Monday, July 25, 2011

Product Review: RunKeeper vs. MapMyRIDE

If you read this blog on a regular basis, you know I've been using RunKeeper since January to track my exercise. It's a good product. It does what I want it to do and using it has really helped my running. I can't really say if it has helped my cycling because I started cycling after using the app, but it's safe to assume the answer is yes.

Recently, because of incessant ads and product placement on Versus during the Tour de France, I decided to give MapMyRIDE a try. RunKeeper and MapMyRIDE may sound like they're meant for different sports, but they both effectively do the same thing and work for a wide range of activities outside of their names. MapMyRIDE was running a promotion with the Tour de France that interested me so I thought I'd download the app and compare it to RunKeeper. Not wanting to sacrifice my GPS record-keeping on RunKeeper, I actually ran both apps simultaneously on my rides recently. This also helped to compare the data both apps returned for the same activities. Because both services have both an app and a website and the user really doesn't have to have use both, I'm going to review the apps and websites separately.

The Apps

Winner: MapMyRide

First, let me say that there's nothing really wrong with the RunKeeper app. It will track your data as accurately as the GPS in your device can manage. (Running through urban canyons and other areas of low sky visibility causes the maps to get a little screwy on both devices.) The most important feature of the app for me is that you can have your GPS-enabled device report your time, distance, and current pace or average speed at intervals and all of that is customizable. Getting this regular live feedback is a huge motivator for me. When you finish the activity, it will tell you how long and how far you exercised along with your average pace (or speed if you choose) and calories burned. There is a bar chart of sort that seems to show your speed over time, but it's completely unlabeled and useless. It's by far the biggest flaw in the app. Finally, you can also see the map of your route by clicking the little map icon on the bottom left. This has come in handy on runs and rides where I wasn't familiar with my surroundings and got lost, by the way. For those without GPS in your phone or iPod, it allows you to manually enter the activities as well. If you have a compatible heart rate monitor, the app works with that as well. There's also an option to broadcast your activities live through the website, although that requires a paid membership. The app works independently from the website so if you don't want to sign up for a free membership with the site, the app will still work. The app is a free download for Android, Apple, and Windows Phone 7 devices.

Why is the MapMyRIDE app better? It has ridiculously more features and is still free. Despite having "ride" in the name, the app will track basically the same activities that RunKeeper will and it has the options to have audio feedback similar to that of RunKeeper. When you're finished, you get the same data about your ride that RunKeeper gave you. In other words, it does everything that I have to have from a running/cycling app. The way it surpasses RunKeeper here is it also allows you to track your diet from the app and it automatically integrates your workouts into the calorie counter. You can check on your friends from the website through the app as well although honestly, the only extra feature I'll ever use is the nutrition tracker, but that's a big advantage over the RunKeeper app. In fact, it's enough to just barely edge out RunKeeper in the app department even after taking into to account that MapMyRIDE app is a little tougher to learn in the beginning and has a tendency to stall while using some of the extra features. I may take away this win from MapMyRIDE if I keep having problems with the app hanging up on me when I'm trying to search for and add food to my nutrition tracker. RunKeeper is simpler and more elegant and would probably still be the better option for those less technologically adept.

The Website

Winner: RunKeeper

The nutrition tracker on MapMyRIDE is a really tough thing to count out, especially since RunKeeper has nothing like it. Also, I love the challenges (some even come with opportunities to win prizes) that can add a little fun to your workout routine. I enjoyed playing the Aquaphor Tour de France Challenge, personally. It was fun to try to match up my workout to that day's course and see how my ride matched up. (It wasn't pretty. I live over 100 miles from the nearest real mountain and 70 or so miles from the nearest real hill. Also, I'm far from being even a good amateur cyclist at this point. I'm just a competent amateur.) My problem is that the site just isn't as intuitive to use as RunKeeper is. Another huge problem for me is the level of detail they provide on my workouts. On RunKeeper, the stats on my runs and rides are broken down by the miles and it keeps track of personal records and long-term stats for me. Everything on MapMyRIDE is free for the user. There are pay plans, but they basically just do away with the ads and let you have access to slightly more detail to your workout charts, except currently the workout charts don't exist for me. This seems to be because they're migrating from their old site to a new one, but that doesn't change the fact that I only see my map and the entire workout as one entity. I can't see how much I flagged at the end or how much the hills affected me. If this gets added soon, I'll change my opinion of the site, but it's still just too complicated. It takes too many clicks to get where you want. It has great features, some better than RunKeeper, but it can be annoying to use. I do have to admit that it automatically categorizes your climbs like they do in professional road races based on your GPS data has me planning on driving up to the mountains for something that at least gets a Category 4 label.

