Watches versus phone apps: Looking for a bit of... - Couch to 5K

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Watches versus phone apps


Looking for a bit of advice please. At the moment I'm using Runkeeper on my phone, I like it very much but it does mean carrying (obviously) a phone and it's sometimes a bit hit and miss. I particularly like the maps it creates, but already my phone tells me it's memory is full and I'm not sure how or what to delete...I have a watch for swimming and really like it. Now I'm thinking about buying a running watch or some other type of device for running. Any advice please? Anyone tried both watch and phone apps and prefer one to the other?

39 Replies

Good question. I love a bit of 'tech', so have thought about a watch. Then I think £100 against my Endomondo app on my phone which works just fine.

I look forward to the discussion.

Maysie1Graduate in reply to Nerdio

Sorry, totally off topic, but I haven't seem Mr Ben for years!!

I have mentioned the programme a few times while chatting with friends etc (for some odd reason) and usually just get blank looks.

Its clearly a very 'limited generation range' thing!

As if by magic the shopkeeper appeared.... genius.

NerdioGraduate in reply to Maysie1

They were made in 1971, seems like only last year :-)

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be....:-)


I have just bought a Garmin FR220 as my iPhone was just too big and clumsy for me to lug around with me. That for me was the biggest benefit. I love the watch and all of the data it gives me, but to be honest it is a bit OTT for what I need really. I think the lesser spec'd ones (I think it is the FR10?) are really good value and offer as much as most people will need unless they are pretty serious runners.

A few things from my experience:

The watch is feather-light and super accurate (so far), far more so that the iPhone

I don't have to worry about the battery life of the phone when I am out any more.

The watch doesn't have an MP3 player, so I have to carry a tiny ipod shuffle as well as the watch.

I love the 'Garmin Connect' website which I guess must be similar to your Map my Run(?)

I like to leave my phone at home when I run anyway, as it gives me a break away from it!!!

The watch is easier to read while running (if you want to look)

The watch has more facilities to set vibrate alarms for pace, laps etc (if you like that kinda thing)!

You can become 'data obsessed' which is not always a good thing when you want to just enjoy your run.

I have the heart rate monitor as well, which is very intersting to see - particularly when you are pushing the pace - these are usually only compatible with the higher spec'd watches.

The watches do get quite expensive if you go for the 'bells and whistles' versions.

The watch wins hands down for me.

Hope that helps. :)

Hidden in reply to Maysie1

Thanks, that's really helpful. I'm not really bothered about music when I run, so that's not a problem for me. Do you get the maps and everything, with elevation etc?

TomasGraduate in reply to Hidden

You get map, elevation, speed/pace, cadence and even the weather on the website when you synch a Garmin watch. The only thing you don't get (which I do miss from runkeeper) is the cumulative distance / time / calories over the last 30 days / 3 months / ytd.

VixchileGraduate in reply to Tomas

Hello, just to add you can get totals for the month or week. On the watch under history menu is total which you can ask it for weekly And monthly totals. Again you can view on this on garmin connect through the calendar. I am not sure if you can view totals on all the garmin watches but 220 you can.

Lovefood1984Graduate in reply to Vixchile

Since I've had mine less than a week I'm still learning about the features. Is there anywhere to tell it what shoes you used for which run or will I need to track this manually? :) Any other useful tips greatly appreciated!

swanscotGraduate in reply to Lovefood1984

No, not on Garmin Connect. You need to 'work around' this issue.

I have one pair of road running shoes and one pair of trail shoes. Most of my running is done in my road running shoes (even when on firmer forest tracks) and only one run every two weeks is using my trail shoes. I like to keep track of the mileage of my road running shoes. By default all runs are uploaded to Garmin Connect as Activity type: "Running". But there is a drop down menu when you can specify Street Running, Track Running, Trail Running, Treadmill Running. I leave most of my runs in the default setting of Running, but change to Trail Running for the times I use my trail shoes.

Then when I look at the cumulative stats, I can filter by 'Running' or 'Trail Running' to get the totals for each month or year.

Lovefood1984Graduate in reply to swanscot

Great work around, all of mine are street but I only have 2 pairs of shoes so could assign one to 'running' and the other to 'street running' Thanks!

AnnieW55 in reply to Tomas

I've only just started using Garmin Connect (despite having the F10 for over a year) but I have seen my cumulative stats - sorry if you've seen them and they're not what you mean Tomas - In Reports you can choose to see various reports but the timing is 7 days/4 weeks/6 months/last year. You choose the report you want and see it in graph form but if you move over the columns you get the data (which you may need to add up).

TomasGraduate in reply to AnnieW55

Thank you, Annie and Vixchile. I clearly haven't been rummaging around in Garmin Connect enough. You're absolutely right - nom, nom, nom, I lovezzzz me stats!

