You can add fitness apps to the long list of things iPhone and Android smartphones do very well. We sorted through the mass of fitness apps to provide you with this review of the five best. All of these apps rely on GPS technology to provide location and speed data, although some can be adapted for indoor/treadmill use, as well. Note that some of the apps include links to my full reviews. One more thing: When you use a smartphone for fitness activities, just be careful to protect the phone in a good case, or even in a ziplock plastic bag (as I do when on bike rides), because smartphones are not waterproof. (Click on images to enlarge)
Garmin is well-known for its high-quality auto and dedicated fitness GPS devices, so it's no surprise that its first fitness app for iPhone and Android is among the best. I've used it during runs and bike rides. The Fit app provides you with current speed, distance traveled, route traveled, and calories burned. The interface is clear and easy to use. It's the extras that set the Garmin Fit app apart, however. You may plug in a Garmin ANT+ adapter to use signals from a Garmin wireless heart rate monitor. The Garmin Fit app also easily uploads all of your workout data to the excellent (and free) Garmin Connect online training log service. See your route maps and workout summaries right in the app. You may map, and share routes and workouts from Garmin Connect, as well. The app includes a nice music control bar that controls iTunes without interrupting your workout data and workout controls. All-around, this 99-cent app is a great way to go.
This is another app I've used extensively. Sorry, Android users, it's not available for your phones yet. The miCoach app measures distance, pace, calories burned, and elapsed time. Like the Garmin app, miCoach also has a nicely done music control bar that doesn't interrupt your workout controls and stats. Adidas has aggressively expanded the miCoach line, which now includes a pacer unit for treadmill workouts, and wireless heart rate monitor accessories. You may set up miCoach with customized audible alerts (for heart rate range or pace, for example). Connect, store, analyze, and share your workouts and stats on the free online miCoach service.
Nike simultaneously got into iPhone apps and GPS technology (the company used to rely on footpod accelerometers) with the introduction of its $1.99 Nike+ GPS app. Like the other apps in this review, the Nike+ GPS app measures pace, distance, and route specifics, and lets you upload, store, and share routes on a free Nike+ website. Nike emphasizes fun and motivation, so you may also get inspirational messages from famous Nike athletes as part of your routine, set up "power songs" for critical parts of your workouts, or get voice feedback on your pace. Nike+ accessories include the Nike+ Sensor for treadmill workouts, and a wireless heart rate monitor strap.
Google My Tracks (Android) (free)
There are a lot of Android-operating-system smartphone users dedicated to the Google My Tracks app, and for good reason. It provides a lot of functionality at the great price of free. With My Tracks, you may track your progress on a map, and monitor time, distance, speed, and elevation in real time. The app also has a nice, zoomable elevation profile feature. You may also set waypoints with this app. Upload options include Google Maps, Google Docs, export as GPX, or Tweet your map link. Google My Tracks is also popular with hikers and backpackers.
Runkeeper (iPhone, iPod Touch, Android) (free)
If you're a serious runner - not surprisingly - the Runkeeper app may be your best choice. Runkeeper goes beyond the basics to offer features for runners such as interval workouts (including audio cues), split times, and target pacing with audible cues. You may even manually input workout stats if you do a treadmill workout that you want to save. Like the other apps in this review, Runkeeper lets you manage your music without leaving the app. Separate hardware is available for wireless heart rate monitoring, and the app will store and upload your heart rate data if you so choose. The Runkeeper app is supported by the tracking, sharing, and mapping upload service at runkeeper.com.