There's not much left to say about RunKeeper. It does what it's supposed to do and the site is fairly elegant and low on frills. I'd love to see them add the challenges, especially the sponsored challenges that would help turn my exercises into the fantasy sports games I play online anyway. I'd also love to see them add a nutrition tracker, but for me, the main benefit of these sites is to keep track of my workout data so I can look at it and try to do what I do better. RunKeeper does that efficiently. I do pay for RunKeeper Elite to access more detailed statistics and records of my workouts, but the free membership comes with all of the data I consider essential.


If you're just downloading the app and don't mind the slightly higher learning curve of the MapMyRIDE app, go with MapMyRIDE. Enough of the site is represented on the app that you actually don't have any need to go to their website. Just be prepared for things to not always work (although the workout tracking has always worked fine for me). If you're going to use both the app and the website, RunKeeper becomes the better option. Honestly, I'm going to keep running both. My phone seems to handle running both apps together without an issue and this lets me take advantage of what I like about MapMyRIDE without losing what I love about RunKeeper.


Julie said...

It's crazy that you're tracking so many miles. Go Jacob!

I get what you're saying about not wanting to lose data. I track my agents' numbers in Excel and had to re-arrange my format since we added new people and it was a pain in the rear to get the old data into the new format. I think that's why so many people stay with the same phone carrier. It's too much trouble to switch phones unless you have the carrier download it all to your new phone.

John Juge said...

hey there Jacob, I am using Endomondo. sounds like all the good things about both apps. I tried Mapmyride, and I couldnt get past the website. pretty clunky. but Endomondo's is really great! and it uploads your latest workouts to Facebook and Twitter, so you can brag! people can also track you live by following your link, and if you have opted for "pep-talk" they can even talk to you through your headset. it's pretty awesome. and also, totally free!

Jacob said...

I've never heard of Endomondo. Courtney, what are you using to track your C25K?

Both Runkeeper and Mapmyride also link up optionally to your Twitter and Facebook accounts and you can choose to have certain things automatically posted or choose to only manually post certain things. I don't let Mapmyride post anything, but Runkeeper automatically posts my personal records.

Of course, whatever you like in this regard is great. If you're keeping active, that's all that really matters.

Courtney said...

Sorry again, just catching up here. I'm using C25K because it's designed for people who don't run, i.e. me. It focuses on the time you spend running, not speed or distance. Until I'm able to log a solid 5K, I'm not worrying about tracking anything -- just running when I'm supposed to run. I did a 25-minute run this morning, which amounted to about 2 miles, which (sadly) is the farthest I've ever run at one time.

But when I'm done with C25K, I'm planning on transitioning to either RunKeeper or MapMyRIDE, which is why I'm glad you posted this review. I think after I'm able to run 3 miles or so without stopping, I can focus more on speed. I don't see myself becoming a distance runner. I don't think I care about a nutrition tracker -- I know how to eat healthy without the help of an app. But then again, I'm not trying to lose weight, only be in better shape.

Paul Elsass said...

Endomondo is a nice site and decent program, but it is very limited. It hardly integrates with any devices. In fact, of all the sites, Mapmyride (Mapmyrun, Mapmyhike, Mapmywalk) integrates with more than any. They continue to push out compatibility with all devices, allowing you to pull your workouts in no matter what you use. Second, Endomondo has no nutrition and no workouts. It is really just geared for cardio exercise only. It's funny, if you select "weight" workout, it doesn't even allow you to input anything different than what you would log for cardio. Makes no sense at all. Finally, like Runkeeper, the challenges are user generated only. I like the sponsored challenges on Mapmyride, as you can win prizes. Make sure people understand that Mapmyride is the specific site for cyclists, but they have a site for each type of fitness (walk, ride, hike, run, tri, climb). Further, my understanding is that they have some new features coming out soon which will blow away the competition. Stay tuned.