December 21, 2014

App Review: Google My Tracks

Title: My Tracks
Developer: Google
Available: Now, Android Market
Cost: FREE

When I first saw My Tracks in the Android Market, I quickly passed it over never thinking it was something I would find useful.  Why do I need a program on my phone that records my GPS tracks?  I already have a TomTom in my car.  What is my phone going to offer me that I couldn’t already do?  Who would want to look at my tracks if I recorded them?

Only two days have passed since I began using My Tracks and I found the answer to all my questions.  My Tracks may appear simple at first, but the possibilities are endless when you discover the full potential waiting to be tapped.  Read along as I detail the interface and share with you my experiences.

Walkthrough

When you first launch My Tracks, you will be greeted with a world map as your phone acquires a GPS fix.  In my short time with the program, this normally takes 0-3 minutes.  One press of the menu brings up the available options and with a tap of the thumb you can begin recording information.  As you begin to move, an orange arrow will show your direction while a red tail shows the path.  The display seems to keep the entire path visible on the screen while you are recording, but you have the option to move around the map by dragging it.

Tap on the screen and you are given two useful options.  You can see detailed real time stats or view an elevation map.  You can also toggle the satellite map to view geographical features which is valuable for outdoor activities.  At any time during your recording you can insert waypoints or your current statistics.  These are attached to your track and viewable by others after you have uploaded your map.

When you are finished with your trip, press stop recording to enter the track details.  This is where you give your track a name and enter any additional comments.  After saving the track, there are multiple options including send to a friend, upload to Google, or write to SD card.  By uploading your track to Google you can also upload the statistics directly to Google Docs.  This will generate a spreadsheet that you can continue to update over time.  If you are recording any physical activity for training, you can analyze the results and make adjustments.

Another new feature launched with My Tracks is the ability to edit Google Docs directly from your Android device.  Currently this only includes spreadsheets, but the other document forms are in development.  From your phone, you can sort by row or column and edit each field.  The interface is a bit limited for now, but expect expanded usability in the future.

Possible Uses

Currently this application is marketed toward outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, or running but there is no limit to the ways this program will be utilized.  It is great for outdoor activities because of the ability to record, share, and analyze right from the phone.  No longer will you need to wait to get home, hook up a cable to your pc, or worry about installing software.

I get excited when I start to explore the other potential uses for My Tracks.  I live in a city where two major industries are tourism and outdoor sports.  Corpus Christi has repeatedly been named “Birdiest City” in the nation and you could easily create a bird watching tour including waypoints of each location and details about the birds you could expect to find.  Or imagine a course of the area beaches with a description of each one.  A downtown hotel could create a map with directions to popular tourist destinations such as the USS Lexington or the Texas State Aquarium.  Local businesses could create a map with all the popular seafood restaurants in the area.

Another way I used My Tracks was to record my driving routes for work.  Google maps includes estimated drive times but they are often very conservative.  By recording my own drive times and logging them, I am able to better determine my actual ETA when I travel out of town.  I can also generate real time statistics of my driving without having to type in any information.

Conclusion

Google My Tracks is the easiest GPS tracking software I have ever used.  The interface is easy to learn and you can begin using the program as soon as you install it.  When you add the ability to share everything with friends or the web directly from your phone, I believe you have the best GPS tracking platform around.  Best of all, the application is free and this is only the first release.  Google has a history of updating their apps and adding new functionality.  I look forward to an improved interface for Google Docs.  I encourage you to download the app and give it a test drive.

EDITOR NOTE: This Android app review comes courtesy of Bobby Pineapples of AndroidAndMe.  If you’re looking for more great Android information and developer perspective, we suggest you head there right away!



  • jay_cee

    Couple of random thoughts that are slightly off topic:
    1) I love that they are using the compass to show the direction you are pointing. Why the h*** isn’t this in the normal google maps? You have a maps application and you have a compass, what could be more natural than to use them together?
    2) The compass on the G1 isn’t very accurate (use Tracks for 30 seconds to see what I mean). Some of the other standalone compass apps have a calibration function. The compass calibration should be built into the OS. ie, you calibrate once and all of the apps that use the compass are properly calibrated.

