App Review: Endomondo–An Exercise Companion

Yup. I’ve actually taken that step: I plan on using an exercise app. SEE? I’m committed to this weight loss and health thing. I downloaded Endomondo, an exercise app for iOS devices. Probably around the same time I downloaded other iBike and MapMyRide+.

 

Except all I’ve done is download it and open it; I haven’t used it to its full capacity yet. I plan on doing that this weekend, when we go to Moab and hike all over the place. We spent a lot of time last night doing laundry for the things we want to pack, like sweats, shorts, t-shirts, and sweatshirts. Hey … gotta layer while we’re down there, right? Average morning temps in the 40s, average afternoon highs in the 70s. Again, layering. Yes.

 

Honestly, I’ve had this app for a long time. I don’t know exactly how long, but it’s been a while. I’ve never used it. I’ve opened it and looked at the user interface (UI) some, but nothing exetensive. Now that I have a solid game plan in place, I thought I’d open it up and look at it more closely.

 

When you first open the app, it asks if you’d like to log in or create an account. Obviously, being the exercise buff that I am, I had already created an account couch potato sloth that I am, I needed to create an account. Once I took care of that, it opened to its main page, where the first thing I noticed was the ad at the bottom of the screen. Distracting, right? To be fair, this *is* a free app. There’s an option to upgrade to Endomondo Premium, which has a bunch of extra features (namely, NO ADS), but it’s subscription-based, and it costs $3.99/month or $29.99/year. $30 is not a lot to ask for a digital personal trainer, right? Maybe I’ll explore that later, but not right now.

 

The app defaults to a pre-set screen that has a start button in the bottom left corner and a Duration counter in the top left. Nestled between these two prominent features are, in clockwise order, a distance tracker, heart rate in terms of beats per minute, workout type (defaults to basic), and your chosen sport (defaults to running, ha ha). Now … here’s the great part. ALL of these fields–the prominent and the sandwiched– are customizeable to whatever you’d like within the options. When I tap on Duration, I have options of displaying calories, heart rate, speed, distance, aveerage speed, and hydration. When I tap Sport (cuz, yah … I’m not running), I have close to 60 options, ranging from badminton to yoga. In anticipation of tomorrow, I’ve selected Hiking.

 

My favorite feature on this screen is the GPS function. In the bottom right corner, there’s a little green arrow-looking button. When I tap that, a map slides open to display my current location. As I go for a walk, or hike, or bike ride, my location is constantly updated on the map. Once the workout is done, it displays the path I took. That’s pretty nifty. I know that’s a standard feature for a lot of these kinds of apps, but come on! That’s awesome!

 

In the interst of fairness, the data wasn’t *entirely* accurate. According to the stats on my quick walk, I gained 33 feet in elevation, and lost no elevation. So, I went up the equivalent of 3 floors in a little over .16 miles … according to this. Not possible, since all I did was walk in a circle. At some point, there should have been a descent. Minor quibbling points, but worth mentioning all the same.

 

In the top right corner are three little horizontal lines. Tapping that icon takes you to a series of options. You can upgrade to premium (which I may do just to see what’s offered. Hey, I can use all the help I can get, right?), add Endomondo friends, see your workout history, add a training plan, accept challenges, see workout routes of local users, and update your settings.

 

In all, this looks like a complete app. I’m excited to get down to Moab and test it (and me). Is the $30/year worth it? Dunno yet … but I may soon find out. For now, though, the free version is packed with a bunch of great features.

Spotify Coming to the USA

This isn’t what I was referencing in yesterday’s post, but as I was perusing TUAW’s site, I noticed this little gem. I’ve heard enough about it that my curiosity is piqued. Unfortunately, due to my geographic location, their official website only shows me a “COMING SOON” and “Please enter your email addres, blah blah blah” screen. No Google links work; I’m always redirected to the same page. Annoying.

So I’m left with reading what’s on Wikipedia. How  reliable …

There are 3 versions: Free, Paid (~5 Euro) and Premium (~10 Euro). Free is what it is, but it’s an ad-based version. Again, annoying. Paid has no ads, so that’s a perk, BUT you can’t use it with your mobile device. That’s where the premium version comes in. For double the monthy subscription price, you can stream to your moble device. You can also save music for off-line use.

