t allow me to plan my runs for the weeks ahead. Do any of these free android apps come close? I’ve run at least one run with each of these and compared with the Garmin for each one. There’s a mammoth 22 running apps here and we may well have missed a few – each of which needed at least one run to try

Jogtracker Lite (Lite – Pro – £2.54)  v3.0.0 You open this app to a start screen that’s got a start button and a few key stats including time and distance and a map, you need to scroll across for pace.  As there’s no option to toggle to aerial or topo i’ll be off that map most of the time. It also provides voice prompts but you can only set these by time interval and not distance. The pace given is totally randon, I knew by feel it was wrong (plus the Garmin gave me a rough idea).

Once you finish your run you can upload to the Jogtracker website and compare the run with your mates, work towards the awards in the community or analyse your runs further. See my run here. This works fine and gets bonus points for accuracy, but the voice prompts provide inaccurate information and are time driven only. Only the basic google maps provided and no option to toggle to aerial or topo. Accuracy was excellent, and while 0.05km off the Garmin, it was found to be the correct figure.

[rating: 3.5]

Endomondo Sports Tracker (lite, Pro – £2.57) v51– Multisport tracker that allows you to set a goal at the start (time or distance). You choose yout activity, and this has everything from running to yoga and golf, so you should find your sport. Once you work out that there’s a mapping screen to the right of the main one, then it becomes a little more useful! You get the bare minimum of Time, Distance and speed (and the less useful calories) but no pace. You can share the workout on Endomondo or Facebook. A useful little feature means you can race yourself in the paid for pro version, or download a route to run if there’s one nearby. Very simple to start running, just click start and you’re away, or choose a time or distance goal. It also has a music player, but refused to play on my phone, but is easier to use own player anyway especially if you use Spotify. It is also HRM compatible.

I set off with a goal run of 10km, with the intention of maybe going a little further to see if it would log it. Every km it would update with my pace and time, and what really impresed me was my estimated finish time. It also gave my pace in minuites and seconds, i can’t be doing with .33 for 20 seconds while i’m running. At the 10km mark it said i’d completed my goal and I thought I’d outwitted it, but reliably at 11 it told me my pace and time as it did on the final 12km mark. Once i’d finished my run, it saves it and you’ve got a lap by lap breakdown with splits, with a little hare and tortoise icon to denote your fastest and slowest laps.

Once uploaded to the website (view my run here), you can keep track of your activities, compete in challenges and so on. You even have the option of exporting to .gpx, which is handy.

We were impressed by the voice prompts on this and found the feedback useful. Splits at the end were a welcome bonus as is the ability to export to gpx. Would like to be able to customise the main trip computer and to increase the GPS sampling to improve accuracy. Accuracy was reasonable (0.15km off).

[rating:4]

RunKeeper (free) v2.7.4.3 –  Has a choice of activity and even if you don’t set up the RunKeeper account, is fully featured. Again, you’ve got the basic info on screen, and a voice prompt at custom intervals and your progress overlaid on a google map. You can save the activity once you finish or upload to the Run Keeper site, Facebook or Twitter. It even has a useful session planner where you can plan custom runs with warmup, intervals and cool downs. Again this is HRM compatible.

Tells you at predetermined distances your time, distance and pace, and these were the same as the Garmin so i’d say pretty accurate. I ran an 8km interval, with a slow 1km warmup, 6km steady and a final 1km cool down with a few ks addedd at the end because I felt like it. The voice prompts tell you when to change from one intensity to the next, so would be spot on if you wanted to run speed intervals of a fixed distance or time. Your history’s stored on the phone, but you need to use the website in order to analyse it, see my run here.

The voice prompts are good and can be customised to time or distance. The interval feature sets it apart from many of the other apps. Needs aerial maps and accuracy was excellent. Does bombard you with emails once registered though!

[rating:4]

RunTastic GPS Coach (lite – Pro – £4.35) There’s a good choice of activities, and a better looking interface than most.  Some buttons are difficult to read as the text is a similar color. Unfortunately there are no sound prompts in the free version, for which you need the paid version. You can create custom workouts by both time and distance, so i decided to do the usual and put in a shorter run than usual and see how it copes. Of course, being silent it just logged my run with no notification that I’d completed my alloted run,  but it faithfully continued logging until i told it to stop. It then asks how you felt by means of a smiley face, weather, trail type and notes. The feedback screen is excellent, having a graph of pace, speed, altitude and heart rate that you can change by tapping (providing you’ve got a HRM) and a table of 1km splits. The mapping screen does let the team seriously down, and it always starts zoomed out. Even if you’re reviewing the route, move to the graphs and back, you’ll need to re-zoom in which is fiddly.

If you upload to the RunTastic website then you can analyse the route further and download your route for export as a GPX file. You can click on the link here in order to see my run on the site.

Certainly one of the better apps out there, but the free version doesn’t come with any sort of voice prompting and the fact the mapping starts zoomed out every time brings down what is otherwise an excellent app. Accuracy was good (0.05km off).

