Friday, August 21, 2009

Good running apps can be worth the money


I'll give it to the folks at Trimble Outdoors (creator of AllSport GPS) in terms of helping users understand their product. I'd mentioned to them that the accuracy and rest detection with the AllSport GPS app were off the mark and they gave me some good feedback (rest detection can be turned off) and told me that are working to improve some other features. I know it's funny to say this but, even with some of the issues I've encountered, but I'm glad they charge $10 for the app. These utilities are valuable to runners and to other athletes who wish to track their performance. These are applications that should be differentiated from lesser apps that cost far less or are free. Software companies will only invest in optimizing applications if there's a real opportunity to monetize the result. In a world of free or $0.99 iPhone apps there exists great choice but little practical value. I like MotionX a lot, it's priced low for what it offers (but it's not $0.99 either) and it does as good a job as it can with the limits of the iPhone and GPS.

There's a lot more functionality that can be added to these applications to benefit the runner. The accelerometer within the iPhone can be better leveraged to help gauge effort. The GPS can sync with a database of prior runs to provide comparisons to past performance. I have not used Running Gypsy but I noticed it has a feature for automatically capturing 1 mile splits. Why don't they all do that? There are many things I'd like to know when I'm running like temperature, humidity and real time elevation. I have a terrible time reading the display while I'm running due to factors like sun reflections, screen locking and angle of the unit. I'd like to have the option of listening to my metrics in real-time and on demand. As the iPhone and other mobile devices add more capabilities related to user needs and actions it can get very interesting. In the meantime I struggle a bit with the fact that the best apps are still limited by the technologies they need to leverage. I still think about the Garmin GPS watches and wonder why, with the same GPS tracking signal, they would be more accurate than an iPhone.

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