Runtastic running app squanders an early lead [Runner’s Week: Day 4]

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Runtastic running app uses color to show the intensity of your workout.
The Runtastic running app uses color to show the intensity of your workout.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Runner's Week It’s Runner’s Week at Cult of Mac. Every day this week, I’m reviewing a different running app for Apple Watch in an effort to help you decide which one belongs on your wrist to log all your sweaty miles.

Yesterday I reviewed Strava. Today, it’s Runtastic’s turn.

The ultimate runner’s review of Apple Watch Series 2

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Is Apple Watch Series 2 the perfect running partner?
Is Apple Watch Series 2 the perfect running partner?
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

With the launch of a GPS watch, and a renewed Nike partnership, Apple is getting serious about targeting runners. So is Apple Watch Series 2 the perfect running partner that Cupertino promises?

As an avid runner myself, I was keen to find out. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been training for the TCS New York City Marathon, and I took my Apple Watch Series 2 with me every step of the way — right up to the finish line in Central Park last week. Here’s how it measured up.

Fitness apps are ruining the Apple Watch. Apple should scrap them.

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My resolution for 2016: Less staring at spinning dots, more running.
My resolution for 2016: Less staring at spinning dots, more running.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Apple has got its fitness strategy all wrong. It sees Apple Watch as a computing platform rather than a device, and so it promotes third-party apps instead of making better built-in ones of its own.

That may be a fine strategy for Macs and iPhones, but it just does not work for watches and fitness trackers. Relying on third-party fitness apps means spending far too long staring at the spinning dots of death (the Watch equivalent of a spinning beachball), when we should be working out.

Instead of offering a range of underwhelming third-party workout apps, what Apple Watch really needs is one great built-in app that integrates with popular fitness platforms like Runtastic and MapMyRun.

Running without iPhone makes Apple Watch inaccurate

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Don’t leave me this way - Apple recommends you take your iPhone with you on a run
Don’t leave me this way - Apple recommends you take your iPhone with you on a run
Photo: Graham Bower / Cult of Mac

Runkeeper is one of the first big-name running apps to offer full watchOS 2 support, which means you can log a run on your Apple Watch even if you leave your iPhone behind.

The Apple Watch’s built-in Workout app has always offered this feature, but it is new for third-party apps. I had never tried it before, but Runkeeper got me curious. So I left my iPhone charging at home, put on a pair of Nikes and went out for a run.

Where are all the watchOS 2 fitness apps?

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Runtastic's text is sometimes too small to read while running
Runtastic's text is sometimes too small to read while running
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

WatchOS 2 offers cool new features for third-party fitness apps. But a week after its launch, most leading fitness apps have yet to go native and take advantage of the Apple Watch update.

So what’s up? The answer may lie in Apple’s new workout API, which does not provide the GPS coordinates required for apps to map your run or cycle ride.

Has Apple Watch helped you get in shape?

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Join the Cult of Mac club on Strava and share your fitness story
Join the Cult of Mac club on Strava and share your fitness story
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Apple Watch has been on our wrists for just five months and yet it is already having an amazing impact on many people’s lives.

We want to find out how Cult of Mac readers are using Cupertino’s fitness tech to get in shape, so we’re inviting everyone to share their inspiring stories. Plus, we’ve set up a new Cult of Mac club on Strava so you can connect with other readers who are into fitness.

Fitness apps are not for beginners

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Fitness apps can tell you how to do an exercise, but they can't check whether you're doing it right.
Fitness apps can tell you how to do an exercise, but they can't check whether you're doing it right.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

New research suggests that iOS fitness apps stink at giving you a complete workout. As the developer of one such app, you might think I would disagree. But I don’t. In fact, the only thing I would challenge is the researchers’ conclusion that app developers could do better. They can’t.

Fitness apps can be indispensable if you already know what you are doing, but If you are new to exercise, you should not rely on them to get you started.

Why you may run into trouble if you try to switch running apps

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It's not always easy to switch running apps.
It's not always easy to switch running apps.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Using a running app to log your workouts is a great way to track your progress and stay motivated. But have you considered who actually owns the workout data you are logging?

If you ever decide to switch apps, you might be in for a surprise. While some services, like Strava, make it easy to transfer your data, with others it can be difficult or even impossible.