Running App Review

As those of you who’ve read my last post will know, I experienced some technical issues whilst out for a run last week with my Nike+ running app; a run that looks like it was a PB but thanks to the GPS blip I’ll never know.  I must warn my non-running readers that this post is very running-orientated so apologies if it’s not up to my usual chatty style!

Talking about the blip to a colleague, led to being shown Endomondo.  I haven’t had prolonged or serious problems with Nike+ but it got me thinking – I wonder what alternatives are out there? I’ve decided to pit Nike+ against Endomondo, RunKeeper and adidas miCoach; all 3 have free versions available from iTunes AppStore (I’m using an iPhone 4).

My blog gives me an opportunity to tell whoever will listen – with two of the 4 contenders already letting me know they’re interested in hearing what I think.

Isn’t social media brilliant for increasing engagement?!

This blog entry is a general intro and a review of the apps.  If people are interested, I’ll do a follow-up at some point covering some of the more detailed features and the website back ends.

I’d like to start my review by saying I’m no app expert or developer and I’m no club runner (I’ve only been running regularly since March this year) but I guess that’s not unusual.  I think I’m fairly representative of someone who’s been bitten by the running bug and takes an interest in times, distances & paces and is looking to improve.  My review is aimed at similar runners who are choosing an app for the first time or perhaps, like me, those who want to see if there is an alternative that they could get more out of.

It’s probably also worth stating at this point that I am in no way linked, employed, or writing on behalf of any of the companies involved or mentioned.  Consider me completely independent.  With that in mind, as already mentioned, a couple of the players have already communicated with me via Twitter.

From @adidas_miCoach, after I tweeted that I couldn’t test their app as their network was down:
"@running_dan_w Hope u will come back & give
 us a chance after we're back up. More
info here bit.ly/sorl9y Would love feedback ;)"

They also favourited my cunningly punned response:

"@adidas_miCoach thanks for the tweet & rest
 assured that once you're back up & running I'll
get out running and see how you measure up"

I also got this from @nikeplus:

"@running_dan_w Appreciate the feedback, and
will share with the Nike+ team. Sounds like
a weird one-off--unfortunate that it affected a PB."

Having mentioned all 4 players in tweets stating my desire to road test their products it’s interesting to only responses from two of them; one from my existing “supplier” and the other from the company who was having technical difficulties (adidas are recovering from a large scale cyber attack that prompted them to shut down huge swathes of their on-line presence).  Customer service is a big thing for me and even minor engagement from these faceless companies means something.  It encourages me that if I need some help or have a question, they might well be there to offer me a solution or an answer.

Now that the formalities have been dispensed with I’ll work through what I consider to be the key areas of the apps, comparing them side by side and highlighting how they perform against my expectations.  If, due to my newbie status with these apps, I am factually incorrect then please let me know and I will revise my post.

Last Sunday I split my long run into 3 identical 5km laps (to test Nike+, Endomondo & RunKeeper) and then I completed the same lap this morning with adidas miCoach, now that their network is back up.

Here are some basics to get you going:

Nike+ Endomondo (Free) RunKeeper Adidas miCoach
iTunes Rating 3.0/5.0 (107 ratings) 4.5/5.0 (20 ratings) 3.0/5.0 (25 ratings) 3.5/5.0 (19 ratings)
Price £1.49 Free Free Free
The Lap 5.39km, 31:06, 408kcal 5.38km, 31:02, 411kcal 5.40km, 31:23, 450kcal 5.40km, 29:11, 318kcal
First Impression Slick & stylish Expansive but cluttered Simple Designed but not simple

It should be noted that when I originally downloaded Nike+, many moons ago, it too was free.  As you can see, I was somewhat less conservative with my pace this morning compared to last Sunday when I ran 3 laps back-to-back!  All appear to be tracking distance to a similar accuracy with only 20 metres difference covering all 4.

Endomondo also offers a “PRO” version for £2.49 and RunKeeper advertises an “Elite” version available for a monthly or annual subscription.  At this point I’m trying to establish what is out there for nothing so won’t be looking at these options.

