Friday, September 20, 2013

Android App Review - My Tracks

Apple might be the king of friendly user interfaces. Most people I know that don't want to think about their technology get an Iphone. However, if what you're after is access to raw data, to unadulterated information, Google will be your best friend. Personally, I'm a data geek and I'm comfortable using a slightly more complicated, less "pretty" user interface.

As a runner, the "exercise app" concept seems compelling. Being able to track pace, progress, heart rate, grade and elevation gain/loss is nice. Being able to do it on trail runs with your phone, which you might carry as a camera and as an emergency communication method is useful. I keep my phone in a stretchy case on my left arm during efforts less than a few hours, and in my BD Magnum on my back during longer efforts.

With all of the other exercise apps out there, why did I choose Google My Tracks? There are a lot of reasons, which I'm going to outline below:
  • The app is simple, and will record your movement regardless of your activity
  • All of the crap from many of the other exercise apps is not included - there's no additional account setup, no Facebook sharing option, no advertising, no inaccurate calorie counter and no link to my music (like I don't know where that is on my phone??)
  • You can autosave your workouts to Google Drive
  • Your tracks can be exported as KML, GPX or CSV files
  • It runs in the background, and can be used in airplane mode to conserve battery life - the battery life is very good when used this way.
  • It works well with other activities besides running.
I've only been using My Tracks for trail runs, especially the kind that gain and lose a lot of elevation. It's helpful here because it seems to give me an idea of pace (usually pretty slow when the terrain is rugged). I'm looking forward to using is on an upcoming run/climb/run/bike effort in NH in the upcoming weeks.


The map tab, set to show mile splits
The charts tab, which graphs elevation
gain/loss and speed on the same graph

The stats tab, showing a lot of useful
information