The guys who inspired this blog made a quiet announcement last week about the future of Sports Tracker; She’s coming to Android and iPhone! Yes, perhaps the first app of its kind to be called Sports Tracker will finally make its way into the Android Marketplace and App Store “sometime” this Spring. “Sometime”, because these guys have a solid reputation for teasing and delays. However, this announcement is excellent news and I’m thrilled for what they could bring to the competition.
There was a time when it was called Nokia Sports Tracker Beta and its core dev team was affectionately known as the Sports Tracker Dudes. Ah, the memories! None finer for me than winning the grand prize in the n79 Active Edition Draw a Heart contest. But the Sports Tracker Dudes split from Nokia early last year, forming their own company in Sports Tracking Technologies OY in Finland. Shortly after that, the Nokia Beta Labs Sports Tracker project was archived, and with it so were my hopes for a better Nokia. I realized that this one little app was the only thing keeping me from switching mobile brands for the past year running. Yet with exciting things happening in Android and iPhone, especially on the sports technology arena, the seemingly then-dormant Sports Tracker dev team gave me no reason to remain brand-loyal to Nokia. Silly as it sounds now, I went shopping for a non-Nokia mobile when I saw evidence that the Sports Tracker Dudes had iPhones and Androids, themselves. (clues via Twitter and Facebook update clients) That was a full year ago, folks. Since then we’ve seen Sports Tracker come back to life and Nokia run itself aground. Now that Nokia are abandoning Symbian for Windows, it makes sense to the future of Sports Tracker that this new platform(s) announcement be made.
Is it too late? Well certainly not. But I think the Sports Tracker Dudes missed out on cashing in big for their pioneering efforts. I’ve been tracking the sports app startups and a few have received fairly large investment sums recently, most notably Endomondo’s $800K. Still, the Sports Tracker Dudes have several thousands of loyal users in the Symbian world and many more who moved on to iPhones and Androids that I’m sure will give them a go again once on their respective platforms.
In their brief announcement they said, “The apps come packed with all the great tracking features you guys love, plus some exciting additional features enabled by the new platforms”. Additional features enabled by the new platforms? Technically speaking there is only one feature I can think of that is additional to today’s Sports Tracker on Symbian and that’s ANT+. iPhone has it via plugin accessories and Android is beginning to see it in some Sony Ericsson models. Aside from ANT+, there’s really nothing new the platforms bring to talk about besides better user interfaces and experiences. Yes, I’m biting my tongue here but I cannot think of what the Sports Tracker Dudes would call “exciting additional features” based on the technical understanding I have of the current platforms. If anything, the new platforms present a few challenges:
- The iPhone, for example, wont be able to use the Polar WearLink+ BT HRM that was originally designed for use with (then-Nokia’s) Sports Tracker. For one reason or another, Apple have decided to block the types of BT connections that today’s Polar WearLink+ uses. Which brings me back to ANT+ speculation.
- On the other hand, besides a minor ANT+ debut, not every Android model has a stellar Bluetooth and/or GPS antenna track record.
It seems logical to guess that Zephyr’s HxM and BioHarness will not be made compatible with new Sports Tracker Android app. Remember, the Polar WearLink+ BT HRM was originally made exclusive for Nokia’s Sports Tracker and I’ve always thought of it as their honeypot. I welcome any corrections here but I thought the Sports Tracker Dudes got a portion from every sale of the Polar WearLink+ BT hrm. Regardless, if they have an interest in Polar then Zephyr is clearly out of the picture for Sports Tracker Android. Too bad, Zephyr make much more useful BT monitors, hands-down.
The elephant in the room for me is the name, Sports Tracker. Sure, many of us know who began using it first. But it’s not about that. SportsTrackLive.com’s Sports Tracker has been around since 2008 and Endomondo’s Sports Tracker has been around since 2007-2008. Legally speaking, I don’t know if any of these guys have a trademark going on Sports Tracker but I think the former-Nokia Sports Tracker might have a tough time keeping the name across platforms.
What I hope to see from Sports Tracker: There’s plenty of room for improvement when you look through the current sports tracker apps. That said, the now-Symbian Sports Tracker will have to pick up its development pace to match that of the current standouts. Updates from the top apps are frequent and strong. Several devs are giving great attention to making their apps compete with the traditional monitors from Polar, Garmin, Suunto, and the like. Features like intervals and training plans are gaining appreciation, while maximizing the advantages a mobile computer provides. Connectivity being a major point, the ideal sports app would bring in multiple types of data from a variety of sensors.
Good luck to the original Sports Tracker team and congratulations for continuing their pursuits of better health for everybody!