Wednesday, 8 August 2012

MyTracks review

I use an app on my phone called MyTracks to keep track of my running. It records a GPS position regularly and, from that, determines speed, elevation and everything you need to know. It recently got an upgrade to its user interface, which is very welcome because it's much more intuitive now. The map, chart and stats views are shown as tabs rather than hidden navigation buttons, the list of past tracks is displayed first when you start up, and the Record button is clearly visible and immediately available rather than being hidden in a context menu like before. It also displays tabs at the top for the map, chart and stats, which were previously displayed in hard-to-find screens of their own. I'm very much in favour of the new UI.

That makes the other changes all the more unfortunate. I really liked the calculated statistic from the last version of the average moving speed, because my running routes often involve stopping at pedestrian crossings. That factor is not taken into account by the average overall speed nor the top speed, which are the two speed stats displayed by default in the app. To see average moving speed, you need to go into the settings and untick the box that is confusingly labelled "Time measurement". The other problem is that MyTracks now seems much more insistent on a really good GPS signal. In my pocket it took forty-five minutes to get a signal it considered good enough to actually use. I didn't notice, of course, because I was busy running, so most of my run went unrecorded that day. I have since found the GPS sensitivity setting which make things slightly better, but I needed to set it to 1000m sensitivity, far less than the default 200m, to get a signal right away. I also sometimes have to start recording, then stop immediately, then start again to get it to recognise the GPS. I don't know why.

So on the whole, I think it's a decent update. The new user interface is a fantastic improvement on the old one, but the hidden/confusing average moving speed setting plus the insistence on a much more precise GPS signal makes the app just a bit worse than before. If it showed average moving speed by default and handled the GPS a bit better, I'd have nothing but glowing praise for this app.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Tonight I tried a replay of my route on Google Earth.
PPS - That was pretty cool, actually.

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