Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Intervals for Endurance


Winter has firmly taken a hold of Boston with temperatures sub freezing point. But as you know from my running streak earlier this year I can’t be deterred by a bit of cold or snow. In fact, I’ve been ramping up my run training since October, now running every other day with the pattern speed run, long run, recovery run. wp_ss_20141208_0001

To mix it up a bit for my speed run workout I built my own interval training to improve my VO₂max, or maximal aerobic capacity. Most of you will be familiar with the term and the reason behind wanting to increase the amount of oxygen (used to produce energy aerobically) transported to the muscles. If I have lost you, check out this short explanation. As I want to get more into longer distance/endurance running, I use my speed sessions mostly to try to improve my anaerobic threshold. My VO₂max interval training can be used for training the anaerobic threshold as well. Just make sure you set up your resting and maximum heart rate in Track Runner and use a heart rate monitor to control the heart rate zone you are training in (aim for hard heart rate zone).

You can have your VO₂max tested in a physiology lab for best results but as a handy shortcut, use a pace a bit faster than your 3k – 5k pace for short bursts followed by recovery intervals. Having recently run our Remote Turkey Trot 5k flat out, I know that my current max 5k pace is around the 5:50 min/km mark. So, I settled on 4 intervals of 1200 meters length at a 5:45 min/km pace for the hard intervals and a leisurely 7:45 min/km pace for the recovery intervals (3 minutes in length with a 2 minute warm-up).

wp_ss_20141209_0001 wp_ss_20141209_0002 wp_ss_20141209_0003


So, how did I do? First of all, it was agonizing like all good interval trainings ought to be. But I was pretty happy with the result of my hard work:

wp_ss_20141205_0001 wp_ss_20141205_0003  wp_ss_20141205_0002 

As you can see I managed to finish the first two hard intervals at a higher pace than anticipated but slacked a bit in the last two. On my next attempt, I will be aiming for more consistency (listening more to that lady in my ear telling me to slow down) and keeping to hard heart rate zone. My current cut-off of hard heart rate zone is 175 bpm so on average, I have not exceeded the zone I wanted to train in. Still, the CardioMap shows quite a bit of speed heart rate zone (on the map in red) which I would like to bring down to hard heart rate zone. I’m also considering to increase the recovery periods to 4 minutes to give the heart rate more chance to drop.

I hope my training has inspired you to try and set up your own custom interval training. If you have a great training to share please do so in the comments or email us at workouts@theappcauldron.com with screenshots and we’ll feature it here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014



Today is #GivingTuesday, the national day of giving back ahead of the festivity-packed Christmas and holiday season. We want to take out a moment to thank those that have already supported us with their generous donations and contributed directly to making version 5.0 of Track Runner as epic as we imagine it can be. Thank you for valuing our app and investing in its future!

For those of you who just heard about our fundraiser for version 5.0 or haven’t had the chance to contribute yet, we appreciate donations in any amount via our convenient PayPal donating option. You can also support us by using an Amazon affiliate link from our product review page.

Make #GivingTuesday count for your favorite running app. Share the link to our donation page (https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=25LXU8J576B4L) and spread some Track Runner love!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Remote Turkey Trot 5K

Thanksgiving weekend is coming up and with it a season best known for record times between the fridge and the sofa. There’s nothing like a little friendly competition amongst Track Runners to keep us all moving so we organized the first Remote Turkey Trot 5K race.

It’s super simple: All you do is go to your favorite 5k track/trail/route a few minutes before the official starting time (see table below), start a run (can be freestyle or pacer), get the live-tracking link for your active run and tweet it out using the #TrackRunnerApp tag – and bang, you’ve entered. Simply start running at your designated starting time and let the world watch in awe as you break your – and hopefully anybody else’s – record.