Basic Functionality

Nike+ Endomondo (Free) RunKeeper Adidas miCoach
Just run Yes Yes Yes Yes
Run for a set duration Yes No (available in PRO) Yes Via workouts
Run for a set distance Yes Yes Yes ?
In-run Display Distance, Pace, DurationButtons for skip music

Button for audio feedback

Button for map view

Duration, Distance, Calories, Heart RateSwipe for map view (including Average Pace)

Starts locked

Duration, Distance, Average Pace, Current Pace, CaloriesBar graph of pace by minute

Swipe for map view

Swipe for split data

Button for camera

Button for rotating display

Duration, Distance, Current Pace, Calories, Heart Rate, Stride Rate – can customise order of data4/6 items clearly visible

Button for music control

Button for map view

Starts locked

There was little difference between Nike+ and RunKeeper on the basics.  I was disappointed that you have to buy the “PRO” version of Endomondo to get what I consider the basic functionality of setting a duration to run for.  Because miCoach is structured on a workout basis I’m sure the functionality is there but perhaps not without visiting the website.

It’s amazing how the same basic information can be presented in such contrasting ways, with all 4 apps having a different take on what we want to see at a glance whilst running.

All have access to a map view, something I’ve not used whilst out running generally as I know the routes I’m following.

The only app not to display current pace is Endomondo and as something I rely upon to control my runs this puts it in a difficult position for me.

I like the simplicity of the miCoach display with 6 uniform pieces of data, although only 4 can be seen in the screen at one time.  This isn’t really a problem as a) they have allowed the user to change the order they appear and b) I’m not really bothered about 3 of them anyway – calories, heart rate and stride rate.

Nike+ is more stylish and has the added ability to control your soundtrack without having to go to a different screen.

Most disappointing is the large space that is wasted by RunKeeper for a minute-by-minute bar graph of pace.  This is something that I’d probably find useful after a run but feel that during the run I’d just like to see the current data in a clear layout.

One frustration with Endomondo and miCoach is the fact that the screen is locked as a default – not a massive issue but why can’t I switch this off?

At this stage, based on what I’m looking for, I’d rank the apps (best to worst): Nike+, adidas miCoach (a close second), RunKeeper, Endomondo.

It’s worth noting there are some additional functions that may tickle people’s fancies but don’t for the core functionality.

There is an ability to challenge yourself to beat a previous workout or friends in Nike+ (Endomondo allows you to challenge friends but you need the PRO version to challenge your own previous workout).  Endomondo and RunKeeper allow you to choose an existing route to run.  And miCoach allows you to track the distance you are putting on your trainers as well as having a much more detailed workout system that sets target performance bands by pace or heart rate.

Audio Functionality

Nike+ Endomondo (Free) RunKeeper Adidas miCoach
Music Playlist, Shuffle, No MusicSkip tracks whilst running and stops at end of workout It would appear there’s no music functionality in the app Playlist, Shuffle, No MusicNo skip and doesn’t stop at end of workout Playlist, No MusicSkip tracks/pause whilst running but doesn’t stop at end of workout
Audio Feedback Frequency  Distance or Time or End or On Demand After each “lap”  Distance or Time or Both or On Demand Distance or Time or On Demand
Voice Male/Female Female Female Male/Female/Professionals
Feedback Content  Time, Distance, Pace  Time&Distance, Lap Time, Goal  Time, Distance, Average Pace, Average Speed, Current Pace, Current Speed, Current Split Pace, Current Split Speed, Average Heart Rate, Current Heart Rate, Heart Rate Zone Time, Calories, Distance, Stride Rate, Pace, Heart Rate, Target Zone
Friends feedback Simulated cheer from Facebook likes/comments Feedback from Endo friends

The best for those of you wanting to listen to music is Nike+: it provides the most flexibility of all the apps and allows you to control from the main in-run display.  miCoach doesn’t have a shuffle function, RunKeeper doesn’t have the ability to skip tracks and both don’t stop the music when you have ended the workout.  I couldn’t find any way to control the music from within Endomondo which was a shame.

