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Running Playlist: App review of the week: SynchStep:

running playlist

I had the pleasure of communicating with Greg from SynchStep the other day and he offered to let me test the beta for his new app called… you guessed it, SynchStep.

What it does:
Synchstep has an interesting premise. It calculates your pace while you run (I’m assuming using the iPhone accelerometer movements) and plays songs that match your pace from your iTunes library. What a great idea!

I took the app with me this weekend on my long run, and played around with it, this is what I found.

The bad:
The app I tested was a beta, so I’m sure a lot of the issues I found would be fixed by the time it’s released into the iTunes store.

First, when it scans your songs on your iPhone, it makes the same mistakes most automated BPM analyzers make when they scan songs.

Some examples include:

Born To Run shows as 111 instead of the 146 BPM that it really is
Rockin’ Robin shows as 174 BPM instead of 148 BPM
Change Your Mind shows as 74 BPM which would make it a very bad song for a running playlist except that it is really 147 BPM and a pretty good song to run to.

This is one more example of why I manually test every song on this site to get actual BPM and I don’t rely on automated software do to it. More time consuming, definitely, but I get the right results almost every time…
Anyway, back to the app.

You can always fix these BPM errors manually, so that’s not really a problem.
Once you start running you need to make sure you lock your iPhone using the app “lock” button, not the phone lock, which is a bit confusing.
I would have also liked to see a progress bar showing how far I am into the song and some album art in case I want to check what I’m listening to while I’m on the move and can’t fiddle with unlocking the phone and messing with menus.

One more issue I had with the app was that I guess I didn’t add enough songs to the app library, so I only had one song at 174 BPM, which is around where I usually run, and after listening to rockin’ robin for the 3rd time, I had to manually change songs.

The good:
The app does a great job at detecting your pace. I played around with my pace to see how the app reacts, and it caught the changes every time.
I also like the fact that you can manually set the app to a bpm you want to run in and it will play the songs that match that bpm for you. Very nice feature.

Overall, I think this is a pretty good app to have, it definitely needs some work, but has lots of potential to be a great app. Gets it while it’s still cheap…


I spoke to Greg about some of the issues mentioned here and it looks like a couple of things about the app need an update:
1. The lock issue: this is actually a limitation imposed on app developers by apple, so there really is no choice.
2. There is a free companion desktop app on the site that will fill in all the tempos for all of your songs so you don’t have any issues with not having enough songs.

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