Spurred by a general love and curiosity for fitness gadgets and self-quantifications, I’ve decided to give running another shot. It’s a newfound resolution for me. I’ve flirted with running on and off for years—on tracks, treadmills, trails, and pavement, I’ve hated it all within a few weeks every time. But I thought maybe the addition of trackable running data would pique the interest of the geek in me, and with Runtastic PRO ($4.99), the data is a compelling point of entry. Fire up this app, and it tracks your route, pace, speed, and heart rate if you’re wearing a connected monitor. Finish your run, and you can mark your mood, whether it was sunny, what kind of terrain you treading, and more. The app even adds the temperature based on your location.
The other thing I love about Runtastic is that it’s not just for running. I can turn the app on before jumping on my bike, switch it to cycling mode, and watch as it collects my route, speed, and all that other great data. It works just as well for walking, hiking, and other activities, too (the ability to track multiple sports isn’t unique to Runtastic, however; other fitness apps do it). Runtastic has audio feedback, music integration with a power song option, and so many great features that are all easy to find and explore due to a pretty simple interface. The one thing I will say: the Runtastic PRO iPhone app is a little simpler to navigate than the Android app. Despite the slight UI learning curve, Runtastic PRO is a fantastic app for runners and other fitness enthusiasts trying to collect some info about their activities.
Runtastic PRO captures all the basic data you’d expect from a fitness tracking app: distance, average speed, speed between mile markers, elevation, pace, pace between mile markers, duration, calories burned, and route as plotted on a map using GPS, which you can optionally disable to conserve battery power.
Open the app, and you can launch right into your activity by hitting a green start button on the “Session” tab, which is the default home screen. To the left is an icon indicating which activity is selected. Tap it, and you can change to any exercise from inline skating to simply walking. I love that stationary activities, such as working out on an elliptical trainer or treadmill, are included.
Start your activity, and the app begins by counting down a few seconds to give you a moment to tuck your Android into place. You can adjust this delay to be 5 seconds, 15 seconds, 30 seconds, or no time at all by tapping the screen to start immediate tracking.
From there, you’re off. You can listen to a robotic voice in Runtastic that announces your milestones, which you can customize to be based on time or distance (in either miles or kilometers). The audio coach will tell you as much info as you want at each checkpoint: total duration so far, pace, speed, calories burned, and heart rate if you’re using a connected heart rate monitor.
I did a few tests using the Runtastic Bluetooth Smart Combo Heart Rate Monitor ($69.99, street), which held the connection between my Android phone beautifully—so much better than the ANT+ heart rate monitor from Garmin that I used with the Digifit iCardio app. In my experience, Bluetooth monitors work much more reliably with smartphones than ANT+ ones.
When you finish your run, kayak ride, cross-country ski route, or what have you, the app opens to a page where you can log additional details about the weather, surface (i.e., pavement, wooded trails, gravel), your mood, and anything else you want to record in a notes field. I like these little details because you can mark, for example, if you’re injured or just having a down day, which would account for a slow pace or shorter than normal route.
Free vs. Pro
Runtastic does have a free app, and it’s only somewhat limited compared with the PRO version, so if you’re on the fence about paying five bucks for a fitness app, definitely check out the free version. Pro adds: voice feedback in English, German, Spanish, French and Italian; live tracking; routes and routes search, meaning you can find routes that other users have mapped nearby; pulse reading and heart rate zones (when a compatible heart rate monitor is added); as well as an integrated music player. Without the integrated music player, you can of course just play your music separately, but you won’t be able to select a “power song,” the track Runtastic will play if you need a boost.
Runtastic PRO also has a few different modes for guiding your activity toward a specific goal, such as workout, interval workout, and competitions. And most important to me, the PRO version has auto-pause, meaning it accounts for stops at red lights and such.
Runtastic PRO app for Android balances depth of information with ease of use. It gathers a lot of data about the activities you do, but keeps the interface simple enough that you can easily get to the most important information quickly. As mentioned, the iPhone version of the app has a slightly simpler interface. While I was using the Android version, I felt confused a few times about how to get to the screen I wanted to see. You can open any recorded activity from a history section, and then swipe through the various pages to see the different data slices, or select one of the tabs at the top (graphs, split table, main, map) to jump the relevant section. One problem with that top-line menu bar is that only three of the four options display at any given time—you have to keep swiping to pull into view whichever one is left out at the moment.
Explore all the settings and menu buttons, however, and you’ll uncover more and more. When you buy the $4.99 PRO version, everything is included, although Runtastic still does offer some additional in-app purchases, special (and expensive) training programs that coach you through marathon prep or weight loss assistance over several weeks.
Which Fitness App to Use?
Runtastic PRO’s solid activity-tracking abilities make it an Editors’ Choice Android fitness app. It competes with the best of the run-tracking apps, like Runmeter, RunKeeper, and Map My Run. Runtastic PRO collects great data that was accurate for me even when near bodies of water (which sometimes throws off GPS, notably in RunKeeper). It’s worth spending $5 for Runtastic PRO to ensure you get auto-pause, a variety of modes to adjust your exercises to suit when you’re training versus when you’re trying to burn calories, and the ability to search out new routes uploaded by other users.
Hesitant beginners might consider an app that’s more suited to coaching them thoroughly through the first few weeks of running, and PearTraining-Intelligence (for iPhone only) (free; recommended for use with Pear Training Intelligence Personal Training System, $99) is a great option in that specific case.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc