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Every day, I find some new way to be impressed by how much we use our smartphones in our daily lives. In fact, by now, we really should just be calling them our virtual assistants. Not only can smartphones facilitate instant communication with our friends and family, but we can and do use them for all manner of life management: notes, photos, web browsing, reading, music, and games. With My Tracks, we can add “path tracking” to the list.
Coming straight from Google itself, My Tracks is an app with a singular purpose: to track your path as you travel from point A to point B. As simple as it sounds, this path tracking can prove to be quite beneficial depending on your lifestyle habits. If you commute or travel a lot, it’s fun to see how your path changes from day to day. There are other path tracking apps out there, such as RunKeeper, MapMyRun, and Runtastic, but My Tracks comes from a developer group that has proven itself in terms of quality.
I’ll admit that I was skeptical about this app at first, but it has won me over, mostly because it’s free. Let’s dive into My Tracks and see what exactly it can do and how you might benefit from using it. Give it a chance and it might surprise you.
My Tracks has an incredibly simple and uncomplicated interface. There’s a giant Record button that you can press to start recording your track with the app. While enabled, My Tracks will regularly trace your route and save it locally. When you come to the end of your route, tap the Stop button and My Tracks will stop recording and complete its stat calculations. A single record is called a “track,” hence the name of the app.
In order to make use of My Tracks, you’ll need to have a GPS-enabled device. The app takes the data from the GPS sensor and uses it to determine all of the different statistics to track, including geographic data and velocity calculations. In combination with other apps and biometric sensors, you can elevate the usefulness of My Tracks to the next level, but more on that in the Advanced Features section.
The first thing to note is the gamut of statistics recorded by My Tracks. Not only does it record the physical path taken on the route, but also the speed at which you traverse, the total distance over the route, and the elevation changes along the way. Some of these data sets will come in handy when recording, say, a hike through the woods or a jog around the neighborhood.
While My Tracks is recording a track, you can view all of these statistics live in real-time. If you want to take notes – such as to explain a sudden drop in velocity or make note of geographic changes – you can annotate your path. And for those who like virtual company, My Tracks can verbally announce your progress along a route.
One thing I like about My Tracks is the widget that it comes with. You can place it straight onto your home screen and set up a few details, such as current recording time, total distance traversed, etc. The widget also has quick one-tap Record and Stop buttons. Once recording starts, the widget updates in real-time for instant information access.
The available options for My Tracks are numerous. You can change the way that the path-tracking map appears, the types of data shown on the progress charts, the types of stats that are tracked, the nuances of recording, and more. Granted, I’m a newcomer to the whole “path tracking” app genre, but I’m impressed with what My Tracks can do.
For those of you who like to stay cloud-connected, you can sync up My Tracks to your Google Drive, Google Maps, Google Spreadsheets, Google Fusion Tables, or general social networks (e.g., Google+, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) as means of viewing your tracks across devices and sharing your tracks with your friends. My Tracks even has a way for you to create entire track backups to external sources so you never have to lose your data.
Out of the box, My Tracks can interface and sync up with third-party biometric sensors, including the Zephyr HxM heart rate monitor, the Polar WearLink heart rate monitor, and most monitors that support the ANT+ protocol. So if you’re already using one of these monitors, you have nothing to lose by giving My Tracks a try.
All in all, My Tracks offers a basic function that can be utilized in a number of different ways. It is, of course, not a tool that everyone will find useful, but for those niche needs, it provides a strong set of features for tracking travel-related data. I like My Tracks and it definitely deserves its spot on our Best Android Apps page.
Give My Tracks a whirl and see how it works for you. For those of you who already use it, what do you think? What do you like about it, or dislike about it? Do you prefer another app over it? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments!