Sunday, October 18, 2009

Nokia N79 with Sports Tracker

I recently blogged about the brilliant Sports Tracker program available in Nokia Beta Labs. Running on my 5800 XM phone, I was very impressed with this program, although it lacked some features that would make it a potential replacement for my regular Polar CS200 cycling computer. The most obvious of these is the lack of a heart rate monitor (HRM).

Shortly thereafter I was contacted by Nokia SA to see if I would like to trial the N79, which has a unique HRM belt designed in conjunction with Polar, specifically for this phone. I jumped at the chance.

In this post I will concentrate on the Sports Tracker application running on the N79, and not on the phone itself. Needless to say, as an N Series phone, the build quality is great, and the compact package includes such features as changeable Xpress-on™ smart covers, a 5 megapixel camera and integrated A-GPS. Pretty good considering the phone was released in August ’08.

I received the phone pre-loaded with version 2.06 of Sports Tracker. I was a bit thrown at first, but eventually figured out that there is no physical button to access the menu, and instead you press the area between the buttons to the left of the D-pad. This allowed me into the applications, and the Sports tracker application itself. Scrolling down to Settings, I was able to access the setup wizard for the HRM. The phone uses Bluetooth to connect to the HRM Belt, and it quickly paired itself to the belt.

Then it was simply a case of selecting the workout mode, waiting for the GPS to connect, and I was away. In the box, along with the phone and the HRM belt, was a handy pouch to allow the phone to be carried strapped to your upper arm. This position also allows one to easily attach a pair of headphones so you can listen to your favourite tunes while exercising. However, I did not really like this position while cycling, which was a pity. A handlebar mounting would have been better.

On the go, there are a number of real time outputs you can watch while you train. These include various options for speed, altitude, time and distance, as well as the all important heart rate. There are also graphs for HR/speed/altitude vs time, as well as the time spent in each of 3 HR zones calculated by the program based on age and gender. These can also be manually adjusted if you have specific zones you want to target. As with the version of Sports Tracker I have been running on my 5800, there is also a live mapping feature, and you have the option to allow the program to download the necessary maps, or just to let it run on a plain background.

At the completion of your training session, you then have the option to upload your training session to the Sports Tracker web site, where you have the option to share it with friends. On the website, the map of your route is shown courtesy of Google Maps. One of my favourite features is that any photos taken along the route are shown on the map, along with what music you were playing!

I really love this program, and it’s made even better with the addition of the HRM features available with the N97. However, there have been several rumours on the web that Nokia is going to discontinue Sports Tracker. In actual fact, Nokia is not killing Sports Tracker, but giving it some wings. Towards the end of 2009 they will be migrating it to Sports Tracking Technologies, a company founded by the creators of Sports Trackers (Ykä Huhtala and Jussi Kaasinen). I only hope that they will continue to develop the program, and keep it free to users.

Many thanks to Lauren for arranging the loan phone.

Thanks for reading.