Well, it depends… We are so blessed to have Track Runner users from all over the world. We tried hard to find a time that would work with most time zones so as many as possible could participate. For most of us,the race will be on
Saturday, November 29, 2014
although our friends from India, Australia, and New Zealand will be running on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014. The table below shows some popular race times but you can always go by GMT to calculate your own. (Please check whether your country is currently observing daylight savings time as this will affect your calculations in relation to GMT).
10AM 11AM 1PM 2PM 7PM 8PM 12:30AM Sunday 8AM Sunday

When you are live-tracking a run it means that the app creates a link to a Google Maps website* on which watchers can follow your run if you share the link on Twitter or other social networks. Watchers can also cheer you on and you will be able to hear their comments via voice notifications if you are using headphones or have the volume turned up.
To turn live tracking on, start a run (or pacer run), then hit the back button to navigate to the “tracking paused” screen. Tap “live tracking” (bottom left) and choose a sharing option. For Windows Phone 8.1 users: Please note that direct Twitter sharing has not been made available as of yet so you will have to use the copy URL option and paste the link into your Twitter client (don’t forget to tag it with the #TrackRunnerApp hashtag so watchers will find you). Watchers please note that it can take up to a minute after the runner started his run for the map to show up. If you see Track Runner’s app store page keep hitting refresh until the Google Map appears.
wp_ss_20141125_0001 wp_ss_20141125_0002 wp_ss_20141125_0004

Great! Take this turkey trot as your first race. Aim for the finish line, don’t stress about timings. We’ve all started out at some point and are excited to share our hobby with all of you new to running so I am sure you will find the running community supportive and the experience energizing and rewarding!
In that spirit, have an awesome race on Saturday and make sure you share those live tracking links!

*Privacy advice: Since the point of the remote race is to share your run with Twitter (and Facebook) followers/friends and your route will be visible publicly, we recommend that you don’t start your race at your front door.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Help us make Track Runner v. 5.0 a reality!

We have some innovative new features planned for Track Runner and are working tirelessly to make them happen. Track Runner’s hallmark are its intuitive, highly customizable training options and we are gearing up to take them to another level. This is exciting and fun but also expensive. We’d love to spend most of our time working on Track Runner v. 5.0 and the good news is you can help us achieve just that! 

There is no doubt you love Track Runner based on the awesome feedback and reviews we are getting. And we have received many requests to add a donate button to the app so you can show your appreciation in actions rather than words.

Here are ways to help us get you running with Track Runner v. 5.0:

  • Click here to donate or use the PayPal Donate button in the top right corner of this page. PayPal accepts credit cards, too, so you won’t even need an account to send us your gift. Pro tip: For some extra love, make it recurring with a simple tick of a box! 
  • Product reviews: Browse our new section “product reviews” for our take on BTLE heart rate monitors and other gear and gadgets. If you feel inspired and are ready to get the product, simply use our Amazon Affiliate links to buy them on Amazon. Do us a big favor and complete your Amazon holiday shopping including the linked product while you’re there and you will have given us a Christmas gift as well. :)
  • Share, share, share: use social media to let your family and friends know about our app and our fundraiser. Like Track Runner on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and spread the donate link to show us you care!


We are determined to keep Track Runner free of charge and without annoying banner ads while cranking out those sweet updates. The App Cauldron is invested in the Windows Phone running community – now it’s your turn to invest in us!

In that sense: Ready, Set, DONATE!

Sarah & The App Cauldron Team

wp_ss_20141117_0001 wp_ss_20141117_0003 wp_ss_20141117_0002

Friday, August 22, 2014

A sneak peek at Track Runner’s next updates – Uber me Home?

Track Runner is a product of our passion for running. We developed, tweaked, listened, iterated, but never compromised to deliver the best rated Windows Phone running app. And we are always thinking ahead to further enhance the training experience for our users. With our next update to Track Runner v4, we’re adding custom distances to the pacer and improved sharing on Facebook. We also put additional heart rate sensors through their paces and will be adding these to our list soon. This update will be out in the next few days.
So – how can we improve on this? What are the problems typically faced by runners? And how can we solve them? Like every self-respecting startup, we analyzed our data and this is what we found:
13% of runs end more than 1 km (.6 miles) away from their starting location. Typically, these runs follow some of the most beautiful trails in the country, like the Boston Charles River path. So – instead of carefully planning a loop (hello, 53%) that will be either too short or too long, wouldn’t it be great if you could just run? And at the end, an Uber car will magically appear, maybe even hand you a towel, and take you home.
Remember that Track Runner is Master of Maps? “Any app with a map is a potential Uber API partner”, says Uber. So we had a go… Our experimental Uber integration comes with the following features:
pacer screen surrender popup improved start screen
  • “Uber @ finish line”: Thanks to our track recognition and the pacer, an Uber car is dispatched automatically to your projected finishing location, waiting to take you home after your run.
  • “Surrender to Uber”: If your pacer training is not going as expected, soften the blow with a royal trip home.
  • Uber me home: Just run and order an Uber with one tap whenever you’re ready.
We usually do not share our experimental features publicly. However, we are making an exception here and want to hear from you! What do you think about the utility and convenience of these features? If you would like to be one of the first to try Uber integration, why not join our beta program by emailing betatester@theappcauldron.com?
Time for “Surrender to Uber?”

