For those of you just joining us, we are on a continuing journey to learn more about heart rate monitors, and the best way to choose the right one. Our website covers all types of electronics and tech stuff, but overwhelmingly, triathletes and runners come to our site to check out methods to measure heart rate and learn more about GPS watches. We have had so many questions about using smartphones as a heart rate monitoring device, which smartphone heart rate monitor straps to buy, and which apps to use that we decided we should start reviewing the the heart rate monitor straps, and the smartphone apps that work with them. Today, we are reviewing runtastic and runtastic PRO apps for smartphones.
Before we get started, we should tell you a little bit about us and how we perform product evaluations. We have a group of 4 people who do the evaluations of all of the stuff. One person is the lead on a piece of gear, but everyone gets an opportunity to evaluate the product. We have 2 guys and 2 ladies, so it’s a good mix of people. It gives us better insight, and we get a better review overall. Everyone has an input to the review, and if there is a major disagreement, we will note it in the review. If you want to know who these people are, check out our About Us page. Four of us are seasoned triathletes, and 2 of us are are also full time Pilates instructors. Jennifer Lynn, who is a guest blogger, is a full time Pilates/spinning instructor. All swim, bike, run, do Pilates and Yoga, and use all of the gear on a daily basis. Many of you have read the FitnessElectronicsBlog disclaimer, but here it is in case this is your first time reading one of our reviews. For the record, we are in no way connected with runtastic or any of the companies whose gear we review. We love playing with the latest technology, and we couldn’t keep our hands off this stuff if we tried. We downloaded and purchased runtastic and runtastic PRO from the iTunes and Android Play store. We typically don’t take gear for free, and there is never give-us-gear for a favorable review, or anything like that. We call ‘em as we see ‘em. It keeps us honest. Typically, if we like the product, we spend our own money to make sure we have it around to use. it helps us answer questions, and compare products, and check out the latest software updates. So, enough with the babble. Let’s get to the review.
So who and what is runtastic? runtastic is an app aimed at logging your fitness in a number of different activities and sports. Here are some of the apps and sports that runtastic have created:
So how did runtastic start? Here s a little bit of the company history:
runtastic was founded in 2009 by four friends with a shared passion for combining exercise and technology: Florian Gschwandtner, Alfred Luger, Rene Giretzlehner, and Christian Kaar.
The idea for the company actually began two years earlier, when Christian and Rene were master’s students at FH Hagenberg. Their thesis project, called mSports, focused on using GPS technology available on smartphones, such as the Apple iPhone and Google Android phone, to track race positions for sailboats and racecars. Using a smartphone mounted on the boat or in the car, sailors and racecar drivers could track their overall location and position using the mSports application.
The project was interesting, but purely experimental, and neither Christian nor Rene had any business background to take mSports from a great technical idea to a commercial product. As graduation neared in mid-2009, Christian secured a job offer in Amsterdam and was set to pursue an exciting new career. In the meantime, Rene approached his old friend, Florian, who had more business know-how, with the idea to productize mSports in some way. He was intrigued, enlisted his friend Alfred with whom he was studying at FH Steyer, and the two business-focused men decided to help Rene during his off-hours.
runtastic can thank the economic crisis of 2009 for the rest of the company’s history. Three days before he was supposed to leave Austria, Christian’s potential employer rescinded the job offer! Seeing the opportunity that presented itself, both Florian and Alfred quit their existing jobs to join Rene and Christian and found runtastic.
Today, runtastic develops a series of apps and gear that help athletes of all levels track their activities, share progress with friends, track their heart rates and locations, and many related features. runtastic apps are available on the iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows 7, and bada platforms. Tens of thousands of runners, walkers, hikers, bikers and other athletes enjoy runtastic apps every day.
The company is headquartered in Pasching, Austria with an office in San Francisco.
One of the founders of runtastic, Florian Gschwandtner is the CEO of the company and is responsible for overall business development and product development. Prior to founding runtastic, Florian was an international project manager at NTS Wincash GmbH, which develops and installs point-of-sale (POS) systems for mobile network providers worldwide, such as AT&T, Verizon, and Vodafone. Florian holds a master’s degree of science and engineering in mobile computing from the FH Hagenberg (Austria) and in supply chain management and e-commerce from the FH Steyr (Austria).
