Published on 20 February 2010
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There are plenty of good GPS running tools for the Android; my favorites are SportyPal and the new Google MyTracks. Both measure pace, distance, and route, and display results on Google Maps. With them, I get the benefits of a GPS running watch, but with more features and no extra cost.

But I've had mixed results with GPS tracking. Sometimes I can't get reliable signals, even in open areas with no overhead obstructions (MyTracks can revert to determining location by cell and Wifi signals, but that's a very weak approximation). Sometimes inaccurate map data and other things can throw distance off; that's most noticeable when I run places where I know the exact distance of the course. And sometimes, the truly weird happens, like the run shown at right. The red (for "fastest") lines depict how I left the course for a half mile sprint through fences, houses, and rough terrain at 27.3 miles per hour (then quicky returning to the track, of course). MyTracks reported a recent 5 mile street run as 785.16 miles in just over 39 minutes (I was ready to give up at the 784 mile mark). And tight loops on small tracks are almost never right with GPS tracking. Obviously, such failures get in the way in trying to maintain a good read on my pace.

So I decided to go with the Nike+ Sportband. Its accelerometer technology is not dependent on GPS signals for measurement: it's nice and simple. That's helpful because I don't always like to carry my phone with me, nor fiddle with it while running. But I do miss the automatic mapping, especially when exploring new areas. So when running new routes, I carry both: Nike+ for accurate pace tracking, and my GPS Droid for route tracking. Call it Nike++.

Once the new wears off, I'll probably settle into a "just one at a time" mode: Nike+ for running and Droid GPS for walking, hiking, and kayaking. But, for now, it's belt and suspenders, and that allows for some often interesting comparisons.