Sunday, November 30, 2014

My Tracks (Android) - App Review

I tried to find a review of this relatively old software, but there isn't much available online. It's one of Google's lesser-known app in the Play Store.  Which is a bit unfortunate because the multipurpose GPS tracker works well; it is intuitive and simple (the basic interface is just 2 buttons: start and stop), and unlike similar apps it doesn't try too hard, doesn't try to sell you things, or bombard you with ads before you even hit start.  I'm talking about software like Nike Running, Endomondo, or Strava. Some of these apps are more "social" than others, allowing you to easily share (brag) about your time and route on Facebook.  (If I was a 3-hour marathoner, I would be more "social")

My Tracks is more focused than that, and this is why I like it best.

The Good
  • Statistics include calories, speed, distance, time, and elevation -- basically everything an athlete may care about.
  • You can track your jogs (or runs, walks, hikes, skis, cycles, drives) in a real-time map.  Most similar apps do this, I know, but some make it more difficult than it needs to.  This is important if you're hiking, or in unfamiliar territory, so you can find your way back.
  • It's made by Google, which gives me bit of comfort that it's somewhat optimized for Android.  Battery usage is OK. My normal 1.5-hour jog would run down ~5% of battery life, which is reasonable.
  • It syncs with Google Drive, so even if you change devices (or if you brick your phone), you won't lose your workout history.  In the past 2 months I have ran 45km -- which isn't much to brag about, but at least it's there for me to see.  In Drive, the workout history is saved as a .KMZ file which you can open in Google Earth.
  • You can set route markers on demand, or opt to set them automatically. I set mine for every single km, so I can see my pace broken down by km.
  • There's even a homescreen widget you can use.  If you're an avid daily runner, this is for you.

The Bad
  • When you press Start, the timer starts even before GPS locks on, which is fine, except my phone (2013 LG G Pro running Kit Kat 4.4.2) takes about 5 minutes to lock on.
  • Sometimes during my runs, the app seems unresponsive.  I don't know if it's busy trying to lock GPS or what. But it always comes back to life after a couple minutes.  

The Ugly
  • Since the timer/log starts before the GPS locks on, the chart looks funny in the beginning of runs.  Every single time, it shows my run's maximum speed at 35km/h.  Right.
Update: It's rainy season and I've been having problems fixing in to GPS -- I've gone whole 1.5hr jogs without My Tracks locking and recording anything.  Based on some forum suggestions I've downloaded an app "GPS Status & Toolbox" by MobiWIA in the Play Store, it seems to help but I'll test it some more.

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