I recently decided to seriously bump up my cardio workouts. I spent $200 on a Mio Alpha strapless heart-rate monitor watch. You’d think a $200 watch would have an accompanying smartphone app to track both your heart rate and your workout. But no such luck.
(Workout stats from the RunKeeper website.)
Instead, the Alpha communicates via Bluetooth with a handful of third-party iOS and Android fitness apps. Each app receives heart-rate data from the Alpha watch (and other devices) and incorporates it into your fitness-session data. I reviewed one such app, Endomondo, last month. Today, I’m focusing on RunKeeper, a free iOS and Android app that tracks running, walking, hiking, cross-country skiing and other activities in addition to your heart-rate data.
RunKeeper was recently updated with new social-media features, including the ability to follow friends’ workouts live in the app (provided they enable the feature). Endomondo’s most recent update also added more social-media hooks.
In terms of heart-rate data, the two are mostly equal. Both have corresponding websites that provide a bit more workout data than the apps. On the Web, both show your heart rate on charts that correspond with maps of your workout routes. And both let you check your heart rate, using the Web interface, at any point during your runs.
One big advantage to RunKeeper: The app provides audio cues throughout your workout for average heart rate, current heart rate and heart rate zone. Endomondo doesn’t.
Both applications do, however, require a paid subscription to access heart-rate data. Endomondo’s premium service costs $3 a month or $15 a year, compared to RunKeeper’s $5 monthly fee or $20 annual fee.
Otherwise, the differences between RunKeeper and Endomondo have more to do with interface and features. For example, Endomondo doesn’t let you control your music playlist on iPhone. But the Android app has a button that, when touched, takes you to your preferred music app. RunKeeper lets you control your music playlists, but I’ve had no success changing playlists in RunKeeper during workouts.
Endomondo has a treadmill-workout option, which I use often. With RunKeeper you have to log treadmill workouts manually, which is a major inconvenience.
Unlike Endomondo, RunKeeper lets you take pictures from within the app and store them along with workout data. It’s a handy way to capture the workout data on your treadmill's screen.
Ultimately, I have a slight preference for RunKeeper, if only for the heart-rate audio cues. My advice: Both apps are free, so try one for a week, see what you think, and then try the other.
As for the Mio Alpha watch? It’s not perfect. It's expensive. But it’s accurate and, once you get past the learning curve, it's easy to use. The best part: You don't have to wear a strap around your chest to capture heart-rate readings.