Maysie1Graduate in reply to Hidden

You cant actually see the map on my watch itself (and I think most are the same), so the watch just shows some basic stats as you run, like time, pace, distance. When you get home the GPS within the watch then synchronises with the Garmin Connect (website) when you link it to your PC. The next model up can do it wirelessly (which is even more OTT for what I need). You can then go online and see no end of data.

The extent of data available to you depends on the spec of watch, my watch is their new 'mid range' version which has the GPS maps with pace, elevation, time, laps (spilts), distance, calories, heart rate, cadence, and a 'player' so you can see what your body/run pace etc was doing at what point on the map. It is very clever. If you Google 'Garmin Connect' you can see some examples on YouTube. I have the FR220 watch which was about £190 with the heart rate monitor.

I could send you a link to my last run if that helps, but I am pretty sure you will need a (free) log in with Garmin Connect to actually see it.


Maysie has given you a good list of the positives of a GPS watch. Whether you think it worth splashing out about £80 upwards depends on what you want from your running. For regular running 'for exercise' a phone app is probably fine, but if you get to the stage where you wish to enter races and *train* for these, then a watch wins.

For some of my training runs I'm aiming to maintain a certain pace and with a watch I can instantly check my min/km pace and adjust my pace faster or slower. As Maisy says, I can also set the watch to bleep if I veer off my pre-set pace. I don't check my pace for all my runs as I also run by 'effort' as that is a valuable training tool.

Hidden in reply to swanscot

Runkeeper kind of does that as well, it well tell you how you're doing with pace every 5 minutes or however often you ask it to. Gets a bit irritating though.


I got the FR10 and it suits my needs. I got it, basically, to save myself from loading a lot of data on my iPod.


I agree with all the good reasons Maysie gives for preferring a watch. I also have a Garmin 220.

The two best things imho are:

- it's accurate. I've found that Runkeeper on an iphone 4s tends to overestimate the distance (looking at the map, it appears I've been drunk and criss crossed the road for every second step). Not so with Garmin. It's spot on.

- you can actually read it while running (as opposed to a phone strapped to the arm)

- it's water proof, so no need to worry about a downpour

Downside: I'm beginning to get more and more into this exercise malarky, and I've realised that the Forerunner 220 always thinks it is tracking a run. It takes a dearer model to be able to also track swimming and cycling. I would love to have all my exercise stored one place, but that's not possible for me at the moment with the 220.

If I had to buy today, I would probably splash for the Garmin Fenix 2. It's eye watering expensive, but it also inlcudes "proper" GPS functionality, so you can load a route onto it to follow when you're out running (or cycling or walking or swimming) in a new place, without having to bother with printed maps (which tends to be a bit annoying when running).

Hidden in reply to Tomas

Yes, my phone does that tto! I love how I seem to have run right over roof tops...

Rather than or before you fork out for an expensive watch, try clearing the cache for each of your apps in settings. Also consider getting a larger memory card for your phone (depending on what phone you have). If you have lots of music stored on your phone, perhaps this could go on a second hand iPod or MP3 instead?

Hope this helps.

Hidden in reply to MeganSawford

Thanks, I'll have a look at clearing the cahe (don't know how to do that, but maybe I can figure it out) I don't have any music on it apart from 3 of the C25K podcasts, it's a new phone. It seems to store all of my runs and routes, that's not really necessary as they are all on the Runkeeper site.

MeganSawford in reply to Hidden

If you tell me what kind of phone it is I might be able to advise you on clearing the cache, as well as deleting the phone copies of the routes, as they are also stored online.

Also, Map my Run is a very popular app if you're finding Runkeeper a bit hit and miss.

If you don't like carrying the phone, try using an/a different armband, pocketed shorts/jogging trousers or consider a running waist belt or shoulder pack.

There are certainly cheaper solutions to this!

Hidden in reply to MeganSawford

It's a Samsung Galaxy Y - but I think I've found the bit I need, it says my cache is zero...Think I'll get on to Runkeeper, see if they can help.

Bazza1234Graduate in reply to Hidden

The Samsung Galaxy Y is a fairly low spec phone. It is even more low spec than my cheapie Huawei - and that is saying something!! :) I have had some difficulty with lack of memory in my phone - but it is not Runkeeper that is the problem. It is some of the Apps that come installed on the phone. Google Chrome , for example, as a phone web browser is a real hog!!!

Because I use my phone also to use Runkeeper and other running type programmes, I had to delete a number of other Apps that I wasn't really using. Once I did this the low memory problem went away.

