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Review: RunKeeper Free App for Android and iPhone

As an avid runner, I was thrilled to find running apps for Android (and iPhone) that use GPS and other built-in smartphone technologies technology to track your runs. Everything from time & distance to actually tracking the route you ran and displaying it on a map. Like many folks, I greatly prefer to find a free app to perform my tasks. I don’t want to shell out any cash until I know the app is going to be worth even a modest investment. One of my favorite running apps to date, is Runkeeper, which is available for Android and iPhone.

Note: My experience (and thus my review) is based on the Android version (2.4.1) of Runkeeper on the original Motorola Droid.

I’ve had a bit of a love / hate relationship with Runkeeper since I discovered and started using it about 6 months ago. Initially, it was great… when it worked. To be more specific, it was great, when the GPS worked. It performed beautifully first couple times I tried it, but over the next couple weeks it only functioned properly about one every five times I used it. The GPS would not find my location even after several minutes of waiting…. exiting and re-opening the app….  and even turning my phone off and on. And it wasn’t an issue with my location. Just to be sure, I tried other GPS apps, and even other running apps, and all were able to pull a strong signal in areas where RunKeeper failed.

After a couple weeks and a half dozen or more failed attempts in a row to use Runkeeper, I started using other apps. But, I never uninstalled RunKeeper based on the hope that things might improve with an update. Sure enough, Runkeeper proved to be diligent at pushing out updates, so I eventually decided to give it another try.

Using RunKeeper

Runkeeper doesn’t do you much good if the GPS signal is non-existent. So, before you think about beginning your run, you need to wait until you see the GPS Strength indicator turn green. There are times when I need to wait a bit for it to turn. Occasionally, it’s even a few minutes. When the GPS indicator turns green, and you’ve chosen your activity, you’re ready to go. Select Start Activity.

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Runkeeper has an impressive array of activities to choose from including Wheelchair, Mountain Biking, and even Swimming. Yeah, swimming. I have no idea how that one works, but I don’t do much swimming so I’m worried about it.

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Once you start your run, or other activity, you will see the total distance (miles or km), time, average minutes per mile (or km), calories, and pace or speed depending on what you choose in the Settings. It’s easy to pause or end your workout by pressing the Stop or Pause buttons. When the

Note: The pace and average min / mile are typically accurate. At the time of the screenshot on the right below, I had stopped my run but kept the app running until I could fire up my laptop and hook up my Android device.

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When you are finished, you’ll be prompted to choose to save or discard your activity. You can even enter some notes if you’d like.

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You can review your activity history (assuming you chose to save it). On the Activities tab, you can see all your recent runs and activities. Select a run, then select the small map image on the next screen….

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… to show a map of your run and see more details.

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There aren’t too many settings to tweak. You can change the Units preference from Kilometers to Miles and decide whether you’d like to see Pace or Speed on the primary display.

You can also set up Runkeeper to post to Twitter or Facebook and make maps and activities public.

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Analyzing results on the Website

You can register with Runkeeper and have your runs (0r other activities) tracked on their website.

Not only can Runkeeper chart your run on a map, it can record and chart your pace (in blue) and even the elevation (in green). This is a feature that worked well initially, but I’ve noticed lately it has not been accurate….

Here’s a chart of the exact same park on a run from last week… doesn’t look like the same location, but it is.

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Overview

Despite early issues I experienced, I could see how good Runkeeper could be when it worked.

One thing that should give users confidence is the consistency with which Runkeeper updates and improves the app. You can sense a dedication by the RunKeeper team to creating and constantly improving a great running app. Actually, a great fitness app. I’m glad I stuck around.

Runkeeper also offers a Pro version for $9.99 that features audio cues and no ads.

Download RunKeeper for iPhone on iTunes

You can find Runkeeper free in the Android Market or install by scanning the QR Code below.

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