Sunday, August 17, 2014

How to improve your PR: Improve your race strategy with the Pacer (and learn how to use pacing in your training)

Success can be measured in many ways. Success can mean even making it to the track, it can be managing a mile without stitches, 5k without walking or maximizing the kcal burned over a long sustained run. But for many of us success is measured in breaking our personal records. One clever tool that helps many of our users to improve upon their PR is the Pacer. wp_ss_20140817_0001

For those who aren’t familiar with Track Runner’s Pacer: This feature helps you stick to a predetermined pace by guiding you through the run with voice notifications. If you want to run 5k in 30 minutes for example, the pacer keeps you running at a constant speed by telling you to slow down if you steam ahead in the beginning or speed up if you’re not quite on track to finish in your chosen time. It’s super simple to set up and gives your training the extra edge. 

But the Pacer isn’t just for pros, it doesn’t judge, it just gives us the extra kick we may need to keep on target.I have been working on technique as of lately as my goal is to improve my stride rate and aerobic fitness and have used the pacer to discipline myself more so than to achieve new PRs. My new routine is running every other day with the following pattern: 5k, 10k, recovery (anything between 3k and 7k) and I use the pacer most of the time. The 5k is about pushing and shaving off seconds of my personal best but the other two distances are really about managing my resources, staying in a moderate heart rate zone and being consistent. These are the runs where I hone my stride rate (up to 176 steps per minute now!) and try to maintain a relatively low heartbeat while still moving forward (harder than it sounds ;)

As you can see on the pictures, the pacer has (mostly) kept me in check and even made recovery runs still feel like a fun challenge.

wp_ss_20140817_0001 wp_ss_20140817_0002

Pushing hard to improve my PR

Time for a recovery run! Cardio Map below in large.











What do you use the pacer for?  Let us know on Facebook (http://facebook.com/trackrunnerapp), Twitter (@trackrunnerapp) or in the comments!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

OneDrive integration? Pace heat map? Additional language? Music Player? Vote for your favorite feature request!

Just over a week ago we launched our new user voice site at http://trackrunner.uservoice.com for you to suggest new ideas, report bugs and browse our knowledge base to find out more about some common questions – for example Which heart rate monitors does Track Runner support or How to fix voice notification issues. Already there are some great ideas and if you have an idea of your own, don’t be shy and post it here or vote for your favorite idea! You can also use the user voice site to submit bug reports (click on “Contact Support” on the right side of the page). We love to hear from you!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Track Runner v4 with Heart Rate Monitor Support and SensorCore Integration

We are incredibly excited to announce the latest version of Track Runner has just gone live. Before I go into explaining all the new features, thank you to our amazing team who worked so hard on this update. Our last update was extremely well received, but we wanted to make this one even better, and I think we achieved that.

We do get a lot of Feedback, and we enjoy reading every single piece and responding to it. One particular request we see all the time is heart rate monitor (HRM) support. We absolutely get it – heart rate helps runners understand their performance level and allows for a much more focused training experience. Truth of the matter is, we simply couldn’t offer broad heart rate monitor support due to technical restrictions in Windows Phone 8.0, but we certainly designed the app with this feature in mind.

Thankfully, with Windows Phone 8.1, this is a thing of the past. We are now able to support Bluetooth 4.0 heart rate monitors. Strictly speaking any such monitor should work, but we do have a list of tested devices in our new knowledgebase. To be clear, on Nokia phones you’ll also need the Cyan update to use heart rate monitor support, but thankfully that is rolling out quickly. See this page on Nokia’s website for more information on Cyan availability.

