Apple’s gadget wants to coach you on your next iRonman.
Written by: Jim Gourley
Since unveiling the iPhone in 2007, Steve Jobs has campaigned to make his wonder gadget all things to all people. Endurance athletes are no exception, and plenty of application developers are stepping up to the starting line.
From MapMyFitness, the team that first brought us MapMyTri, comes iMapMyRide. This application turns your iPhone into a route analyzer and bike workout log. Using the iPhone’s built-in GPS and interface with Google Maps, iMapMyRide gives you everything you need to keep up with your workouts on the MapMyFitness website.
If you’re looking for more real-time feedback than iMapMyRide can provide, perhaps The Bike Computer by GlobalMotion Media Inc. is for you. It gives you most of the same analysis tools through the developer’s website, Everytrail.com. However, your iPhone also becomes a speedometer, odometer and total ride-time clock.
For run training, the app getting the most rave reviews is the New Balance Total Fit app, also by MapMyFitness. It gives you real-time feedback as well as the Web-based logbook, but users love the app’s integration of the iPhone’s built-in camera, allowing you to shoot on the go–without interrupting the mapping or tracking mechanisms. (Now you have visual proof of that killer hill you just tackled.)
The iPhone’s weakest app is counting calories. User reviews indicate a general unhappiness with most nutrition apps. Livestrong’s Calorie Tracker has a sparse (only 7,000 items) catalog and requires users to have a WiFi connection to use it. Rodale’s popular Eat This, Not That app doesn’t transfer well to the iPhone because of a frustrating user interface. However, TapandTrack by Nanobit Software receives high marks from users for its frequent updates, large catalog, simplicity and data display.
That leaves the best for last—heart rate monitoring. The iPhone’s developers, iTMP Technology Inc., have developed what it calls Smheart Link technology. It’s a little complicated in that the iPhone does not become a heart rate monitor itself—a transmitter simply lets your existing monitor become compatible with your iPhone instead of your wrist-top device. It has received mixed reactions from users who have had varying degrees of success in getting all the devices to sync. One thing most people agree on is the ITMP staff’s dedication to customer support, so even the least tech-savvy athletes don’t get dropped from the pack. While the app is free, the Smheart Link device that lets your Garmin, Polar or Suunto talk to the iPhone is $150, making it one of the most expensive apps on the market.
On the whole, most apps cost less than $5 and new ones launch every day. That means most are well worth a try. At worst, it gives you a gimmick to look at for a workout or two, and at best it gives you an all-new enhancement. Who knows? Before long we all may drop the heart rate monitors, GPS units and bike computers and go with the one device that’s all things to all athletes.