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I was a very early adopter – and advocate – of the Nike+iPod system. Apple and Nike developed an easy and fun way to track running data on the iPod nano and the Nikeplus.com website. Unfortunately, as Apple’s product line advanced into phone and touch territory, the Nike+ system remained stagnant. Not only is the Nike+iPod hardware incompatible with the iPhone and iPod touch, you can’t even check your stats on the Nikeplus website with mobile Safari, due to Nike’s heavy reliance on Flash. As a result, the question I’m most often asked these days is, “When will the iPhone support Nike+iPod?” That question is now largely moot thanks to the introduction of RunKeeper.

runkeeper runkeeper

RunKeeper is a new iPhone app that does a great job of emulating the Nike+iPod experience without the need for extra hardware, special shoes (or shoe hacks), or an iPod nano. It uses the built-in GPS of the iPhone 3G to track your distance, time, and pace, then automatically uploads your data to the RunKeeper website where you can view your routes and run history.

runkeeper runkeeper

Using RunKeeper couldn’t be easier. Once you’ve downloaded and launched the app for the first time, you’re asked to enter an email address and password to create an account on the RunKeeper website. (I’m not sure if you can skip this step or not, but there is an option to turn off the sending of data to their website.) After that, just go outside, press the start button, and start running. If you want to listen to music as you run, start your music via the iPod app before launching RunKeeper; music will play in the background. RunKeeper displays a graph of your pace in one-minute increments along with your time, speed (in miles or km), your total distance, and you average time per mi/km. The screen updates in real time and is easy to read at a glance. When you’re finished running, just tap the stop button.

runkeeper runkeeper

Data from your runs is saved on the phone itself, for quick comparisons, and also uploaded to the RunKeeper website directly from the phone. No need to connect to a computer and sync. The RunKeeper website displays a list of your previous runs, and when you click on one, you’re given a google map with your route displayed. This is especially handy for checking the accuracy of your GPS reading.

runkeeper map

On my two test runs, the accuracy was perfect. My first run was a one mile (nearly) run/walk with the iPhone held in my hand to test the responsiveness of the pace graph. My second was a one mile walk with the iPhone in my pocket, to see if I could still get a good reading. Both performed flawlessly. I run along the beach next to San Francisco Bay, so I have an especially clear view of the sky. In more urban or wooded areas, your results might not be as good.

Alameda beach

Overall, RunKeeper is an exceptionally good value for $9.99 and a no-brainer purchase for runners (or bikers) who already own an iPhone 3G. This is exactly the direction Nike and Apple should have gone with Nike+iPod, but since they’ve chosen not to (yet), I’m glad RunKeeper took the initiative.

Pros:

  • Affordable ($9.99).
  • Accurate.
  • Easy to use.
  • Clear, easy to read display (even in direct sunlight).
  • You can play iPod music in the background while RunKeeper is running.
  • Effortless syncing with RunKeeper website.
  • Handy mile markers on maps.
  • Worked just fine with phone in my pocket (which RunKeeper doesn’t recommend).
  • Worked with screen locked (which Runkeeper also doesn’t recommend).
  • Not just for runners; Works for cyclists, walkers, skateboarders, rollerbladers.
  • No need for any additional hardware, special shoes, or accessories.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t work on original iPhone or iPod touch (only iPhone 3G).
  • Might have trouble getting clear GPS signal in urban or wooded areas.
  • No Nike+iPod “PowerSong.”
  • No congratulations from famous athletes at end of run.
  • Graphics aren’t as polished as Nike+iPod interface/website.
  • No widgets or way to share run data (yet).
  • No calorie-burning calculation.
  • Can’t run other iPhone apps – like Pandora – at same time (per Apple’s guidelines).
  • Obviously doesn’t work on treadmills or elliptical machines.

RunKeeper can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store.

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about RunKeeper, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

runkeeper for iPhone

RunKeeper, a GPS-based training assistant for runners and cyclists, has been approved by Apple and is available on the iTunes App Store as of tonight. I’m downloading it now, but since it’s just after midnight here in California I won’t be going out for a run until the morning. I’ll post my first impressions soon.

Runkeeper on iTunes ($9.99)

RunKeeper, the forthcoming GPS-based run tracking app for iPhone, has a shiny new FAQ to tide us over while we all wait for App Store approval.

Some interesting nuggets:

  • RunKeeper only works with 3G iPhones (because the original iPhones don’t have GPS).
  • RunKeeper can run for 3 hours on one battery charge (if you follow their battery-saving tips).
  • You can listen to your music via the iPod app while using RunKeeper (but not third-party music apps like Pandora).
  • The price will be $9.99

RunKeeper still in Apple’s review queue, and probably a couple of weeks away from being available on the App Store. If you missed it, here’s a video of RunKeeper in action.

One of the most frequently asked questions about the Nike+iPod Sport Kit is “How do I replace the battery in the shoe sensor?” The Instructables website answers that question with a handy DIY guide. With a few simple tools, a four dollar CR2032 battery, some tape, glue, and a passion for tearing things apart, anyone can get their Sport Kit up and, um, running as good as new.

I haven’t tried this myself, but if the photo below looks like a good time to you, I encourage you to give it a shot and let me know how it works. If you completely destroy your sensor, you can always get a replacement from Apple for $19.

nike_ipod_battery.jpg

Thanks to reader Andy for the tip.

I’d seen the press releases and announcements that this was coming, but somehow had never come across the official page on Apple’s website… well, here it is.

