Fitness Apps: Runtastic

3

The Windows Phone Apps

Background

Runtastic is one of a number of major personal (>50 million users worldwide) fitness services available in the Windows Phone ecosystem offering tracking of outdoor and indoor activity providing motivational statistics on distance, pace, calories burned, etc. Having used sports tracking apps for many years I spoke with the team at Runtastic and I have been using the Runtastic Pro on a Nokia Lumia 900 (Windows Phone 7.8), and Nokia Lumia 820 (Windows Phone 8) with a Runtastic Gold Membership for almost a year.


Runtastic v Runtastic Pro

The free app (Runtastic) supports many useful features including the following:

  • Track training via GPS: automatically records time, distance, burned calories, speed, elevation and other statistics
  • Manual entry of workouts: Add treadmill, strength training and other indoor workouts
  • Display your routes
  • Music Integration: Nokia Music Streaming of Runtastic specific Mix Radio (Requires data connection during workout)
  • NEW: Story Running
  • Training history
  • Live Tile for monthly statistics
  • Social network sharing: Post your activities on Facebook, Twitter or on the Runtastic website
  • Split table: distance information (height, time, pace per kilometre)
  • Additional info: personal feeling, temperature, underground, personal notes
  • Get training plans & reach your personal goals (e.g. 10k run in 50 minutes, weight loss, etc.)



If you are prepared to put your hand in your pocket for the small sum of £3.99, you can unlock the real power of the Runtastic app, turning it into Runtastic Pro and adding the following features to those of the free app (Runtastic), above:

  • Music integration: Play Local Playlists (No data connection required)
  • Voice feedback (DE, EN, FR, ES, IT)
  • Flag one of thousands of routes on runtastic.com and synchronize it automatically with your phone
  • Share routes via NFC from phone to phone
  • LIVE Tracking: real time tracking of your position, let your family and friends know where you are
  • Cheering during a LIVE activity: friends can cheer you on using runtastic.com or your social networks while you train. Let them motivate you during a hard workout
  • Interval training: Get faster with effective interval training. Define your own intervals according to distance or time.
  • Heart Rate Monitoring (requires Runtastic HRM belt)


Appearance

The Runtastic and Runtastic Pro interface are both easy to use and intuitive although it doesn’t look and feel aligned to the metro philosophy of Windows Phone. The only real negative I have encountered is a minor one, in that there is no dark theme like that of Sports Tracker.

Workout Tracking

Runtastic and Runtastic Pro offer a selection of more than 20 different workout types ranging from simple activities like running and cycling to more specialist activities like Biathlon and Paragliding. Comparing the summary information on workouts of different types, identifies that the calculated rate of calorie consumption by the app is based on the workout type selected. A disappointment with the app is that if the wrong workout type is selected prior to starting a workout, it can only be modified on the website rather than in the Windows Phone apps.

A more recently introduced functionality to Runtastic Pro is “Route” which allows the saving of workouts as re-usable and comparable routes to use yourself or share with others. As well as saving routes yourself, you can select a pre-saved “route” or search for other peoples routes in your local area and use it to guide your workout. I try to use this functionality on all runs as I use specific routes in my local area, but sadly the inability to change incorrectly or un-associated workouts to routes on device is again missing.



During my time with Runtastic Pro I have encountered a number of crashes during workouts, which although frustrating at the time, are countered somewhat by the apps auto save on crash functionality. On restarting the app you are presented with the option to continue the workout from the point at which it crashed either including or recording the time since the crash as paused time. Sadly, yet again, the workout cannot be corrected on device prior to upload, but instead has to be uploaded, corrected online and then synchronised back to the app.

Another nice feature improvement in Runtastic and Runtastic Pro is the ability to set a delay from tapping on “Start” and the workout tracking beginning, providing time to stow your phone prior to commencing your workout. Although I originally believed this to be something specific to Runtastic and Runtastic Pro I have since witnessed the same functionality on competing products in the Windows Store.

Voice Feedback

A much loved feature of Runtastic Pro, is the in-workout periodical audio feedback, providing duration, speed and pace information on time and/or distance basis. I use this on every run whilst protecting my phone by using an Aquapack waterproof pouch for my phone and a Nokia BH-111 Bluetooth remote control headset unit connected to a pair of Sennheiser PMX 685i SPORTS neckband headset.

Workout Options

Along with the options to set the type of workout Runtastic offers 3 main workout options providing workout guidance, described below:

Basic workout    – Standard workout recording with voice feedback (Runtastic Pro only) if selected in the app general settings.

Interval    –

Training Plans    – Your Windows Phone coaches you via headphones/voice feedback throughout your training. This option is intended to provide training plans for Weight Loss, Beginner, 10 km Run, Half Marathon, Marathon and Bikini Body Prep. These plans are not free though, with a starting price of £13.49.

Story Running – A new first person running based audiobook experience. There are currently 4 stories costing 79p each and lasting 37 minutes.

  • The Carrier of Truth – Beyond the walls of Alcatraz
  • Journey of Iomluath – The Tribes’ Saviour
  • Toward the Finish Line – by Gerhard Gulewicz
  • The Globerunner – Rio’s Marvels of Life

In addition to this Runtastic Pro adds Interval Training which is as per a Basic workout with the addition of live interval training audio guidance on set transitions between fat burning and aerobic zones. This option has a further three sub-choices; Basic Interval, High Intensity Workout and Intensive Interval 7.8k depending on the level of workout you are after.

Story Running

As part of this review I tested The Carrier of Truth, which involves a character talking to himself about his experience whilst running away from the authorities, escaping from Alcatraz, with supporting background noise and music interjections with motivational rhythmic beats.

Although the concept of Story Running is sound, it feels like it has a distance to go to be complete. The current offering are a little short, being only 37 minutes long meaning that for most people the run needs to be shorter than 4 miles as there is no auto-repeat option that I could find.

Also where the user can have voice feedback overlaid when listening to music this is not available when Story Running. In my opinion the Voice Feedback is the most motivational part of running apps.

Finally I expected the pace of the foot landing sounds during the running parts of the Story Running experience would have an association to the foot landing pace of the listener based on the accelerometers in their phone (using pedometer functionality) it is not. In my opinion it changed the experience from being truly immersive to being the same as listening to any audiobook, whilst running. In fact at times having the foot landing in the audio a different pace to my own could be off putting.

Having discussed these observations with the team at Runtastic they advised me that the response to this new functionality has been very positive, both from industry and end users, with a number of major publishers interested in providing further stories for the Story Running experience.

Live Tracking

After many years of using Sports Tracker (formerly Nokia Sports Tracker) I was pulled to Runtastic Pro based on the reduction in Sports Tracker functionality post Sports Tracker separating from Nokia under a stand-alone company (Sports Tracking Technologies). The main functionality I missed was live workout tracking. When looking around the Windows Phone Store, Runtastic Pro stood out as providing this functionality. When I started using Runtastic Pro a year ago it appeared to be another functionality where Runtastic Pro separated itself from the competition, but a number of competing apps provide the same capability these days. When live tracking is enabled for a workout a Facebook post is automatically uploaded providing a link to the live workout on the Runtastic website. Once on the Runtastic website e-spectators can select from a number of cheers which provide audio motivation to live tracker during the workout. Sadly, this needs the e-spectator to register and log-in the Runtastic website before they can cheer. A nice improvement if mid-workout Facebook likes could be turned into audio cheers meaning that Facebook followers could cheers with minimum effort.

A major advantage of the Runtastic service is that live tracking only costs the one off payment £3.99 for the Runtastic Pro. When compared with other services live tracking is not available on Sports Tracker, free on Endomondo service, although the app is limited and requires Elite Membership of the Run Keeper service costing £20 per year.

Social Experience

As with other running apps, Runtastic Pro makes exercise a more social activity with the ability to share your workouts live with your Runtastic and Facebook friends. A nice little extra is the ability for other users of the Runtastic website to cheer you on during your live workout. I must admit, having used Sports Tracker for years, I migrated to Runtastic, specifically for the live workout functionality as it provides reassurance for my wife when I head out on a long run or ride. This functionality works well, although it is website based only, although it would be nice to have the ability to follow other people’s live workouts via the Windows Phone app, or have periodical auto updates sent to people on a distance or time basis. These can be sent either via SMS or to Facebook.

Sadly there is no way to comment on other user’s workouts from the mobile client unlike Endomondo‘s Windows Phone app.

Workout Summary


Along with the standard recording of activity type, duration, pace and route, Runtastic and Runtastic Pro support entry of additional information in the form of your feelings about the run (from injured to happy), the weather conditions, the ambient temperature, average and maximum heart rate and notes. Once this information is completed as desired, workouts can be uploaded to the Runtastic website and shared on Facebook and Twitter as well as e-mailed.



The Online Service

On top of purchasing Runtastic Pro, to gain full functionality of the Runtastic service you need to spend a little more money, with annual Gold membership costing £19.90 for 3-months (£6.63 per month) with the monthly charge decreasing by up to 50% as the single payment duration increases up to £39.90 for 1-year (£3.32 per month), providing online analysis information, including run on run comparison and comparison of your workouts with those of your friends. This seem like a reasonable discount until you compare it against Endomondo or Run Keeper which both cost around £20 per year and Sports Tracker which is free.

Once past the pricing of the Gold Membership, the removal of advertising is always welcome, but the main reason for upgrading it the online statistics enabling comparison of workout on workout progress, or comparison against friend’s workouts. Performance Reports can be useful in reviewing your progress and the advanced filters help when trying to nail down attribute a specific workout comparison.

The 3 day weather forecast can be useful, but as this is solely web based and all phones capable of running the Runtastic or Runtastic Pro app are capable of running on device weather apps this offers no real advantage. Finally, custom cheering (live voice recording and playback) and the motivational feed are nice little extras, but offer limited advantage during a workout or progress in achieving your fitness goals over the standard cheers provided as part of the free service in conjunction with live tracking the Runtastic Pro app. My main motivation comes from the speed, pace and overall time information and the standard cheers which are all provided in the Runtastic Pro without the need for Gold Membership.

Verdict

Based on a year’s usage of Runtastic Pro Windows Phone app and the Runtastic Website with Gold Membership, although the Runtastic app is solid, all be it a little limited, spending your money on the Runtastic Pro app is a no brainer and one of the best buys in the Windows Store, but the online Gold Membership seems overpriced compared to the competition.

Pros

  • Live Tracking (Runtatsic Pro only)
  • Cheering and Voice Feedback (Runtatsic Pro only)
  • Ability to add details and comment on workout pre-upload
  • Interval workout options
  • Split time information on workouts in History

Cons

  • No in app Social Feed
  • Unable to change workout types pre-upload
  • Gold Membership too expensive when compared with Endomondo and Run Keeper.
  • Split times not associated with intervals for interval workouts
  • No dark theme

Rating

Runtastic: 3/5

Impressive app, but based on the price of the Pro app, there is no reason to stay with the free version.

Runtastic Pro: 4/5

Excellent value for the price. Live Tracking and Voice Feedback are a must.

Runtastic Gold Membership: 2/5

Statistics (including comparison with others) and recorded cheers are motivational extras, but the price tag is way too high when compared with the competition (Endomondo and Run Keeper).

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