Monday, May 7, 2012

App Showdown: RunKeeper vs Smart Solutions Pedometer -- By Matty Jacobson

In my ever-expanding ambition to become a superhero runner (a.k.a. "The MattMan), I've been through quite a few fitness applications for my smartphone. These have included everything from weight trackers to personal trainers. But I think I've found the best app for the active person in all of us, and the app we should all simply stay away from. 

Smart Solutions 24/7 Pedometer 

I'm going to blame my once-upon-a-time-naivety of pedometers on my amateur runner status. Last year I began tracking how far I went each day by using an affordable pedometer from Walmart, which I promptly lost, then found, then lost again. 

So I decided to grab an app for my iPhone that would do the same thing. It's true that I misplace my iPhone often, but it's also something I can call from another phone--thus making it an easy treasure to recover. 

I checked out the highest-rated pedometer apps on the App Store, and I found the Smart Solutions 24/7 pedometer.

At first it seemed great. However, it needed to be calibrated before I could begin using it. In a way, this was a good thing. My Walmart pedometer didn't offer calibration options, so it couldn't be relied upon completely to be accurate. The Smart Solutions app needed to know my height and weight, and I assumed this would help it figure out exactly how long my stride was and therefore give me more accurate readings. 

So I tried it. I turned the app on, switched over to my playlist, clicked the screen of my iPhone off (because it's just plain stupid to run a 10-mile trail with your phone on, right? I mean, only an idiot would keep a screen on and drain his battery power!), and I began to run. 

At the end of the race I checked to see the distance. I think it was something like 1.8 feet. That's right. The pedometer app doesn't work if your screen is clicked off. It also doesn't work if you switch over to your music playlist. 

Well, I still wanted to see if it could accurately tell how far I run. So the next day I took a jog on a stretch of road that I'd already measured via odometer. I made sure to start my music first, and then click over to the app. I didn't even turn my phone off. 

At the end of my jog, I checked the pedometer. Well, it seems the app is incredibly sensitive. The act of running literally causes the app to pause and un-pause over and over. I think the total distance the app had recorded me running was a quarter of a mile, despite the fact I'd just run roughly four miles. 

This app was poorly designed and doesn't seem to work well at all. Don't waste your time or money on it.


The RunKeeper app is a supplemental tool to RunKeeper is a website that tracks any activities you do. It includes the option to map out where you've walked, run, biked and a dozen other activities. It also allows you to set personal goals, and it keeps track of your overall progress. 

The app itself is the sweet toffee center to the calorically apocalyptic truffle of fitness. 

Hey, I shoot for entertaining similes, not necessarily accurate ones. 

The app utilizes the GPS in your smartphone, so it tracks your actual movement rather than the bounce in your step. Since the GPS is the way you're being tracked, then the app also recognizes your elevation. Calibration is option, but optimal. You can enter in your weight and height, and in turn, the app will calculate not only the distance you've run, but also your average speed, your time, and the calories you've burned. 

One of my favorite aspects of RunKeeper is that it automatically uploads your progress to, and you can see a map of where you've run on the website when you're done. 

RunKeeper also offers several pieces of hardware that sync with your RunKeeper account. They sell a scale that tracks your weight loss and a heart monitor that records your BPMs each workout, just to name a couple. 

Another great selling point is the voice updates. You can choose to have a voice tell you throughout the course of your workout how how many miles you've run, how long you've been running, what your average speed is, what your current speed is, and several other options. You can have the voice tell you every 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 or 60 minutes. I really enjoy this feature because it keeps my endurance up; I love hearing the progress I'm making as I'm making it.

The app comes as a free version as well as a version that cost a couple of bucks. I currently have the free version, and I'm not quite sure what the pay version will offer. There's no ads on the app I have right now, and I'm free to use all the features it offers (with the exception of the heart rate monitor, which requires the additional hardware).

If you're an avid runner/walker/biker/swimmer/kayaker (yes, kayaking is one of the activities!), then you'll love the RunKeeper app. I highly recommend it. 

Oh, and you can totally switch to your playlist and even shut your screen off--the app will continue to go until you're ready to stop.

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