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Staring this month, 24-Hour Fitness in the U.S. and Virgin Active in Europe began rolling out Nike+iPod compatible gym equipment. Looks like you just connect your iPod nano to a built in dock connector, choose your music, and start your workout. When you’re at home, sync your nano with iTunes and your workout data will be sent to Nikeplus website. No dongles or shoe transmitters required.

The Nike+iPod system will be integrated with treadmills, elliptical machines, stair steppers, and stationary bikes. It’s not clear if every one of these machines will be pimped out with Nike+ magic, or if it’s limited to select machines at select locations. Since I’m not a member of 24-hour Fitness, I’ll have to rely on reports from readers in the field.

The web page is very specific about one thing, however: These Nike+iPod machines are only compatible with the iPod nano. Those of you with an iPod classic, or iPod touch, or any other type of iPod are still left out of the Nike+iPod party. Seems especially arbitrary to me, and I have a feeling it will frustrate a lot of iPod owners who don’t understand that Nike+iPod really means “Nike+iPod nano.”

A quick update to yesterday’s post: RunKeeper has uploaded a much clearer video of their upcoming GPS fitness/tracking iPhone application. Not only is the new video in focus, but it also shows route maps on the companion web interface.

No pricing details announced yet, but you can sign up to receive more info on their website.

Matt just bought some new running shoes and has a question: “Why are modern sneakers so ugly?” A theory:

Hmm…I do want to run away from them every time I look down. So maybe it’s a motivational technique.

The comments are a fun read, especially if you’ve ever bought running shoes that you had to hide in the closet.

runkeeper.jpg

The first of what I hope will be many GPS running applications for iPhone has been submitted to the iPhone App Store and is awaiting approval. RunKeeper uses the iPhone’s built-in GPS to track your distance, speed, time, and route. The (blurry) video below shows the basic features of what seems to be a pretty bare-bones application, but it looks like it gets the job done.

One thing I’m not too crazy about is that you need to upload your data to their website to view a map of your route. It would be great if you could see your route and progress on a map in real time on your phone.

I look forward to seeing a better video demo of RunKeeper someday, and some more information on their website, but overall I’m really thrilled that the GPS running apps are coming. Still wondering when Nike will officially announce that they’re getting into the game with a Nike+iPhone app.

No word on pricing or an exact release date yet.

[EDIT: A clearer video is posted here.]

WordPress for iPhone

The native WordPress app for iPhone
was added to the iTunes App Store tonight… And I’m loving it. I won’t be using it to write many long posts, but it should help with my posting frequency.

The best feature: Adding photos and screen grabs from the phone to my posts.

Bonus: Multiple blog support.

Missing: An easy way to add links. Looks like you have to type the HTML and url manually.

Get it now. It’s free!

photo

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Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ classic graphic novel Watchmen has come to iTunes in as an animated, narrated, “motion comic.” Episode 1 is available now as a free download and it’s a very faithful reproduction of the first book of the 12-book series. The animation is minimal, preserving the look and feel of the comic book (complete with the text balloons) and Moore’s writing is narrated word for word. There are a few places where the animation is a bit awkward, and the producers could have sprung for an actress to voice the female characters, but overall it’s a great way to familiarize (or re-familiarize) yourself with the original post-modern superhero story.

The live action Watchmen Movie is scheduled for a March 2009 release. Despite a very cool trailer, I’m not getting my hopes up. Hollywood has a way of butchering Alan Moore’s work (see League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell). It’s interesting to note that Moore’s name does not appear in the credits of the “motion comic” version.

As most everyone knows by now, two songs from Jerry Herman’s musical “Hello Dolly” figure prominently into the story of Disney/Pixar’s eco-robo love story WALL-E. On a whim last night, I checked iTunes to see if either of the two songs – “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” and “It Only Takes A Moment” – had risen to the top of their Top Songs chart. To my surprise, not only were they not in the top 10, neither song was even in the top 100.

Looking a the WALL-E soundtrack, the reason is obvious: Both songs, along with Louis Armstrong’s version of “La Vie En Rose” are ‘Album Only,’ meaning you need to buy the entire album to get those tracks. “Ok, I’ll just check the Hello Dolly soundtrack directly,” I thought. No dice. ALL of the songs on the Hello Dolly soundtrack are ‘Album Only.’ And going to Amazon won’t help; The situation is exactly the same there. So lame.

I thought iTunes was supposed to usher in an era of no longer forcing people to buy an album full of songs they don’t want, just to get the one song they do. I’m especially disappointed that this is happening on iTunes, given the close relationship between Apple, Pixar and Disney. Doesn’t Apple actively discourage this kind of behavior from other artists and record labels? If everyone starts making their hit songs Album Only, the iTunes Store suddenly becomes much less compelling and useful. It’s a bad trend.

Now, you can buy the individual songs from the Broadway cast album of Hello Dolly on iTunes, but as much as I love Charles Nelson Reilly, he’s no Michael Crawford. Does anyone know where to buy the individual tracks from the movie soundtrack? Or has Disney conspired to lock everyone into buying the full WALL-E soundtrack album?

I guess if you’re going to buy the whole albums, both WALL-E and Hello Dolly are a dollar cheaper (and no DRM) from Amazon.

Buy the WALL-E soundtrack from Amazon.
Buy the Hello Dolly soundtrack from Amazon.

A Man Needs A Maid is easily my favorite Neil Young song (out of a career of favorite songs). Check out these two performance videos – one from the 1970s and one from a few months ago – to see how a great song matures… along with its performer. The intensity and snarling frustration in the chorus of the younger Young gives way to the wistful longing of the elder Young. A true classic.

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