A nice touch from miCoach is the ability to have professional athletes providing audio feedback (I chose Jessica Ennis but I’m sure The Wife would’ve chosen Johnny Wilkinson!) but ultimately I’m not too fussed as long as I can get the feedback I want.

There is a lot more flexibility within RunKeeper and miCoach to tailor what feedback you get although for me, I only want to know the basics: what duration have I been running for and what is my pace i.e. am I on for my target time.  I must say that the function in RunKeeper to be measured against a set pace was good.  Again, I’m sure that the miCoach workout structure would do something similar but I’ve not found it (yet).

One thing that I would miss if I move away from Nike+ is the ability to receive cheers, albeit simulated, from my Facebook friends.  There are many times that this has been surprisingly uplifting!

At this stage, based on what I’m looking for, I’d probably still have to rank the apps in the same order: Nike+, adidas miCoach, RunKeeper, Endomondo (getting further away).

Additional Comments

Nike+ Endomondo (Free) RunKeeper Adidas miCoach
In-app Data Distance, pace, duration, calories & grade your run (feeling, weather, terrain, notes) Start time, distance, duration, ave pace, max pace, calories, altitude, elevation, ave HR, max HR & split times Duration, ave pace, calories, distance & split times Duration, ave pace, calories, distance, HR, stride rate, pace graph, elevation graph & split times & grade your run (out of 5, notes)
In-app Records Furthest, Longest, Fastest 1k, 1m, 5k, 10k n/a n/a Lifetime, Last Week, This Week – duration, distance, calories, ave pace
Routes n/a Use existing routes Use existing routes ?
Sharing with Facebook Pre-run & Cheers, Post run ? Post-run ?
Sharing with Twitter Post-run ? Post-run ?
Delete run? After posting After posting Before or after posting Before or after posting
Other sports? No 50 options 14 options 5 options

There are some other things that make a difference to me.  I’m a massive stat geek and as I’m not always near a computer but I’ve always got my iPhone, I want to do as much as possible in the app itself.

The amount of data provided by miCoach was brilliant, including pace & elevation graphs (which you have to pay for with Endomondo).  A weakness of Nike+ is the inability to see your split times unless you log into the website.  All 3 competitors hold your split times.  I enjoy the fact that Nike+ does hold a selection of personal bests which none of the others seem to do.

I like the idea of logging “routes” that you can pick up again and be able to compare yourself against – both Endomondo and RunKeeper have this functionality.  I’m not sure if miCoach does or not – it might be in their somewhere, or maybe on the website.

As you may already know I’m an avid user of Facebook and Twitter and I enjoy sharing my running experiences with my friends and online community so Endomondo and miCoach take a knock here as I couldn’t find the functionality to do this in the app.  Nike+ gets a bonus point for enabling “cheers” to come through from friends liking and commenting on the Facebook post that signifies the start of your run!

A couple of other minor points are that RunKeeper and miCoach allow you to discard a run before or after posting where as with Nike+ and Endomondo you have to post and then delete.

And for those of you doing more than just running, Endomondo offers 50 sporting options compared with 14 from RunKeeper and 5 with miCoach.  Nike+ is all about the running!

Ultimately, following this very quick appraisal (although it’s probably taken me longer to write this post than actually running th 4 laps much to The Wife’s disappointment) I think I will have to cease my use of Endomondo as it misses some of the functionality that I consider crucial.  Perhaps it’s in the “PRO” version but I’m not willing to pay the £2.49 to find out when there are some good alternatives.

I’m not sure about RunKeeper.  It’s got a lot of good points but there’s something that I can’t describe that keeps it in my third spot.

Now for the top 2, drum roll please…………..

It’s difficult to separate Nike+ and adidas miCoach.  Both have some excellent features but neither of them have everything I want.  The fact that I’ve run getting on for 700km with Nike+ gives a lot of weight to the status quo option, however I’m intrigued by some of the miCoach functionality that may actively help me become a quicker runner, although it seems to want me to work hard just to find out how to use the functionality!

