Outdoor enthusiasts: This one’s for you. If you enjoy running, hiking, biking, walking, roller-blading, skateboarding, cross-country skiing–well, Google has an app that just may help you enjoy that sport or activity even more. My Tracks is like having a personal outdoors assistant running alongside you, making notes and calculations and even telling you where to go if you get lost.
Put simply, it records the track you make and calculates a ton of stats. You just hit Record Track and go. My Tracks then finds your location via GPS and starts recording your path from there using Google Maps. You can see yourself on a map as you go and view the trail you leave behind. While that’s happening, My Tracks is calculating a ton of stats in real time.
Simply click the screen, then the arrow on the right, and you’re brought to the stats page, where you can see a ton of data as it’s gathered. It has your Speed, Maximum Speed, Average Speed, Average Moving Speed, Total Distance, Total Time, Moving Time, Elevation, Elevation Gain, Minimum Elevation, Maximum Elevation, Minimum Grade, Maximum Grade, and your Latitude and Longitude. If you’re training, or working on improving your fitness, this is incredibly useful.
Hit the screen and the right arrow again, and you are brought to a simple X,Y graph that gives you a very easy-to-understand visual representation of your elevation over mileage, and your speed over mileage. Nice if you’re more of a visual learner.
While on the move, you can select Insert Waypoint (from the Markers submenu) and label it whatever you want. Maybe on your walk you passed a garage sale you want to circle back to. Just drop a marker and you’ll easily be able to find your way back. Even more useful is Insert Statistics (also under the Markers submenu). Say that in the middle of your run, you wanted to mark the bottom and top of a really tough hill. Insert Statistics will save that waypoint on the map and all of the current statistics up to that precise moment. Later, you would be able to go back and get a much more thorough view of the way you were running over specific areas.
My Tracks only gets better after you hit Stop Recording. Not only can you save the map you made (with statistics and waypoints) to your phone, but with just a couple of clicks you can export it to Google’s My Maps and send all the stats to Google Docs. This means that if you run the same route several times you can keep uploading your stats to the same Google Doc you created, making it extremely easy to track your progress. You can also send maps to your friends via e-mail, SMS, and Twitter, as well as export them to your SD card in a couple of different formats. It’s simply gorgeous how it works with other Google technology.
I did several test trips with it (on foot and on bike), and it recorded my track perfectly, but even if it hadn’t, I would only need to export it into My Maps, and then make adjustments by dragging the route along. Nice touch.
There is almost nothing bad I can say about this app–although using it will run your battery down faster, as it will constantly be using the GPS antenna. That said, it didn’t drain my battery nearly as fast as Navigation did. Google estimates about 5 hours of use on a full charge.
My number one request, which also applies to the Maps application, is to have the ability to preload maps onto your SD card so you don’t have to rely on your cellular network. If you’re hiking in the wilderness with no reception, it will still record your track in GPS coordinates, but you will not be able to see the map you’re on. A preloaded map would prove very useful in an emergency situation, as it could help you find your way back to your starting point by retracing your steps. I’d also like to see an integrated option to punch in your age/height/weight to get a rough estimate of the calories you are burning.
When it comes to integrating with Google’s other services, this app is just about perfect. It is intuitive to use and very stable. It can help you improve your quality of life by giving you extremely detailed information about your exercise habits. Though I would love to see are a few things added, it doesn’t feel as if anything crucial is missing. This little app strives to do a lot, and succeeds.