I would love to have a new GPS type watch -- but they are very expensive. Frankly , for an amateur like me, my cheapie phone does everything for me that I need in regards to my running "hobby" :) BTW - I carry it on my waist using an old soft spectacles case which I attach to a belt. Works fine for me that way - with earphones that cant fall out of my ears. :)


I have pay and go phone ( I know!!!!) so I got a Garmin Forerunner 10 and think it's great. My husband thinks it's great (not for running, he just likes the data and stats I think) and is thinking about taking it out to see how much walking he does when he is out in the fields - I will have to hide it well. Anyway back to the FR 10 - it does all I need it to do - time, distance, laps and links to the Garmin site where all the data is stored. I do find the Garmin site slow sometimes - the message comes up that they are experiencing high volumes of users - mainly at weekends - otherwise love it. Good luck with your decision Curlygurly.

Oh yes, also some folk say it is slow to log on to the satellite but I usually put it on the windowsill while I get my shoes on etc and it doesn't take it too long. I have used it in 3 different locations in Scotland - 2 in Aberdeenshire and 1 in The Highlands and so far so good.

mossy1Graduate in reply to mossy1

Just read that back and it sounds as though you have to log on to the Garmin site for the data - not so, the watch does store the run history but you have to go online for the maps and more detailed data.


An important question - do they have metal on the back or strap? I'm allergic to metal except silver, gold or stainless steel...

TomasGraduate in reply to Hidden

FR 220: The back feels like steel covered by a thin coating of rubber. There are 4 "metal dots" recessed about 2mm on the back edge of the watch for charging and data exchange. They're shiny, but I couldn't tell whether they're stainless. No metal on the part of the strap that touches your skin, but the clasp (which faces away from your skin when you're wearing it) is metal.

notbadGraduate in reply to Hidden

The Forerunner 10 has a plastic back with the 4 metal dots as Tomas describes, also has 4 tiny metal screws (which secure the back panel) and a small part of the metal clasp would be in contact with skin. There's nothing to say what type of metal it is so I would advise emailing/phoning Garmin via their website to ask.

You might also find this website interesting, the reviewer knows everything there is to know about sports watches and has reviewed just about everything in depth:

Hidden in reply to notbad

Thanks! Everything I'll ever need to know about running watches! I'll have a good read when I have more time!


I have a terrible phone and got a garmin, I like mine and would recommend to anyone.


I used to use Runkeeper. and then got the Garmin Forerunner 10. It is fantastic, and the beauty of it is, that you can export all your runs to Runkeeper too. I did this until I decided which format I preferred, but I prefer Garmin's now. Running without the phone is absolute bliss; it just frees you up no end. I have a tiny mp3 player if I want music :)


Hey TM, how are you lovely lady ? Have you finished your disser .. thingy wotsit , sorry I cant for the life of me think how you say it, never mind spell it :-) xxx

I find easirr to navigate from my watch esp to compare times for running each km...but I still end up taking my phone as I run alone and I prefer to have my phone in case I fall or any oroblem

Hidden in reply to totalbeginner

That's a good point Total, a couple of years ago I was walking in France wearing sandals and nearly stepped on a poisonous snake, another time I gashed my foot on barbed wire..... and realised that no one knew where I was...guess I'll be taking my pone anyway.

I must be really old and/ or a technophobe as I splashed out on an Argos £16.99 water resistant watch that I use for timing my runs and swims. It is a mans watch with a massive easy to read face and that combined with listening to the sounds of our village keep me entertained!

Clearly a simple girl at heart !

I read recently that for most people a simple stopwatch fine as better to track time and overall effort (with fitness these will improve) rather then look at distance and speed...I bought a GPS watch I wasn't interested in garmin online or having to log onto a website to view data I look at the Garmin forerunner 110 but ithe end I went for the soleus fit 1.0 on amazon it was less than £70 . which seemed better value than the Garmin. It has been more than sufficient. I have my phone with me on an armband thing,uually its on silent I don't use it for music. its there in case I am running late or in case of emergency. I have a small mp3 player if i am running my bridge to 10k, if I'm running with a friend i don't bother. It's very much an imdividual choice phone vs GPS. There is certainly no.rush to buy unless you like to use the figures as motivation? I've heard endomondo is a good app to use you could have a week try endomondo and the others mentioned.


Thanks so much to all who replied. I've worked out how to free up some memory, as Bazza said it's not Runkeeper gobbling up the memory, most of it was going to FaceBook, which I only have on my phone so I can upload pics. Sorted - I can just delete everything regularly now. I think I'll stick to my phone for the moment, as I will be carrying it anyway in case I get eaten by a snake or fall off a cliff there doesn't seem much point in having a watch as well. Maybe later I might treat myself...

Endomondo for me

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