Monday, February 16, 2009

My Tracks on the G1 is oh so sweet

If you're in tech, you've always sought the killer app, and while I know it's a plural (after all, I've got several killer apps near and dear), there's one that hit me right between the eyes this weekend - and I'm telling everyone. It's on my G1/Android phone. It's called "My Tracks". It was developed at Google - but that has nothing to do with my feelings expressed here. Seriously - it could have been developed by Bernie Madoff (oh - more on that soon) and I still might have to love it.

The main reason for my instant adoration of this product is based on my prior experience in custom mapping... Almost exactly a year ago, I painstakingly clicked off about 4 different hikes using the original My Maps feature of Google Maps - trying to re-create the exact path taken through some wooded hikes. At the time I was raving about how cool it was that I could create those maps and share those hikes - but, I realize now why I rarely went back to do more. It was just too much effort (oh - poor me... 5 minutes of clicking a mouse is too much effort... really - I need a dose of pre-tech life). It all comes down to convenience. The number one rule of successful products - convenience.

I mentioned the maps to my brother in law, who told me I could borrow his awesome Garmin everything-GPS device to track my next hike, "I haven't taken the time to figure it out yet - so you can try it and then show me", he says... so I tried it. Got some interesting... uh... "results"... Some elevation info...that's about it... and carrying this awkward, 1970's cell phone looking thing... I never figured out how to actually get the data out of it.

This time - I take my two boys bike riding on a cold day at a nearby park. I take my phone (which I'm carrying anyway, duh), and click My Tracks - Menu - Start Recording. Done. Put it in my pocket and never looked at it again until 60 minutes later when we got back to the car. Stop Recording. More - Send to Google - Send to My Maps. Done.

I get home and bring up My Maps. OMG. In an area which was otherwise blank, I now see my tracks around the park's different bike trails... I even see one anomaly - a single track across the grass when I was trying to play a trick on my kids to get ahead of them. Busted! Then I click on the push pin in the area of the parking lot, where our ride ended... OMG (again) - Time moving, average speed, average speed when moving, elevation traveled, min elevation, max elevation, etc. Wow. "Craig!" I yell to my Bro'in-law - who's with us with his kids that day, also a gadget freak and the owner of that, uh, great GPS device I mentioned earlier. "Check this out"... "wow". I know he went home and put that ol' GPS device up on ebay.

Anyway - you'll see some of the pics I've included of that first experiment including the detailed riding around in circles I did in the park... which, unintended, is a great show of the detailed capture used in this killer app. I'm suddenly motivated to hike, to bike, to walk anywhere... I'll never leave my G1 home again (anyone wanna buy a first gen iPhone with Jelly Car pre-installed?)


Unknown said...

Please pardon a doubtlessly stupid question. If you're running "My Tracks" while you're, say, running somewhere, can you easily switch to your MP3 player app to control which music you're listening to?

Can you leave My Tracks running in the background while using other apps?

I'll bet this is almost a nonsense question, but given my research on the iPhone, one has to ask this sort of thing. Thanks!

JR said...

Blogger JR said...

I haven't actually tried - but I'm pretty sure that you can leave the My Tracks app running in the background, while you listen to music or do other things on the phone. This is on the G1 - I don't think My Tracks is directly available on the iPhone (see Matt Cutt's post here: )