Mobile Tech Minutes — RunKeeper Pro for iPhone

26 Comments

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As an avid runner, I went out and bought a Nike+ sensor as soon as I upgraded my original iPhone to a 3GS. That solution worked OK, but I think it’s lacking for me in some areas: it has to be calibrated for accuracy, works only with certain shoes and can only be used for running or walking activities. Looking for something to compensate for those limitations, I found RunKeeper in the iTunes App Store. There’s a free version and a $9.95 RunKeeper Pro version. At half the price, I find RunKeeper Pro to be a far better value than the Nike+ sensor because of its flexibility and fewer restrictions.

In this video, I show you what the application looks like and talk about how it works by using the GPS in your handset. Some have complained that the application eats up your phone’s battery too fast, but I simply turn my iPhone display off, which helps tremendously. I did an hour-and-a-half bike ride with the application and only used up around 25% of my battery. Oh, that’s right — you can use this for cycling, which is something else I like to do. You can’t do that with a Nike+. After showing you the application, I share a walkthrough of the online tracking and logging that’s done automatically. It offers a great summary of workouts and dives into some details for those that want more.

26 Comments

Jeff D

I saw a good battery-saving tip on the RK forums that I thought I’d share. Go into Settings->General->Network and turn off 3G during the runs. In my experience it cuts battery usage way, way down.

Kevin C. Tofel

A great tip that I do use, Jeff. Thanks! I also recommend putting the display to sleep unless you feel the need to look at the progress graphs. I’d rather rely on the audio cues and save power.

Jeff D

I definitely set it to go black since I usually have the phone in a pocket in my running jacket. So far no problems but as I start getting to longer runs I’m sure I’m going to push the limits.

Rick

Can you use the Nike+ workouts (with celebrity interval prompts) while using run-keeper? Would miss Lance and Beyonce a bit…lol

Jason Jacobs

Rick,
We have our own in-house celebrity named ‘Kat’ who gives you voice prompts through interval workouts. She isn’t Lance Armstrong, but our users have told us she is VERY motivating :-)

Jason

Melissa Morrison

Hi Kevin,

I recently purchased the Verizon Android but desperately want to find an app that is similar to RunKeeper. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Melissa
So. California

Kevin C. Tofel

Jason, that’s great news to hear! :)

Melissa, alhtough I’m an avid RunKeeper user, a fellow blogger and runner here at the CES uses SportyPal on Android: http://www.sportypal.com/ I haven’t used it, so I can’t comment on how well it does or doesn’t work.

Melissa Morrison

Hi Kevin,

I recently purchased the Verizon Android but desperately want to find an app that is similar to RunKeeper. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Melissa
So. California

Brian

My problem with RunKeeper is that I live in Oregon where it rains 8 months of the year. I put in some serious miles on the treadmill and a GPS-based solution is useless for that. At least Nike+ allows me to keep track of both road runs and treadmill runs.

Kevin C. Tofel

You’re right — manual entry is missing from RunKeeper right now. I see that request asked for quite a bit in the forums, so hopefully it appears soon. I’ll actually have the same issue once I take my road bike to the basement in a few weeks. In the cold weather, I use the bike on a trainer and won’t be able to log my workouts.

Steve Watts

Are you able to keep the iphone in your pocket and still have it track through GPS or do you need an arm band or something that keeps the line-of-site to satellite going?

I use a the garmin forerunner, but if I could get by with the iphone that would be one less device.

Great video. Thanks!

Kevin C. Tofel

Steve, I’ve never run with the iPhone in a pocket. I actually carry it, if you can believe that. However, I do tuck my iPhone in back pocket of my cycling jersey when using it on bike rides. Seems to work just fine in that case.

Brad

I keep the iPhone is a thick canvas pouch right under my bicycle seat. No problems. The video shows Kevin receiving excellent reception inside his house.

Michael Hunter

I tried runkeeper with my 3G 6 months ago or so. I mostly trail run in the forest and the GPS coverage is just too spotty to be useful. My Garmin also has issues although it works better. Have you tried the 3GS on a trail run and/or in forested areas? Is the GPS reception any better then the 3G?

Kevin C. Tofel

I never owned the iPhone 3G, so I can’t comment on the GPS. I had an original iPhone for two years and then upgraded to the 3GS. I’m also a road runner, not a trail runner. However, the bike ride I used in the example has some reasonably long stretches under a mild canopy of trees. Miles 2 and 3 in particular on that route. Maybe you can get a better idea by looking at the satellite map of that route to see the tree cover: http://bit.ly/4GADD8

Andreas

Certainly a nice option for some, albeit completely useless for me. First off, GPS might not always be the most stable option, as well as using a lot more power than Nike+. Then you have the lack of multitasking and everything, which while not runkeepers fault only means they should have integrated music browsing. I listen to podcasts and audiobooks while using Nike+, which isn’t a problem, but if I finished a podcast with this thing I couldn’t find a new one without exiting the program. I wish Nike+ would come out with a bike kit to hook up as well, then nike+ would be perfect in my opionion (btw, you dont need special shoes, just tape). For me personally this program has a lot more limitations than nike+ ever did.

Kevin C. Tofel

All valid for your usage. I’ve actually never listened to podcasts while running or biking, so I never would have thought about that! I need my music. ;)

Brad

Personally, I would be happy spending the money on an iPhone just to use Runkeeper. It’s that good. I use it for bicycling and I haven’t experienced a single stability issue with GPS here in central California. I’ve rode 1102.17 mi in 60 events since August 16, 2009, the day I fell in love with Runkeeper. There is no way I would have rode that much without RK either. It’s truely inspirational to log every activity. As far as multitasking goes, only one other thing I do while I’m riding my bike and that’s listen to music. I am a music junkie. That’s why I have 160GB iPod I use solely for listening to music. iPhone and iPod make a great pair for me. Runkeeper is a dream come true. I can not praise this program enough.

pete

So Kevin.. your 1600 meter PR was 4:40? What was your half mile pr just out of curiosity? Did you run in college?

Kevin C. Tofel

Best half mile was 2:01.1 as a HS junior. I didn’t compete in college but picked up running again about 10 years later to do a few marathons and a bunch of road races.

jasen

I wish there was as good an app for Android, I gave up on a 3gs after the thirty day trial period for the HTC hero and the great plan rates of Sprint. I tried runkeeper in that time and it was great, I have downloaded cardiotrainer but haven’t had a chance to try it yet.

debelko

try sportypal, you’ll be surprised. It’ll work on your android phone.

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