It was one of the first, and it continues to be one of the most popular aerobic exercises tracking apps in the App Store. Raizlabs’ RunKeeper uses the iPhone 3G’s built-in GPS to track your progress during a workout, and provide you with a range of data based on your results. In addition to presenting your results on the iPhone, RunKeeper allows you to map and view your progress at runkeeper.com as well. It’s similar, overall, to the Nike+ system, but without the need for additional hardware.
Despite its name, RunKeeper is not just for running. The app allows you to select from a variety of physical activities. In addition to running, you can track hiking, bike riding, walking, or even skiing. All tracking activities require GPS, and as such the developer recommends that RunKeeper be used exclusively with the iPhone 3G, since results on the first generation iPhone or the iPod touch will be inaccurate.
RunKeeper tracks durations, distance, speed, pace, rise, and altitude data, and provides a map that shows your traveled path. I tested it using both running and walking modes. In both cases, initial pick-up of the satellites took a while, and readings were initially confused even after GPS positional data was acquired. Speed readings were way off, and changing directions (ie. turning left at a corner) resulted in an adjustment period during which the information did not accurately reflect reality.
Once a solid lock was established, however, and I’d been outside for a while, information was generally reliable. Inaccuracies might also have been due to my being located downtown in a large city, where skyscrapers often prevent a clear path to sky. Run tracking worked better than walk tracking, perhaps because running was, overall, a much more consistent and uninterrupted activity, conducted at a public park with a relatively clear skyline.
RunKeeper is a useful application if you need to keep track of your exercise info. For me, such detail isn’t really necessary, because I run casually just to keep fit and because I enjoy it. People training for marathons or doing other semi-competitive running will probably find the app more useful. Users should also be warned that RunKeeper prevents the iPhone from sleeping, and uses battery at an alarming rate. It’s a free download from the App Store, so if you’re looking for a Nike+ alternative to use with your iPhone, there’s no harm in giving RunKeeper a shot.