Start the clock with Runtastic Timer

Runtastic TimerRuntastic Timer is a new iOS and Android app from exercise app specialists Runtastic. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store and Google Play, with a single optional in-app purchase to remove ads and unlock functionality. This review is based on the iOS version, tested using an iPhone 4S.

As the name suggests, Runtastic Timer is a timer app specifically designed for cardio exercise purposes, though there’s nothing to stop users making use of it in other situations for repetitive, time-based tasks. The app allows users to set varying intervals of time for preparation, workout and rest periods, and then choose a particular number of repetitions and sets for their intervals. The number of sets determines how many times the user follows a single time around the interval pattern without stopping, while the repetitions value determines how many times the complete sequence of sets is repeated in total. This is actually the opposite way around to the manner in which the terms “repetitions” and “sets” are used in weight (rather than cardio) training, which may cause confusion for some users, but it is a relatively minor matter to adjust to.

To give a practical example of how the terms are used, setting up the timer with three repetitions and eight sets means that the user will complete the workout-rest pattern 24 times in total with three “preparation” periods interspersed at regular intervals. Once a full sequence of eight sets has been completed, the preparation period begins anew, and the process continues until both the repetition and set counters have expired — or the user stops the timer. The timer may also be paused while it is running.

The app features full voice feedback while the timer is running, and this may be customized to announce the start of each phase and the end of each set or repetition and give a three-second countdown to the end of each phase. It may also be switched between English, German, French, Spanish and Italian voice sets, or turned off altogether if desired. Alongside the voice feedback is the option to customize the music that plays during the user’s workout, and this even has the option to make use of different playlists for the workout and rest periods if desired. Alternatively, the user may set the music to lower its volume or pause during rest periods. The built-in music player does not play well with iTunes Match: songs, albums and playlists stored in iCloud will show up in the app when choosing playlists to assign to the workout and rest periods, but they will only play if the songs in question have actually been downloaded to the device in advance; they cannot be streamed.

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In the free version of the app, the user has a single timer that can be customized at will. By making a one-off $0.99 in-app purchase (inexplicably accessed via the “Help” menu rather than somewhere more obvious) the user may unlock the ability to add and save an unlimited number of different timers. This will also remove all advertising from the app, which takes the form of a banner ad at the bottom of the main timer screen, and occasional full-screen pop-over ads for Runtastic’s other (premium-priced) apps. The app also regularly bugs users to rate it on the App Store.

On the whole, aside from relatively minor niggles like the questionable use of terminology, Runtastic Timer is a solid, well-designed app that works well not only for its stated purpose, but also for those who like to split non-exercise tasks into “work” and “rest” periods. For example, a writer struggling to motivate themselves to complete a project with an imminent deadline could use the “workout” period to denote when they should be actively writing, and the “rest” period to denote when they can take some time to themselves. It’s a flexible app, and a good addition to Runtastic’s arsenal of offerings on both iOS and Android.

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