by James A. Martin

Must-Have Fitness Apps, Accessories for Phablet Owners

Jan 12, 20154 mins
Consumer ElectronicsMobile Apps

Huge smartphones are great for many things, but you really notice the extra size during exercise. reviewer James A. Martin recommends two exercise apps for phablet users, along with an accessory for stashing your phone and some quality wireless earbuds.

Are you working out with a phablet in your pocket? If so, you need to read this post.

Sales of Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones have been big since their September debut, according to Kantar Worldpanel, with the Samsung Galaxy S5 not far behind. In other words, phablets are huge — in more ways than one.

Here’s something else that’s huge, at least at this time of year: exercise. As someone who’s been working out with an iPhone 6 Plus by my side since September, I have a few apps and accessories to recommend.

RunKeeper: The One App You Really Should Download

I’ve tried lots of exercise-tracking apps, and RunKeeper for Android and iOS is still my favorite. The app, which makes good use of larger smartphone screens, tracks just about every activity imaginable in one of two modes, GPS and stopwatch. GPS mode, not surprisingly, tracks outdoor activities such as walking, running, mountain biking, downhill skiing, snowboarding and Nordic walking. Stopwatch mode is for indoor activities, such as yoga, circuit training, elliptical machines, Zumba and Stairmaster climbing.

RunKeeper shares data with other apps, including Fitbit and MyFitnessPal, and you can pair it with external heart-rate monitoring devices. I love RunKeeper’s Pocket Track feature, which automatically tracks walks of 15 minutes or longer using your iPhone’s motion coprocessor chip, assuming you have an iPhone 5s, 6 or 6 Plus. Other cool features include lots of audio cue options, such as current and average heart rate, and an auto-pause feature that automatically stops the tracking when you stand idly at a traffic light or wait for the walk signal. 

OutSider: The Best Weather-Related Exercise App

Before I head outside for a hike or run, I check OutSider, an exercise app for iOS that was developed by The Weather Channel. It rates outdoor environments based on such factors as humidity, temperature and chance of precipitation. The app does a lot more, including track your runs, but I think it’s best used as an indicator of whether to hit the gym or the street.

 Nike Vapor Flash: Where to Stash Your Phablet

I haven’t found an ideal place to store my iPhone 6 Plus while exercising, but Nike’s “running waist pack” ($40) is a solid option. Its zippered compartment is big enough to store my phablet (and the Apple leather case I keep it in), along with my ID. The outside has reflective panels, so you stand out in low-light conditions, and the inside is garish neon, which also keeps you visible. I wear the belt inside out for easy access to the zippered compartment that holds my iPhone, so the reflective panels are on the inside.

I’ve tried various belts and armbands, and I find that they make my iPhone a bit too difficult to control. With Nike’s belt, I just unzip the zipper and pull out the iPhone for unfettered access. 

Powerbeats2 Wireless Headphones

I can’t stress enough how important wireless earbuds are for exercise. There’s no cable to get tangled up in your clothes. Your hand also won’t accidentally get caught on the earbud cable, knocking your phablet out of the gym treadmill’s cup holder, which has happened to me too many times.

powerbeats 2

The trouble is finding a quality pair of wireless earbuds. I’ve blown through countless models, and the Powerbeats2 ($200) from Beats are my current favorite.

They stay firmly in place during vigorous exercise — something that’s not true of most ‘buds, wireless or not. Secondly, they’re the most reliable wireless earbuds I’ve used. Others have shaky Bluetooth connections, but the Powerbeats2 stay connected to my iPhone 6 Plus nearly without fail. The music playback controls work well, though the microphone is located between the ear and the mouth, which makes it hard for some people to hear me clearly during phone calls.

Beats headphones are often criticized for pumping out too much bass, and the Powerbeats2 buds are guilty as charged. However, I only notice the issue when the volume is high, so I just nudge it down a notch — not a bad idea, especially when I’m running or walking on city sidewalks. Yes, they’re expensive, but in my opinion, they’re worth it.