Although logic dictates that smaller is better when it comes to running gear, RunKeeper, a cool iPhone app that tracks your treks via G.P.S. adds a compelling exception to that old adage. The iPhone isn’t the first thing you think of when going out for a run – maybe a nice Nano would be a better fit – but Runkeeper is something to consider.
RunKeeper is a fairly unique product. It uses the iPhone’s G.P.S. to trace your tracks through the city. I tried it in San Francisco with varying results but it’s definitely a step up from Nike+iPod’s pedometer estimation techniques, which have ultimately failed me many times.
Nike+iPod uses the motion of your feet – or foot – to estimate the distance traveled. While this is fine for a two mile jaunt around the park, this became amazingly frustrating during my longer runs. Either it read to low, giving me false hope, or read too high and made me cry. This G.P.S. system, however, gives an accurate reading of your pace and distance and then plots your trip on Google Maps once you get home.
I talked with the creator of RunKeeper, Jason Jacobs, and he explained that he is working on updating the software to offer more mapping functions during the run as well as a compass. Watches like the Garmin ForeRunner can track your distance and pace and even get you home in a pinch and to add this functionality to the iPhone would be quite nice.
Sadly the G.P.S. inside the iPhone was fairly imprecise during some of my runs, resulting in readings of 60 minute miles. However, these were taken during runs in SFO, leading me to believe that folks in wider open cities might be better served.
RunKeeper costs $9.99 and is available from the iPhone App Store. It only works with the iPhone 3G.