Friday, January 20, 2012

Review: Garmin Fit iPhone Application

Generally, I keep track of my runs with a Garmin Forerunner GPS watch.  After I run, the data is uploaded to the Garmin Connect website, where I can review my data and track my progress. 

Given that the newest smartphones have GPS capabilities, more and more developers are offering iPhone applications that provide similar functionality.  Garmin has jumped into the mix with its Garmin Fit application.  Although I already own a Garmin watch, I decided to buy it.  That way, if I forget to recharge the battery in my watch, I can just grab my iPhone and go out for a run.  More importantly (to me), the application synchs automatically with the Garmin Connect site, meaning that after I run I can review my runs on my iPhone, even if I wasn't carrying my iPhone when I ran.

The application gets off to a good start, with a clean and uncluttered layout.  The opening screen shows some basic data about my last run.  For some reason, it doesn't show my pace, which is something pretty important to most runners.  It does, however, show the number of calories I burned -- something I really don't care much about.  Swiping the top of the screen, I can also see my total miles this week and (with another swipe) this month.  Unfortunately, there is no way to compare the current week and month against prior time periods. 

From this opening screen, I can go on to review my past activities.  Clicking on  an activity finally gives me my pace data! It also gives an option to review a map of the run, elevation and pace charts, and pace/distance for each lap. 

The map, unfortunately, includes lap markers, which can't be removed.  Since my watch is programmed to record a new lap every 0.5 miles, the map ends up very cluttered.  The pace charts are also cluttered looking because they don't provide any smoothing (something Garmin offers online).  All of this needs to be fixed if Garmin is going to compete with applications like RunKeeper.


Once the application is polished up, Garmin could take things one step further by synching up with some of the other excellent offerings from Garmin Connect.   For instance, Garmin Connect allows me to set goals and it tracks my progress against them.  But I can't see them in Garmin Fit.  Similarly, Garmin Connect allows me to plan out courses before I run.   It would make sense to then display those maps in the Garmin Fit application, but that's missing, too.

On the other hand, the application for logging new runs is well thought out with a lot of functionality that other applications miss.  You can connect to, and store data from,  footpod and heart rate sensors, if you have those.  Before you start running, you can choose music from your library to play while you run (including specific songs, not just playlists) and you can then control music playblack from within the application.   At the end of your run, you can type in some notes about how your run went and why.  And most importantly, There is a clear readout for time, distance, and pace.   Unfortunately, I'm not going to be logging new runs with my phone very often, because that's what my watch is for. 

Ultimately, I feel somewhat ambivalent about the application.  It is a good start, and worth the 99 cents I paid for it.  But it could be so much better.

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