Lots of trending on Twitter about it coming to the USA. Trent Reznor is excited. Things I’m not sold on:

I’m fine with a subscription function to the app. What I’d also like to see is integration with MY music that I can stream to another desktop or to my mobile device. If it can do that, great. If not … hmm. Not sure how I feel about paying approximately $120 a year to stream music. For one, I listen to music mostly at work, occasionally at home. I’m fairly confident that my building is lead-lined; I can never get more than 3 bars. Normally, I get 1 or 2. Streaming is difficult at best, and normally it’s just not worth the hassle of the constant buffering and pausing. Now … for those who can get a great signal or whose company is okay with using their wi-fi access points, I’m guessing this could be a really great tool. However, I’m not one of those people.

I’ll give it a test run when it crosses the pond. Until then, I’m semi-skeptical. Up to $120 a year to stream, plus the typical .99 to download a track? AND that track will probably only be playable on Spotify software since Spotify is based around DRM. Also, they employ the Vorbis audio format. Not sold. But, like I said, I’ll give it a try.

 

 

 

App Review: SongKick Concerts

Guess what app I’m in love with right now. I’ll give you a hint:

I hadn’t really checked out any new apps on iTunes’ store lately, so I thought I’d glance through it and see what I could fiind. To my surprise, SongKick Concerts was featured on the main page. The app integrates with its web-based counterpart to sync your SK accout (if you have one; if you don’t, it’s easy enough to set up one). Best part is that it’s free.

This thing is incredible. By “incredible,” I don’t just mean, “Wow, hey … this thing is pretty nifty.” No–I mean this app makes Chuck Norris look like the E-Trade baby. That’s how enormously awesome this thing is. Here’s why.

1. It scans your iDevice and finds the musicians in its database, which is vastly superior to any other concert app database I’ve seen. This thing finds EVERYthing. I loaded one song from each artist from the first half of my library (A-M), excluding classical artists and new age/soundscape artists. It had representative graphics for almost everyone, including obscure artists like Hungry Lucy, Diane Birch, Howling Rain, First Aid Kit, Emily Wells … the list goes on.

For every artists that is on tour or a concert date is scheduled, it puts a little “On Tour” banner in the top left corner of the image so you KNOW that that artist/band is playing somewhere soon. Could be as little as a one-off gig at some bar in Rigby Idaho. Could be as extensive as playing Estadio de Luz

One thing that I would like this app to do, and it may  … I haven’t seen it do this yet, but it very well could–is to localize the list to my geographic area and provide that same banner for artists coming to the greater Salt Lake area. As it is, I sift through my artists and see if a particular artist is coming. If not, oh well–move on to the next one. If so, I check out date, ticket prices, venue, etc. But really … it’s not at all a large complaint.

2. The app links you out to ticket vendors. No need to go out to Ticketmaster or wherever. Links are provided to the venue, ticket purchasing, or wherever you need to go.

3. You can search for an artist and track when s/he/they are coming to your area. It’s a bit better than having to scan your whole iOS device library and look through at individual artists/bands, but at the same time, you have to manually search and select “Track” to get that localized effect. Again, oh well. 🙂

4. If 6you select the nearest large city to you, it will spit back who’s playing where, when and for how much. For example, tonight in the SLC area, we have:

  • Psychostick at Club Vegas
  • Soulcrate Music at Kilby Court
  • Taking Back Sunday at In the Venue
  • Pharoahe Monch at the Hotel Elevate
  • Craze at One Nightclub

I’m telling you … this is the ONLY concert app you need. Download it and check out what shows you didn’t know are coming to your area!

iTunes and iCloud First Thoughts

It is here. iCloud is now a reality. What does that mean for those of us with an iTunes account?

Truthfully, I’m not sure.

Here’s my thing. I have Audiogalaxy installed on my phone. It’s free. From anywhere I can get a semi-decent signal–wi-fi or 3G–I can listen to my entire music collection … not just 25000 songs worth. APparently, that’s the cap on how many songs you can have iTunes match. Why there’s a cap at all is beyond me, but whatever. There is. At an average of approximately 10 songs per CD, that’s 2500 CDs. I’m fairly certain the average listener doesn’t have that much.

I do. And them some. So what am I supposed to do? I can’t create 2 accounts because my phone can only be recognized by one account at a time. If I try downloading songs from another account, I’m sure I’ll get lambasted for trying to. So that’s not really an option.

Now I’m back to the fact that Audiogalaxay has EVERYTHING I own available through its app. Granted, I can’t download a particular song … but I do not have to because IT’S ON MY FRIGGIN’ HARD DRIVE AT HOME.

