With your Android phone in your pocket, you have access to one of the most advanced and flexible pedometers available –- all you need is the right software. There are various apps that have been released designed with runners and cyclists in mind that make it possible to monitor and record your exercise regime, and the updated My Tracks is the latest offering from Google.
This free app makes use of your phone’s GPS receiver to determine your location and monitor your movements as you walk, cycle or otherwise move around. Sessions can be recorded individually so you can monitor any exercise regime you stick to over time.
Fire up the app and hit the Record button – that’s all it takes to activate the tracking tool and as you move around you can watch your progress in real time as your position is traced on a map; the great mapping should come as no surprise, as this is an app from Google.
My Tracks’ recording is easily activated, and there are no fiddly controls to contend with
Somewhat disappointingly, MyTracks seems to rely solely on GPS to determine your location. Apps such as FourSquare are able to use wireless networks to calculate approximate location and an immediately noticeable limitation of My Tracks is that it cannot be used indoors. If you are using the app to record jogging or running, this is unlikely to be a problem, but for general walking, which may well involve being inside, it is an issue.
Reliance on GPS means that My Tracks cannot be used to record indoor movement
While you’re on your travels you may well come across and landmark or place of interest that you would like to remember; My Tracks can help you out here to. You can drop a marker onto the map at any time and add a description to help you to remember what it is. There is no option to add a photo, which is a shame as this would have been a nice touch.
Remember places of interest by adding markers to your route map
Stats and Charts
When you’re done with your travels, you can view statistics about your journey. The Chart section of the app provides you with a simple graph that illustrates how far you have travelled and you speed over time. A second line on the chart lets you know your elevation along the route, which could well be of interest to runners who want to track their performance at different altitudes.
My Tracks’ charts show your speed and elevation on your recorded journeys
Moving to the Stats section, you can view additional information about the current and previous trips. No app worth its salt would be complete without a selection of sharing options, and My Tracks does not disappoint on this front. The stats you record can be shared with your friends via Google+, Facebook, or Twitter.
Share your statistics online to show off your personal bests
Settings and Addons
As the app makes use of your Android’s built-in GPS, so there is no need to use additional hardware, but it is an option. At the moment support is limited to three specific brands — the Zephyr HxM Bluetooth heart rate monitor, the Polar WearLink Bluetooth heart rate monitor, and the ANT+ heart rate and speed distance monitors –- but this does open up additional options for anyone looking to use My Tracks for more serious recording.
Of course, the app doesn’t have to be used for exercise; it can also be used for fun or to satisfy curiosities you may have. If you ever wondered which is the best way to walk to work or to the shops, My Tracks can give you a definitive answer.
Viewing the route you have taken on a map can give strange results!
Whether you’re running, walking or cycling, you can configure the app to announce times on a regular basis. This is great if you want to run flat out for five minutes before slowing down for the next five and then speeding up again — no more glancing at your watch to figure out whether is time to change.
In terms of settings, there is not a great deal to concern yourself with. You can choose the units that should be used for measurement, opt to colour your tracks line on the map according to speed and choose what data should be displayed in charts. You can also adjust GPS sensitivity and back up your recorded data so you have it for safekeeping, or ready to use in another app.
My Tracks has few options to configure, but some personalization is available
This is far from being the most advanced GPS tracking app available, but it does benefit from being incredibly simple to use. It is clearly an app that is aimed at the keen hobbyists rather than professional runners and fitness enthusiasts –- the likes of RunKeeper are available for anyone who takes things a little more seriously — but if you’re looking for a gentle introduction to GPS tracking, or simply don’t have demands that are particularly high, My Tracks is a great tool to get you started.