  • http://androidandme.com BobbyP

    Yes, the compass will not work while driving unless the phone is completely flat. If you have the phone mounted on your dash board then the compass points the wrong direction.

    I don’t know why the compass is not included in normal Google Maps. I bet they will add it in a future update.

  • http://www.exaquantum.com Brad

    Another very very good possible use in Australia, is to log all your work related travel.

    This can then be used for your Income Tax claim at the end of the year.

    (Normally people manually add an entry to a logbook each time you travel)

  • Sean

    I was excited to see that My Tracks gives you the option to save your tracks to the SD card in either GPX or KML format, which can be used, among other things, to geotag photos (not the ones taken with the phone’s camera, but ones taken with a “real” camera, like my Nikon SLR). I was toying with the idea of buying a separate device to do this, but why spend money on another gadget when my G1 (which I have on me at all times) can do the trick?

    Simply synchronize the clock in your digicam to your phone and you’re all set. There are a bunch of programs for the PC/OS X/Linux that will take saved GPX data and match it to the time code in the metadata in your photos, allowing you to add location information to their EXIF tags.

    I’d messed with EveryTrail in the past trying to record GPX files, but it tries to lock you into its social network, which I have no interest in participating in. My Tracks is a much, much better solution.

  • http://www.mygeodiary.com Shaili Jain

    Geo tracking is indeed a great way to connect useful geographic information to the web. We provide a similar geodiary service at http://www.mygeodiary.com which allows users to record, annotate with rich media, semantically organize and publish this data to any web site using simple widgets and API. We can data from any device which produces KML, GPX, WSG format files. One of our recording apps is available on Blackberry & will soon be available on Android.

    The best part of a Android MyTracks or Abaqus myGeoDiary type app is the rich semantics you can derive from a journal of your travels. I have been recording over a year now and the patterns that emerge are very telling.

  • be_fit

    The new “my tracks” app looks really cool! I have been using the app CardioTrainer for a couple months and then sharing by exporting into my maps (CT provides an exportable kml that you can send to my maps — same place as my tracks). Just wondering if anybody has used both apps? …I feel like CardioTrainer is more for actual training and my tracks is just a GREAT standard gps tracking app. They’re both in the Lifestyles section of the market. What do you think?!

    here’s a link to the CardioTrainer page incase you want to give that a try too!
    http://www.worksmartlabs.com/cardiotrainer/about.php
    ..i find the CardioTrainer audio cues really helpful during a long run!

  • ovi

    Does this app have a map tiles cache ? Or is there any other GPS Tracking app for android which has some cache because in the places I go with my bike I don't have any GSM / Data connection ??

  • http://rhenry74.homeip.net/blog Rob

    Maybe I am expecting too much. I've tried to record my route to work and it seems like MyTracks can't keep up or it's fighting to gain control of the GPS. It won't record the track. It does measure the other stuff like speed and distance however.

  • Anush

    Can this work without the carrier network ? I mean, can the android function like a standalone GPS unit ?

  • tws

    Suddenly I can no longer send my tracks to google docs. I get an error message every time. It does send to maps, but no data in docs. It worked two days ago, now it doesn't. Any suggestions? I have uninstalled the program and reinstalled to no avail.

  • drjuice

    I have been completely through the FAQ and cannot find how to attach the actual track locations that have been recorded to a gmail to send the KML file to my server where I want to run a small app for connecting the coordinate locations to the locations where I took pictures while going along the track.

    When I say to send the “file” to gdocs, it seems to only send the summary file, not the complete KML file.

    Is there a way to do this.

    Thank you.

    drj

    • drjuice

      Never mind, turns out you apparently can’t do that with a .kml file, it has to be done with a .gpx file. ;~( I already have the little app to convert from .kml to conform to the information from my camera. Back to rewriting. ;~(

      v

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    Google My Tracks is the easiest GPS tracking software I have ever used

  • Upcoming android phones

    tracking system is importan to travelling

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    What is my phone going to offer me that I couldn’t already do? Who would want to look at my tracks if I recorded them?

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    The interface is easy to learn and you can begin using the program as soon as you install

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  • Brian Kennedy

    I like that you can make way points along your route, but how can you add a picture to the way point