Can I share with you just how much I hate running? Having tried it across a number of years, indoors and outdoors, it's simply not for me. I inevitably spend the whole time thinking: "Why? Why am I doing this?"
So why would I ever want a running app, and indeed why would I think Runtastic PRO (which is priced at £2.99) deserves such a high rating? It has to do with the fact that fitness apps are often deceiving, especially when it comes to their names. Runtastic isn't solely for runners. Sure, it's marketed at the hobbyist runner crowd, but you can use it to track nearly any outdoor activity, from walking to cycling to skiing. I used Runtastic to keep track of my more leisurely activities, and loved the wealth of information the app collected about where I went, how long it took, and the total distance travelled.
Runtastic PRO isn't the only fitness app with a misleading name. I've had similar experiences with the free Map My Run app, and its companion Map My Ride, as well as the Cyclemeter iPhone app (which is £2.99). None of these apps are specific to any one sport.
Runtastic PRO captures all the basic data you'd expect from a fitness tracking app: Distance, average speed, speed between mile markers, elevation, pace, pace between mile markers, duration, calories burned, and route as plotted on a map using GPS, which you can optionally disable to conserve battery power.
After opening the app you can launch right into your activity by hitting a green start button on the Session tab, which is the default home screen. The app will ask if you want live tracking enabled, and then prompt you to choose your activity, unless you've set the app to a default sport. The app will then count down for a few seconds (to give you a moment to strap your iPhone into place), which you can also customise to be 5 seconds, 15 seconds, 30 seconds, or no time at all. Tapping the screen will also kill the countdown so you can get moving.
When you finish your run, kayak ride, cross-country ski route, or what have you, the app opens to a page where you can log additional details about the weather, surface (pavement, wooded trails, gravel), your mood, and average heart rate, which becomes automatic if you wear a compatible chest strap. The app also automatically records the average temperature based on your location. I like these little details because you can mark, for example, if you're injured or just having a down day, which would account for a slow pace or shorter than normal route.
I used Runtastic on a couple of bike rides and also on a few long walks. I wore headphones while walking and liked the fact that Runtastic didn't interrupt me much, other than to announce when I passed a mile marker and the total time at that point. While bicycling, I tucked my iPhone away, which is when the delayed start countdown came in handy. Both of those features are pretty standard in other fitness apps that cost a few pounds, although they're the kind of thing that might be missing in free apps.
Free vs Pro
Runtastic does have a free version, but it's somewhat limited compared with the PRO version. Also, not all the features in Runtastic PRO are available across all platforms, so for example while the iPhone PRO app has an integrated music player, the Android version does not. I'm reviewing the iPhone version here, and luckily, it has the most features of any platform.
Runtastic PRO adds voice feedback (in English, German, Spanish, French and Italian), live tracking, routes and routes search (meaning you can find routes that other users have mapped nearby), pulse reading and heart rate zones (when a compatible heart rate monitor is added), as well as an integrated music player. You can set a power song from your music library, which is what Runtastic will play if you need a boost.
Runtastic PRO also has a few different modes for guiding your activity toward a specific goal, such as workout, interval workout, and competitions. And most importantly for me, the PRO version has auto-pause, meaning it accounts for stops at red lights and such.
Runtastic PRO balances depth of information with ease of use. It gathers a lot of data surrounding the activities you do, but keeps the interface simple enough that you can easily get to the most important information quickly. Explore all the settings and menu buttons, however, and you'll uncover more and more.
When you buy the £2.99 PRO version, everything is included, although Runtastic still does offer some additional in-app purchases, such as special (and expensive – they can be £10 or £20) training programs that coach you through marathon prep or weight loss assistance over several weeks. Although I didn't test any of these add-on services, I do feel slightly uneasy when I pay £3 for an app but still feel like the company is trying to sell me more, more, more.
Runtastic is a solid activity tracking app, and its iPhone version is the most complete of all the different platforms. It's well worth spending £3 for Runtastic PRO to ensure you get auto-pause, a variety of modes to adjust your exercises to suit when you're training versus when you're trying to burn calories, and the ability to search out new routes uploaded by other users.
A very similar app which I like equally as much is Cyclemeter. Spend £2.99 on either Runtastic PRO or Cyclemeter, and you won't be disappointed.