To be fair, I do see one application where iTunes in the Cloud could be useful. It makes for a handy back-up system. I’d create multiple accounts to host 25000 songs each. Ha ha! Then if a hard drive dies or goes kaput, I can re-download them. But then again, where their songs are only encoded at 256kbps, mine are all encoded at 320kbps. Gain some hard drive space; lose some sound quality. And yes–I’m one of “those” audiophiles.

One thing I *really* like about this new cloud service is the availability of apps I’ve long since forgotten I had due to a reformat and loss of all apps. THAT is pretty cool. ANY app I’ve ever purchased is available to download. Slick. Hopefully, Apple doesn’t “fix” that little hiccup (cuz it kind of seems like it shouldn’t be that way for some reason, right?)

Anyway, I’ll reserve judgment for when I actually start using the service. Maybe I’ll find more to like. Maybe I won’t. For now though, I’m content to download my old apps!

 

Fun Music Site

Okay, this is cool. Check out this site. Isn’t this FUN?! If you know enough about music theory and time signatures, you can have a lot of fun with this little site. I love it. If there were an “export to mp3” button, i’d seriously be in lurve. Good enough that there are progs out there that will record sound from the desktop.

Sorry that’s all I have for today. It’s been a rough, rough day, and I’m “flying solo” cuz my wife went to a conference with a friend. Watching after our two kids is tiring. So much so that I’m going to go to bed now. 🙂

Review: TuneUp Media for iTunes and Windows Media Player

It seems that everything I review lately comes from a recommendation from a tweet. Today is no different, but it’s definitely one worth mentioning.

In my iTunes library, I have a bunch of CDs that don’t have album art. Keep in mind that I have a lot of obscure stuff that iTunes doesn’t recognize anyway. I have to manually fat-finger in the album title, artist, and track titles. That gets seriously tedious. Also, it won’t find the album artwork, so even when I get done entering everything, I’m still without a pretty picture to associate with the CD.

Enter TuneUp Media. This is seriously like the Blarney stone of music. To be upfront and honest, it does cost: $30 for the unlimited use; $20 for one year of use, and free if you have a 100-song library. The free version is almost an insult. Who has a 100-song library …? Even my mother in law has more than that. That’s the equivalent of ~10 CDs.

I obtained the unlimited use version. Once it installs, you have to create an account and use the license key provided at the time of purchase to activate it. After that, you’re up and running, and the fun begins.

It’s not flawless, but it’s pretty close. I had almost 500 CDs that didn’t have cover art prior to installing TuneUp. After it ran the Cover Art clean and scrub, I was left with only 80 CDs without cover art. These are CDs like Nitin Sawhney: Spiritual Life Music, various concert recordings that don’t have an official title, Centipede E’est, Deathmole … those kinds of CDs. Everything else was covered!

You can also clean up your ID3 tags rapid-fire. The software will search high and low to find the CD information and fill in the gaps, like track number, track title, CD title, and artist. If I’m right, it kind of works like a private investigator works: you give it what little information you have, and it finds the rest. Say you have 3 or 4 track titles, but no artist or CD title. Based on those 3 or 4 tracks, it can scour whatever database it uses, find the right CD, and fill in the blanks. Pretty cool, eh?!

If you click on the Tuniverse tab, you’ll find a wealth of information about the artist currently playing. I clicked on a-ha’s “Take On Me,” and I got a brief wikipedia synopsis and eBay auctions for various merchandise. Other available datapoints include YouTube videos, album recommendations, news, concert notifications … this thing is slick.

My favorite tab is the Concerts tab. TuneUp scours your library and reports on what concerts are coming up in your area. So far, I have concerts listed for Elephant Revival, Eisley, St. Vincent, My Chemical romance and Neon Trees (joint bill), The Joy Formidable, Arcade Fire, Deftones, Yanni, Of Montreal, and U2. That’s just amazing. And we’re not talking shows at major venues; locally, we’re talking Kilby Court, In the Venue, and The Depot (one of my favorite venues of all time).

Under the Share tab, you can post your last 5 songs played, Songs Most played, Top Artists in Collection, and Favorite Artists to Facebook. Not seeing any Twitter connectivity … maybe that’s down the road. I don’t know.

Anyway, yah. This thing is wicked awesome. I highly recommend ponying up the $30 and making this a long-term companion to your media player of choice (read: of the two it currently supports).

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