App Review: MapMyWalk

MapMyWalk is, according to their web site, “a fitness tracking application that enables you to use the built-in GPS of your mobile device to track all of your fitness activities. Record your workout details, including duration, distance, pace, speed, elevation, calories burned, and route traveled on an interactive map”. The app is available for iPhones, Androids, Blackberry, and Windows Phones, so bear in mind that all of my experiences with the product were on an iPhone 4S.

This was actually the first health and fitness app I downloaded. My doctor recommended it to me while we were dicussing the idea of me starting to do a lot of walking to get into better shape. He uses it himself, and recommended it as a painless way to log my exercise. Just open the app, tap the “start workout” button, and start walking. So, with no real idea of where else to begin, I went and got it.

The results were mixed. But I think that had more to do with my phone and my cellular service than anything else.

MapMyWalk has a nice, clean interface. It defaults to the screen you use to track a workout, so you don’t have to fiddle with it when you’re ready to start walking. Or running, or whatever – it’s called “MapMyWalk”, but you can use it to track any sort of exercise that has you moving around. If you leave the settings alone, it will talk to you and let you know when you’ve started your workout, when you’ve gone a mile, and your final results when you stop. (In truth, it might tell you at every mile. But I never managed more than a mile at one shot, when I was using it.) The most fun part, for me, was looking at the route it recorded when I was finished. There was something almost hypnotic about looking at the meandering, circular paths I would follow from walking around my condo complex.

Like all of the fitness apps I’ve tried out, MapMyWalk gives you the option to upload your email contacts and your Facebook friends list – both so you can see other people who are using the app, and in hopes that you’ll invite others to use the app as well. Marketing? Sure. But it isn’t hugely intrusive – you just get an in-app notification suggesting that you invite someone. It’s easily acted upon or ignored. There are also the occasional pop-up ads for other apps, something that comes standard with free apps. For the most part they’re easily dismissed. A few, though, made me sit through a 5 second presentation (I hate that), and one or two decided that it didn’t matter that I had my phone on Silent, they had something to say and by God I was going to listen! Since I used the app at work, that was aggravating.

Calorie counting was… ah… generous. For reasons that will become clear momentarily, I was using both MapMyWalk and my iPod Nano (the kind with an accelerometer) to record distances when I was walking at work. Having checked later, my iPod and my FitBit are usually in agreement with calories burned. MapMyWalk generally credited me for 10% to 15% more than the iPod, which is irritating but not a deal-breaker.

MapMyWalk talks to other apps as well. It would automatically load calories consumed and distance walked into the iPhone Health app (although not workout times, which I had to manually log). It also talked to the MyPlate app I was using to track my diet, which came in handy. Sure, most apps do that. But I did look at one or two that did not, so it’s worth knowing.

The biggest problem I had with the app is, I believe, more of a phone and service limitation than a problem with the app itself. The iPhone 4S does not have an accelerometer – newer iPhones do, but I don’t know if the MapMyWalk app will make use of that feature on those phones. What I do know is that, for me, it was dependent on GPS. Which was dependent on a strong data signal. Which, since a lot of my walking was (and still is) in and around large reinforced concrete structures, caused problems. If the signal dropped, MapMyWalk would freak out. On multiple occasions, I would finish a ten minute walk to discover that the app thought I had walked anywhere from ten to (in one memorable moment) one hundred and twenty two miles.

I’m making progress, sure. But I’m just a touch shy of hitting the one second mile. Maybe next year.

Overall, especially if you’ve got good reception and a good data plan, I recommend the app.

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