I think I’m going to have to play with miCoach a lot more to unlock its potential so in the meantime I think I’ll continue with Nike+ whilst I uncover the secrets of miCoach.

Hopefully this has been of interest to people, please pass it on to others who you feel might enjoy or benefit from it.  Please let me know what you think about my review and the apps themselves, or any alternatives that you think are even better.

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15 thoughts on “Running App Review”

  1. An extensive review of the iPhone apps – great job.

    I’ve been looking at the Android and BlackBerry equivalents – namely “My Tracks” (Android) and “miCoach” (BlackBerry) and have used them for training. I found “My Tracks” great for on the run stats with a clear breakdown of running times (and rest periods) with seamless integration into Google maps (not too surprising as the app is made by Google I believe). Earlier this year while running in Scotland I was delighted the maps were there as I didn’t know where I was going – and running on my own there was a high chance of getting lost. I used it for my VLM training this year and if only I had a phone with enough power to drive it for 26 miles would have been great.

    Since changing phone I have tried out “miCoach” on BlackBerry and I agree with your comments – lots of stuff to unlock on the phone if you go via the web-site first (why you can’t kick it off from the app I don’t know) – it’s feedback on how you’re doing is great but the integration into the audio playback on the phone is not as well thought out. The 9600 has a set of dedicated media buttons on the top (ideal for runners) which quess what … the miCoach doesn’t use – but insists you pop up a menu on the screen and select “Next Track” which for me means … stop running … faff with phone … restart running.

    Consequently, I may end up writing my own app (sad geek that I am) to fit what I want out of a running app, i.e. online stats, vocal feedback, integration into media player, mapping, socal media etc.

    When I do, i’ll give you a shout and we can compare notes.

    Cheers,

    MG.

  2. Hi! great review of the Apps… do you know runtastic? there is lite and pro version… my favourite and most complete, I would say more than the ones you are comparing, it is really amazing, it collects important parameters such as speed, distance, calories, altitude, time, pace, HR, it has training plan, a great fitness portal with a big online community where you have even more analysis, live tracking, live cheering with customized cheerings…. check it.. really I promise you won´t regret it 😉 … http://www.runtastic.com

  3. Great review of the apps! I use Endomondo, have done so for quite some time now – and am generally hesitant to switch because of the fact that they hold all of my recent training data.

    Interesting to hear you had no response from them via twitter, but unsurprising as I often find the GPS to be pretty out of sync – sometimes not working at all – and I have slated it on twitter before, but never heard a peep out of them. The one point I would make that is lost in your review, is that with a quick click on the settings tab on their website you can update your sharing settings to Facebook and Twitter including whether you tell people when you are heading out for a run, or simply to tell people you have finished one.

    Like you, I am reticent to spend money on the PRO version, with little evidence of the extra info it would provide.

    Endo does offer the option to display your current speed (min/mile), but with the questionable GPS I never really take much notice of this anyway.

    I have used Mapmyrun in the past, when I first started running, but initially found theat even less reliable than Endo is now – but that was some time ago, so it may be considerable better now.

    Thanks for your blog though, it has provided some really useful insights – maybe it’s time to bite the bullet and look elsewhere for a running app 🙂

  4. Just wondering whether you use Nike+ with the chip in your shoe? I bought one with my last pair of trainers but have only used it a couple of times as it seemed to be wildy inaccurate and tempermental losing the connectivity between shoe and phone 😦 It was easier just to use my Garmin!

    1. Nope, I just use the app on my iPhone. I haven’t had many problems (probably a handful of times in 90-odd runs) but it gave me the energy to find out what the alternatives had to offer.

  5. glad you liked miCoach, apart from the week in which their site was down, I have had no problems at all. I tried Runkeeper on the weekend, but went back to miCoach as I think it has better features 🙂

  6. Great read and review. Just what I needed to help me choose. I’m going for miCoach on android. Thanks for your time

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