[rating:4]

Buddy Runner (free) This app has most features you’d want in the free version. You can specify when you receive the voice feedback  and what details you get . I was pleased to see it gave some control of how pace is calculated, so you can choose last few seconds, last lap or so far in order to get a more accurate figure.

Again – there’s a website that you can upload your run and analyse it further, see my run here.   It Does the job, has feedback but just doesn’t stand out of the crowd.  Accuracy was very good (0.02km off!)

[Rating:3.5]

 

Mi Coach – While you need to register to use many features you can still make use of the app without doing so, but as that’s free then you’ve nothimg to lose. You then get the option to download workouts to your phone and keep track of distances run. The downloaded activities not only have distances, but also the voices of well known athletes such as Victoria Pendleton and Andy Murray who can lead you through the chosen activity. This is ideal if you need the motivation, or just fancy the novelty of it, but I can see myself on a hilly run swearing at the phone for telling me to man up fool as i’m puffing up the steepest hill. There should definately be a Mr T workout, but i pity the fool who’d have to run that one.

The feedback screen is also impressive, but you need to synch with the Addidas servers in order to download the graphs and the maps. You can judge for yourself from the screenshots how slick these are.The only downside it seems is that there’s no map screen while running. This is an omission in my view as the map is essential if you’re trying out new runs and you’re not the kind of runner who only ever does laps of the local park.  Best all round if you need motivation by others for your run as you can set he voice coach to motivate you.  If you register then you can even log the mileage on your shoes…

Only just scrapes through to the 4.5 as an overall app mainly losing points as it lacks the map, i just can’t give it the 8.5 that it deserves with our rating system but feel that a 4 would be unfairly low. I was however, unable to register from the mobile (about fifteen attempts to get the passwords to match, then it said it couldn’t register me!) so I wish you better luck and my run shall remain forever a mystery. If you like the idea of various professional atheletes egging you on then this is the app for you.

[Rating:4.5]

The Also Ransthese scored 3 or under on our rating system and just the summary is given here….

9 BuddyTrack Runner (free) You can set a customisable run via time or distance (and choice of stopping to log at this or continuing!) and the dashboard/trip computer screen is good with most features you’ll need on there. But it’s fiddly to use on the run where it wasn’t apparent how you got from the maps to the run screen and i managed to get onto homepage. On re-opening it kills the original app and started again. Not very accurate either, half a k off on a 20km run. Nicely customisable though with some good features. [Rating:3]

SportyPal Pro (free) Main functionality is for paid users and the free version gives a functional app with voice feedback but no pace. It is possible to plan your runs on the website, but you’ll need to pay extra to do so. Very accurate.[Rating:3]

RunningAHEAD Handyrunner (free) This is a basic logger for their website, and it’s not even possible to use mapping while on the run. Only of any use if you just want to log your route onto the site and don’t need the feedback during your run.[Rating:2]

SmartTraining (free) Does the job, but basic information only with distance and time and no pace. The best thing is the choice of random food to burn off for calories – from beer to “humburger” that may be a bit gimmicky, but might be a motivation if you run to eat. Might be useful for the casual lunchtime walker and need to keep track of your steps then this might be ok. While this has some very strong points, there’s just not enough features for running as more emphasis is placed on the pedometer making it basically a pedometer plus. It wasn’t very accurate either (0.7km off on 8km route. [Rating:2.5]

Softrace (lite  – Pro – £2.43) This is a decent app, but could be much better if you could chose your distance at km intervals rather than 2.5km and if it measured for the whole run if you ran a little further than expected. The race feature might might this the ideal app if that’s what you’re after. No voice feature on free version, but the pro version is free for 30 days , we found the voice feedback lowered our music volume each time and didn’t turn it back up afterwards. Accuracy is good. [Rating:3]

Runstar lite v1.0.5 (£3.11 full version)  Capable app where the resulting stored runs look good and we really like the monthly targets. But it always crashes for us on finishing a run and the accuracy leaves a lot to be desired as it measured an 18k run at over 19. While it’s meant to integrate with music, we didn’t get more than the power up song playing, and considering that you’d be wearing headphones, would expect audio feedback. [Rating: 2.5]

Conclusions.It’s pretty clear from this first lot, that Mi Coach boasts the most features, but lacks the maps. It does provide an excellent way of logging your activities and you can get voice feedback from your favourite sportsperson, or even choose some random minority sport player such as American Football if you really want a change. The best of the rest is between Endomondo, RunTastic and RunKeeper.

Each has their plus points, Runtastic the feedback screen, RunKeeper has customisable intervals, and Endomondo is a decent all rounder; you could easily load all of them and then buy the premium versions for the extra features and support the developers. One feature that was lacking in most apps was a way to properly log your run types. Surely if someone’s serious about their running and training for a race, they’ll need to note their long runs, tempos and so on. I think this is a serious omission and one that sheds light on the developer’s approach to running.

Each app was tested on the Motorola Defy running Android 2.1 (Eclair) in May and June 2011 and the app version number is given for reference where we remember.

We test another 11 in part 2 next month!

Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader.
Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

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