Typically, the first question we usually get is, which phones work with runtastic?
- iPhone 3G, 3GS, 4, 4S. If you want to use a heart rate monitor, you can use the runtastic Receiver and chest strap on any of the iPhones listed above. If you want to use the Wahoo BlueHR or Polar H7 heart rate monitor straps, these are only compatible with the iPhone 4s.
- Android Phones. If you want to use a heart rate monitor, you can use the runtastic Receiver and chest strap on any of the Android phones.
- Windows 7 Phones. If you want to use a heart rate monitor, you can use the runtastic Receiver and chest strap on any of the Window 7 phones.
So what are the features?
Here are the features of the runtastic free app:
- Map your workouts in real-time with built-in GPS and monitor your progress (time, distance, speed, pace, calories, altitude, etc.)
- Personal workout diary and metrics
- Weekly, monthly and yearly statistics
- Mapping: Detailed live mapping and historical mapping of previous sessions (Google maps)
- Dashboard configuration: Display preferred statistics
- Graphs: Get charts with altitude, pace, speed and heart rate information
- Performance analysis with lap times
- Enjoy your workouts with the integrated iPod function player
- Set goals for time and distance
- Accurate calculation of elevation gain and loss
- Manual entry of workouts: Add treadmill, spinning and weightlifting workouts
- Share your success on Facebook and Twitter
- Don’t train alone! Sexy voices will give you feedback about different statistics (distance, speed, pace …) and our cheering feature will help motivate you.
- You can save all your workouts at www.runtastic.com.
- Using the online community you’ll get further analysis, metrics and comparisons to your friends. Additionally, you can choose a training plan and track your body statistics. Share all your workouts easily with the facebook and twitter connect.
The runtastic PRO version has all the features of the free app plus:
- Voice feedback during a workout: Get audio feedback for each mile or kilometer
- Live tracking: Show your friends and family where you are
- iPod integration: Listen to your music while you are training
- Power song: Activate your power song to give your workout a boost
- Cheering: Hear cheers and receive messages live from your friends and be motivated to go even further
- Interval training and coaching: Improve your performance by gradually increasing your training
- Heart rate support
- Competitions: Challenge yourself or your friends. The voice coach supports you and tell you how you´re doing.
- Split table for each mile or kilometer
- Calorie goal: Set a specific calorie goal and use the voice feedback to reach your workout goal
- Pace goal: Define your favorite pace
- Geotagging: Take pictures during a workout and see these pictures online at your map trace
- Weather and Temperature: Receive live weather information and save weather data automatically after a workout
- Prediction of sunrise and sunset
- Landscape mode
- Remote control for pause and resume a session
- Heart rate zones
- Weather integration
- Ad free
So what’s new?
