Saturday, March 2, 2013

iSmoothRun iPhone App Review

For many years I have been a loyal Garmin Forerunner user. Two years ago, anticipating that I would participate in more triathlons than I subsequently did, I purchased the swim, bike and run friendly Forerunner 310XT.
This unit, and the two reliable Forerunners which preceded it have played an important part of my running. They provided me consistently reliable feedback during my training runs and races, and allowed me to wirelessly connect through my PC afterward to Garmin Connect and DailyMile (my favorite owing to their excellent runners' network, and the primary repository for my data.)

Despite this Garmin Forerunner loyalty, lately I have begun testing a new iPhone App, iSmoothRun, and in several ways it is a superior alternative.  For example, I used it on this morning's 12-mile Kenyan Way run, and found it helpful in achieving a negative split. I also appreciate its detailed weather information which, with other run parameters, is automatically uploaded from iSmoothRun to DailyMile, a capability which does not exist with Garmin's export facility.

iSmoothRun makes it easy to export one's complete activity data to multiple services.  History has proven that web services periodically close, often with no notice.  Consequently, a well prepared runner's best defense is to maintain their data on multiple services, which iSmoothRun facilitates as shown below:

My initial concern with iSmoothRun was with its distance measurement accuracy, since deviations proportionally affect calculated pace.  After testing both iSmoothRun and the Forerunner side-by-side over several test runs I have concluded that iSmoothRun's measurements are slightly more accurate.  The reasons for this are not completely clear, but I suspect relate to the excellent LTE-adjusted GPS measurement data captured by iSmoothRun on my iPhone 5. iSmoothRun consistently measures distances approximately 1.3% to 2% short of the Forerunner, approximately an equal margin that the Forerunner consistently measures certified race distances as excessively long.

Finding motivation from my iPhone's music playlists I appreciate iSmoothRun's optional ability to play from a playlist while announcing every mile through my headphones my run's data, including the past mile's and overall run's distance, pace and cadence.  Though the Garmin Forerunner provides the same information, in dimly lit conditions I have difficulty reading even the large Garmin 310XT screen, so I appreciate being able to hear this information additionally since it is non-interruptive to my running flow.

Also, I find periodic real-time cadence information to be valuable in reinforcing my ongoing migration towards a more rapid running cadence.  This is helpful both to improve my running efficiency and form. iSmoothRun assists in this regard by conveniently using the iPhone's built-in accelerometer to measure cadence, where-as the Forerunner requires the runner purchase a separate, expensive, and battery dependent shoe pod.

iSmoothRun's developer has proven responsive to my support e-mails, and open to product improvement suggestions including:
  1. When the user has only run one mile, in the announcement say "mile" versus "miles";
  2. In the set-up screen, allow user customization.  This would allow, for example, iSmoothRun to include the "Average cadence" text string preceding that numeric value;
  3. In the tabular run report, allow the iSmoothRun user to see displayed *for each mile* both the actual start/finish elevations, and the overall elevation increases/decreases within that mile;
  4. Allow the user to press and hold the select button on their iPhone's headphones to start or stop the run.  This feature is essential in a race or a competitive event since the runner is unable at the moment of crossing the start or finish lines to access their iPhone, and iSmoothRun's auto-pause feature would not be helpful since the runner cannot slow as they approach the start or leave the finish line area.
Until the final item is incorporated into a future release of iSmoothRun, I will continue to primarily rely upon my Garmin Forerunner in races.  However, given the many benefits of iSmoothRun over the Garmin Forerunner for training runs, and recognizing that the App costs only $4.99, I highly recommend it.

There are many other important iSmoothRun features beyond those mentioned above.  To learn more suggest you visit the developer's website.

Update (10/24/13):
After many months and many runs since this post I exclusively use the iSmoothRun App during training runs on my iPhone in lieu of carrying my Garmin Forerunner. I love it! Incidentally, I noticed on this morning's run that yesterday iSmoothRun issued a major new update to the App which significantly improves upon its appearance, but leaves the core functionality untouched.