App Re-Review: SmartRunner 25
Every platform suffers from abandonware - apps that are released, do well, and then aren't updated to reflect changes in user expectations, device APIs, and back-end services. Platforms like webOS and BlackBerry suffer from a rather high rate of abandonware thanks to the turmoil that has enveloped each platform. Developers have to put food on the table, so if they're not making money making apps for a specific platform, we can't say we blame them for moving on to greener pastures.
But February is Fitness Month here on webOS Nation and the Mobile Nations network of sites, so we're taking a look at fitness apps new and old, good and bad. We already looked at JogStats, a rather basic and straight-forward run-tracker, and today we're going to put what should be a powerhouse app - SmartRunner - under the review microscope.
If you noticed the opening paragraph about abandonware and the "should" in the preceding sentence, you've probably got a good idea of where this review is headed. The big selling point for SmartRunner when it was released was its integration with their online database. You could upload your routes and statistics to their servers and then hop online to check out your progress over time, set goals, and all that fancy stuff.
But today, something somewhere along the line was changed and the webOS SmartRunner app was never uploaded. Without the ability to sync runs to the server, SmartRunner on webOS no longer has a memory. It's a running version of Memento. Amusingly, SmartRunner still does allow you to create an account with the service, but that's all you can do online-wise with the app.
Fire up SmartRunner and you're presented with a two-panel screen. The upper light blue portion lists the current temperature (of which you should probably already have a pretty good idea, being that a GPS-reliant running tracker requires you to be outside), your average speed, the calories you've burned on this run, how far you've run, and how long you've been running. The bottom dark blue half is dominated by a big green Start button, GPS accuracy readout (cool, but in the grand scheme not terribly useful - what's 30 feet when you're running a few miles?), and buttons to go to the Home screen (where you are right now), your track data, and More, which merely allows access to your Profile and the Preferences - options that are already available via the app menu. There's also a not-immediately obvious running man icon to the right of the Start button, seeing as it's the SmartRunner icon, it's not clear that tapping that is how you choose your activity, be it Running, Nordic Walking, Motorcycling (a good way to burn calories, we're told), or horseback riding.
One you hit start you should throw the phone in your pocket and take off, as SmartRunner, like practically every other run tracker, starts tracking immediately. How hard would it be to set a five second delay so you have time to put the phone away, and being as this is February and your reviewer lives in Ohio, put on that glove you had to take off to use the screen? Doesn't seem like it'd be that hard. This isn't really a knock against SmartRunner, but more a knock against running apps on the whole.
After hitting start, the app begins tracking as accurately as it can and puts in a distractingly iPhone-styled slider to stop the tracking. Nowhere else does the app so drastically offer iOS cues, and it doesn't really make sense to do so here. Amusingly, swiping the stop bar, which would have to be a rather deliberate action, prompts you to Resume or Stop (are you sure?). Hit Stop and SmartRunner will prompt you to upload your route to the server. Hit Upload and you'll get nothing out of it. Hit Later and you'll get an equal amount of nothing, as SmartRunner doesn't store a lick of data about your run on the device.
Throughout this you can count on a slew of meaningless error codes that you can't dismiss, especially if you happen to hit one of the Sync buttons strewn throughout the app. As a one-shot run tracker, SmartRunner's not bad. But the idea of marrying the pedometer with the smartphone was that you could log this data. This time last year we could have recommended SmartRunner - it looked the same but was fully functional and integrated well with their system. Today we can't even recommend it as a free app, let alone the $0.99 they're asking for this abandonware software in the App Catalog. It's a shame, really. SmartRunner used to be and still could be something good. But it's not, so you're best turning to other options like JogStats.