Runkeeper might be the best third-party run tracking app for the Apple Watch


Aniket Sharma lists his very reasonable expectations for a running app and explains why Runkeeper comes the closest to meeting them. This is interesting to me because I actually switched away from Runkeeper when I started running with the Apple Watch. I’d been using it with iPhone-only runs quite happily and when I added the watch to the equation I started to have problems.

The syncing between the watch and phone apps seemed to be very flaky, and I would often lose parts of my runs (phantom pause) and would get unexpected results depending on whether I started a run from the watch or from the phone. Runs started from the watch would sometimes not use GPS data from the phone that was along with me for the run, while runs started from the phone would frequently not update the display on the watch. And there’s nothing worse than the feeling of realizing, after a distance record-setting run, that your tracker app had you “paused” for a part of that run.

This led me to experiment with other running apps, and Runtastic won me over for a number of reasons: (1) rock-solid connection between the watch and phone apps, despite which I started the run on, (2) a highly customizable watch display, and (3) a general no-nonsense design aesthetic.

Anyway Aniket’s review makes me suspect Runkeeper is worth another shot. Nike+ may be, too: my problem with it had been that the display would only show one stat at a time, and required swiping to switch from time to distance, e.g. Recent reviews of Nike+ sound like this has been way improved.

I usually listen to podcasts while running, which makes two features of most of these apps infuriating. First, the voice-over feature that is enabled by default in all of these apps. Fine, easy enough to turn off. Second, the music controls, in Runtastic at least, really do apply to just music. I’ve been running with headphones that don’t have controls on them, and especially when that voiceover kicks in, the inability to pause is infuriating.

The upshot tho is that these apps are all slowly improving, and that competition is driving that improvement. Good stuff, I’ll be giving Runkeeper another shot.

Reactions to Apple Watch Nike+

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-5-58-46-pmReactions to the Apple Watch Nike+ version have been overwhelmingly positive as far as I can see. Here’s one review on Medium:

The accuracy is absolutely perfect, precise even. I’ve ran two 5K routes where I know exactly the half way point, and Nike+ was bang on. When I got back, it was instantly on my iPhone NRC App, with full route from first step to last. No gaps, nothing.

And one from TechCrunch:

What’s perhaps most interesting about Apple Watch Nike+ is that, at its heart, it’s just a regular, old Apple Watch. Those bright, perforated bands are removable by pressing a button on the back of the watch and sliding them out, sideways (not to mention the fact that there are more muted options than the yellow version I got). And if you buy the standard version of the Watch, you can always download and install the Nike app – though you’ll be missing the company’s custom faces with integrated Nike swoosh and some shortcuts.

Not real relevant for me since I always run with both my watch and my iPhone (until someone comes up with a plausible standalone podcast player for the watch). I’ve had big problems getting the watch and iPhone versions of various apps to talk to each other, which finally prompted me to switch from Runkeeper to RunTastic.

(I’d tried the Nike+ app, and at the time it only showed one piece of data on the screen at once, which was a deal breaker. The new version seems to fix that, tho it’d be hard to beat RunTastic’s customizable watch display.)

I personally think the black Nike+ band that is shown in all the product shots looks pretty good. Not sure how well the faces would work out, but it seems not an unreasonable idea to buy the Nike+ edition just to have the option–it can basically become a regular Sports watch anytime, and it’s the same price.