iPhone Review – Utility – Runkeeper Pro

One of the things that attracted me to the iPhone was the possibility of reducing the amount of stuff I carry when I go for a run. Normally I carry an iPod for music, my phone for emergencies and a Garmin Forerunner 301 to track the distance and pace.

Individually the bits break down as follow:

Phone – Obviously the iPhone does this bit as long as you’ve got signal and,unlike me, a working sim card

iPod – Again the iPhone does this pretty well as well.

GPS tracking – The iPhone has a built in GPS unit, but as standard doesn’t really offer any apps to track your routes, to get feedback on current distance/pace or to allow you to view stats afterward. So an app is needed to do that. RunKeeper Pro is the most popular one I could find in the App store, thinking I’d get what I pay for I went for the Pro version for £5.99 rather than the free version.

default screen for Runkeeper Pro
default screen for Runkeeper Pro

First impressions were quite good. GPS lock was nice and quick and it seemed to track pretty accurately on my test walks around town. Bonus feature was the ability to upload the routes to a website where the stats could be seen better (for instance, elevation information isn’t available on the device, but can be seen on the website).

Runkeeper website showing route
Runkeeper website showing route

As you can see from the picture the tracking accuracy isn’t perfect (I’m pretty sure I’d have noticed running through the River Trent). Though whether this is down to the innacuracy in the iPhone’s GPS unit, or an error in putting the route onto Google’s maps I’ve no idea..

The app could also be configured to give verbal stats at set intervals (every mile, 5 minutes, on demand and never) which amount to time since run started, total distance covered and pace. Plus you can pick your units and whether you prefer pace or speed

Settings in Runkeeper pro
Settings in Runkeeper pro

You can also set the display so while you’re running you only have to touch the screen of the iPhone to get the stats spoken to you. This also replace the usual lock screen, so you don’t have to worry about unlocking the iPhone while running

The long 'locked' screen for Runkeeper Pro
The long 'locked' screen for Runkeeper Pro

The app also has the ability to set workouts. So you can program the app to give you a verbal notification when it’s time to go harder or slower. These can be saved so you can build up a library of training routines.

Choosing a workout in Runkeeper Pro
Choosing a workout in Runkeeper Pro
An example of setting up a workout in Runkeeper pro
An example of setting up a workout in Runkeeper pro

There’s also a nifty feature so that you can control your music without leaving the app. Start your playlist before going into Runkeeper, you can then press the home button twice to bring up the iPod controls on screen so you can pause  or skip without leaving the app.

The only things really missing are:

Some form of pace coaching. On the forerunner I can set an alert to sound when I go above or below a preset pace window (ie if I run faster than 9:30 a mile or slower than 11:00 a mile) which is very handy as I have a habit of running too fast. Without that the forerunner looks like it’s staying for the time being, though Runkeeper do seem to have it on the list of things to do.

The other annoyance is a general iPhone problem, if you do need to leave the app for any reason it stops and you have to remember to restart it. Not tried it with backgrounder yet, but that may well fix some bits.

The iPod controls are useful, but not necessarily easy to hit without stopping when the iPhone is strapped to your arm. It’s looking like I’m going to have to fork out for some proper controller headphones, or at least an adaptor for one of my current pairs.

So overall a very nice app that’s got a lot of features and is very useful. but it’s probably not going to replace dedicated GPS units quite yet.

More info @ Runkeeper’s website – http://runkeeper.com/

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