Here is what’s new in the latest versions of the app:
Using the app
We will dive right into using the runtastic. Once the app has been downloaded, you will be taken to the login screen:
Here you should login to your runtastic account. If you haven’t created one, you can create one through the app, or go online to www.runtastic.com and do it. It only takes a minute. After you have logged in on the phone, it’s time to make sure you have the app settings configured the way you want. Click on the Settings icon in the lower menu bar, and you can see all of the settings that can be changed:
Clicking on Activity takes you to the Activity screens, where you can choose your activity. You can choose from 28 different activities:
After you have chosen your sport and setup your distance and temperature units, you might want to setup Voice Feedback. You can set the volume and language of the voice, and the feedback interval:
You can choose which metrics use the voice:
Clicking the Live Tracking setting allows you to connect with your friends, and share your workout:
Selecting the Interval setting allows you to set up an interval workout. We will cover this in more detail later:
You can choose to turn headphone control on or off. If you are using Apple iPhone headphones, you can use the button to start and stop your workout:
The Social Network Accounts setting allows you to post automatically to Twitter and Facebook:
If you have a heart rate monitor, you can pair and connect it with the Get Heart Rate Monitor and Heart Rate settings. You can use a runtastic heart rate receiver and chest strap, an ANT+ dongle and heart rate monitor strap like the Wahoo Fitness Run/Gym Pack for iPhone, or a Bluetooth Smart heart rate monitor like the Polar H7 or the WahooFitness BlueHR (note – the Bluetooth Smart heart rate monitors only work on an iPhone 4s or later). For my tests, I am testing a Polar H7 and Wahoo Fitness BlueHR heart rate monitor strap. I will start out with the Polar H7 HRM:
When you have paired and connected your heart rate monitor strap, you can set your maximum heart rate and heart rate zones:
Clicking Invite a Friend lets you send an email to a friend without leaving the application:
Clicking the Website icon in the lower menubar shows people around you, and live workouts taking place:
Now that you have the application setup the way you want, it’s time to get going and start a workout. My first workout with a new phone app is typically a walk around the the park that is down the street. There is a short 4 mile loop that I walk around, and while I’m doing this I check out the app. So the first thing I did was to fire up the app, and pair it with a heart rate monitor strap. This time, I paired it with the Wahoo Fitness BlueHR Bluetooth Smart heart rate monitor for the iPhone:
Next, I went to the Session screen, and started my workout:
Click on the Session icon in the lower menu bar. You will see the main screen of the app:
There are 5 main screens that you can view during a workout. They are the music screen:
The main workout screen (there are different metric display settings which I am showing):
The full screen map view:
The metrics graph view:
And the Compass screen:
On the main screen, pressing the landscape button gives you a full screen view of the map:
I’m walking around the lake that is shown on the map:
After you are done with your workout, you can upload it to the runtastic website. You can add any notes and observations during your workout before you upload:
You can also set up your own workout. On the main Session workout screen, before you start your workout, you can see in the middle of the screen a button to change the type of workout. If you select this button, you get the following screen:
By selecting Workout, you can select interval training. You can choose from one of the three standard interval workouts, or create your own. You can add a Warm Up and Cool Down, and add as many repeats of different times and speeds as you need:
You can also create a Target Pace workout, by selecting your target pace, and hitting the start button. This is a great way to maintain your pace on a tempo run.
You can also also purchase a training plan from runtastic. This will add the workouts in your schedule:
Overall, the app is very easy to use, and worked very well to this point. Now that I had logged some data from my walk, viewed it on my phone, and uploaded it, it was time to go online and see what capabilities the online website had.
You can view all of your workouts online, with as much detail as you like. Here is a map view, with elevation, speed and heart rate plotted against time:
Here you can view your heart rate. Since I was walking, my heart rate didn’t change much:
There are many other features available online, but this gives you a good idea of some of the viewing features available to you.
Thoughts, Opinions and Summary:
- The app is very easy to use. Maps and data fields are easy to configure and use.
- Has all of the most requested features
- The heart rate zones are nice
- Has Facebook and Twitter posting capability
- The online workout review and graphing features are a plus
- There are settings for 28 different sports to choose from when selecting a workout
- The app layout is easy to navigate
- We really liked the interval workout feature in the Pro version
- My personal favorites were the weather and temp capabilities, geotagging capabilities, interval workout feature, remote control features with the iPhone headphones, and ease of uploading your workout
Would we recommend it? The answer is yes. We use this app, and feel that this is one of the top 3 workout logging apps. runtastic is free, and runtastic PRO costs $5.99 in the iTunes store. I recommend the PRO version if you are looking for the ultimate app.
As an FYI, iTunes gives the free version of runtastic a rating of 4.5 out of 5 star rating, and runtastic PRO a 4.5 out of 5 star rating. The Android Play store gives the free version of runtastic a rating of 4.5 out of 5 star rating, and runtastic PRO a 4.5 out of 5 star rating. Check it out below:
We will leave you with a few runtastic videos. The first is a general video showing overall features:
Here is a video on how to use runtastic abroad:
Here is a video on how to use the iPod controls in runtastic:
Here is a video on how to upgrade to the PRO version:
Here is how to record a session:
Here is how the voice feedback works: