Review of the N95 and the Forerunner 305

I’ve had a Forerunner 305 for a while now. On the rare occasion I go running, I find it really useful. At first, I thought t would be a great geeky toy that I’d get bored of – I honestly expected it would find its way into a draw and never be used again after the first couple of uses.

However, it’s actually a great running accessory, and I advise this kinda hardware to all by the most casual of joggers. It’s far too easy to run too fast when you’re out running – you can set the forerunner up to beep at you when you go too fast or too slow – obviously you configure these speeds yourself. Recently I ran a half marathon, I did virtually no training for it, and without the forerunner on my wrist making sure I didn’t run too fast or too slow, I’m not sure I’d have finished!

The software is great, and allows you to keep track of all your runs, plot them on a map, see charts of speed over time and…. other useful stuff. Most of this stuff is pretty useless for me, pretty much all I’m interested in is keeping pace, and knowing exactly how far I’ve run. If I was actually trying to train for something though, I’m sure this data would be priceless.

One great feature is that you can run against yourself! You can record a route, and run it against a ‘virtual partner’. You get a screen that shows your position relative to your virtual partner. This helps you to motivate yourself a little.

Recently, I discovered an alternative. Nokia have a Sports Tracker system. It’s currently in beta, and is totally free. You install the software on your phone, setup an account, and that’s about all you need. I already run with my N95, as I use it for music – so it’s no hardship for me to try out this software. The N95 has built in GPS, so I don’t need any external GPS device, but if you’re nokia doesn’t support it – you can still use this software with any bluetooth GPS unit.

A little known feature of the N95 is that it has an accelerometer in it! This allows the software to also act as a pedometer, so it can tell you how many steps you do. The software is fast, and it’s pretty easy to use. One huge advantage you get with the N95 over the Forerunner, is the screen. The software allows you to configure the backlight to stay on too, so it’s always easy to read. The largest disadvantage in my opinion is that there’s no wrist strap or anything like that for the N95 – as geeky as it might be to strap a phone to your wrist, I think you coudl get away with it with a nice fabric machine washable wrist strap or some sort.

Here you can see screen shots of the Sports Tracker software. It gives a pretty good picture of what the software can do. A great thing about this is that it keeps log of all your activities on the phone, and allows you to see the routes, and statistics – and with a single click it will upload it to the Nokia site! No more plugging in my forerunner over USB and loading up the software. One thing I’ve not played with, and that the page doesn’t seem to mention is the ‘live tracker’ option I’ve seen in the options. I can only assume that the phone uploads your route whilst you’re doing it – and people can monitor your progress online! Amazingly cool, and… kinda scary 😉

It’s not only the N95 that’s supported, there’s a whole load of Nokia phones supported. In conclusion, I much prefer the Sports Tracker on my N95 over my forerunner. The ‘cute’ web interface and integration with the phone is also in my opinion better then the rather dated looking software that comes with the Forerunner – but…. I can strap the forerunner to my arm, and easily see the stats. Unfortunately, until there is a nice armband or something for my N95, I think I’ll have to use the Forerunner.

One finally note though….. I think this software makes the N95 an even better geocaching friend. Any pictures I take whilst the software is running can be uploaded by the sports tracker when you submit the activity. Don’t forget – you do this without plugging the phone in – over your own wireless, or GPRS etc!

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