App Focus: Couch Potatoes' Least Favorite App

1:50 PM -- If you were at this month's Boston Marathon and you saw a life-sized iPhone run by, trailed closely by a giant Android, you've seen the men behind RunKeeper. If you are a runner yourself, you'll know why they're awesome (as if running 26.2 miles in full costume wasn't enough).

The details: RunKeeper is a free GPS-enabled fitness app available on both the iPhone and, as of last week, Android. When fired up, the app tracks how far a walker, runner, hiker, or biker has traveled, including average speed, distance, calories burned, and route. The proud athlete can also tie the app into Twitter or Facebook to let others know her progress and location. The $9.99 Pro version of the app lets users generate reports based on their training, analyzes runs, and enables audio cues (like "Run faster!"). Why it stands out: On the iPhone, the app is limited by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s often-shoddy network coverage and the iPhone's own limitations, like a lack of multitasking (no taking calls while using RunKeeper, but hey, you're running). Otherwise it's a great tool. The information it provides can augment a run for those training for a race or provide enough context to make it fun for non-runners to leave the couch. It's often compared to Apple's $29 Nike/iPod combo, but the price point, its inclusion of live maps, and the fact that it requires no new hardware makes it an ideal running companion.

RunKeeper’s take: While training for his first marathon in 2007, founder and CEO Jason Jacobs realized the need for more information while on the go, and the iPhone emerged around the same time as the perfect means to deliver that info. Turns out more than a million mobile phone owners agreed. Jacobs said growth and continued improvements are his main goal now.

"Our big vision is, as the smartphone market matures, any carrier or device or platform that emerges as a contender, we want to be there and be the leader," Jacobs says.

[Ed. Note: In case you were wondering, the iPhone beat Android at the Boston Marathon, but it was Android's first time... and he was barefoot. Story of his life.]

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:38:36 PM
re: App Focus: Couch Potatoes' Least Favorite App

I've only used RunKeeper on the iPhone, but I'd like to try it on Android. My biggest problem with the app was that if I took a call or viewed a text while using the app, it'd kick me out. It saved my spot, but it was frustrating to not be able to use Pandora or other music apps either. I imagine Android, with its ability to multitask, is better. Anyone tried it yet?

Gabriel Brown 12/5/2012 | 4:38:34 PM
re: App Focus: Couch Potatoes' Least Favorite App

Hi Sarah - great to see more coverage of mobile apps on LR Mobile. 

I'll just interject with the obligatory Euro-Symbian-Nokia fanboy whine. This type of app has been available for years on Nokia S60 (at least as far back as the N95 in 2007) known as Sport Tracker. And yes it multitasks! No problems taking a call, etc, while the app is running.

To be fair there were/are a few, to put it mildly, usability issues, but still... a lot of these app concepts have been around the block before.

What's great now is they're generally better implemented and reach a wider audience. 


sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:38:34 PM
re: App Focus: Couch Potatoes' Least Favorite App

Great point, Gabriel. I'm limited by what I have tried, which is mainly iPhone apps. I'd love to hear from you and others what apps they like as well.

Gabriel Brown 12/5/2012 | 4:38:29 PM
re: App Focus: Couch Potatoes' Least Favorite App

I'm thinking of getting hold of a full time Android device for the very reason that it's one of the most happening platforms in mobile. It's hard to keep up without hands-on experience.

Currently I'm on the N900, which using Nokia's Maemo 5 open source Linux OS. Good device, good OS, but limited developers right now.

Let's look at the main platforms that are around today:

iPhone --  fragmentation starting to creep in

Android -- fragmentation already set in

Symbian -- S60 3rd Edition, S60 Touch (5th Edition), Symbian 3, Symbian 4 in 2011

Maemo -- Now in it's 3rd or 4th iteration, set to merge with...

Meego -- merger of Nokia and Intel's Linux efforts

BlackBerry -- OS6 on the way

Windows -- WinMo and the new Windows Phone 7

Bada -- the Samsung thing 

Brew -- the Qualcomm thing

Various other -- e.g. Nokia S40, Windows Kin, etc,

One thing I've found with all these platforms - either getting loaners from PR agencies or using/borrowing from friends - is that it gets hard to really know and understand more than one or two platforms at a time.

Imagine you're a developer. Which platform would you choose?





sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:38:26 PM
re: App Focus: Couch Potatoes' Least Favorite App

Then there's also no shortage of companies (GoldSpot Media, Tarsin, ALU) that claim to have acheived the "write once, read everywhere" ideal for app development. I have a hard time believing it is really that easy, but maybe we're getting closer with HTML 5.

If I were a developer, I'd be really overwhelmed!

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