We thought very hard and long how we could make heart rate data as awesome an experience as possible. And this is what we came up with:

  • customizable heart rate zones: you don’t have to know exact bpm values to train efficiently. Just browse the 5 heart rate zones (settings – heartrate) to see which ones you want to utilize in your training and voice notification will help you stay “in the zone”. If you know your max and/or resting heart rate you can make the zones fit you even better.
  • post-training analysis: beside giving your average bpm and max heart rate of your run, we integrated heart rate into the pacer graph so you can see how much stress that crazy fast mile put onto your system. We also provide your average heart rate split by split.
  • Cardio Map: If you trained with your HRM the diary will now show a Cardio Map after your training. The route appears in the colors of the heart rate zones so you can see which parts you ran in which zone. And if you think that’s neat why not share the map on social networks? Because you can!
  • statistics page: it’s been a long time coming but the ominous “?” is gone and replaced by your average heart rate – with time span selection as usual
  • gear: heart rate monitors are completely integrated into gear tracking so you can track their mileage. You can also set your default HRM. For information on your HRM’s battery level just pause the run from any run screen.


Trackrunner.v4-SC-9.Settings TrackRunner.v4-SC5.1.DiaryTop TrackRunner.v4-SC.1.Track_Run TrackRunner.v4-SC.8.Gear

Here’s a big screenshot of the Cardio Map that can be shared to social networks (you’ll need the Twitter Beta to share to Twitter, the current release version of Twitter does not support Windows Phone 8.1’s new sharing features we’re taking advantage of).


The diary’s much improved landscape modus:


At this point we expect you to say “wow”. But that’s not all: This update also includes support for Nokia / Microsoft’s SensorCore technology, enabling Track Runner to use motion data during your run. Obviously you’ll need a SensorCore enabled phone for these features, but the good news is that the new Lumia 635 and Lumia 630 cost less than $100! We’ve been testing with these devices for a few weeks, and we really like them. They’re great for running and definitely recommended. So, what kind of motion data are we talking?

  • Cadence Analysis: Being able to count steps means that we can compute your stride rate. That’s great news for runners, since increasing the stride rate can help minimize injuries. A good stride rate should be around 180 (but you may want to check with your orthopedist). We found the data to be very reliable, as long as the phone is inside a pocket. Armbands are discouraged.
  • Cadence Analysis is completely integrated into Gear tracking – allowing you to compare your stride rate on different shoes to help you decide which ones are best. To make sure that interval training – you may stop or walk during rest phases – does not skew the data, we’ve made sure to exclude interval training workout from average stride rate computations for shoes.
  • Auto-Pause and Auto-Resume: Pauses your run after 5-10s of inactivity. This works great at traffic lights, but to trigger it you need to completely stop running. Jogging in place will not trigger Auto-Pause. The run is automatically resumed once you’re running again (this takes about 20 meters / 20 yards.) We’re hoping to improve this a little bit with further updates, but once you remember to not move for a few seconds, it works great.

There is so much to this update, and the last few weeks we’ve been exclusively testing. We believe the app is very stable now, but if you do encounter some problems, please let us know via the in-app feedback form or at http://trackrunner.uservoice.com. Clicking the green question mark on the bottom right of this page will also get the job done.

Lastly, all of these features are available for free. There’s no catch – no in-app purchase, no ads, no terribly annoying rating reminders. We don’t compromise, and neither should you, so give Track Runner a go if you’re not already using it. If you like the app, please leave a 5-star rating on the Windows Phone Store.

Thank you.

Sarah & The App Cauldron Team

Sunday, July 20, 2014

We care about your opinion - give us feedback on uservoice

We love to hear from you, whether it be praise or suggestions on how to make Track Runner even better. If you have this crazy awesome idea for Track Runner (or maybe for another app we should make?) you can tell us all about it at trackrunner.uservoice.com. Even more convenient: Click the question mark at the bottom right of this blog and submit your idea or feedback in two quick steps.

We will build on our knowledge base as we go along and you'll be able to find lots of helpful info as well as tips and tricks there. But even better, you'll be able to vote up your ideas to let us know what's the next hot feature you urgently need in Track Runner.

So, have a browse and tell us what you think!

Thank you for training with Track Runner.

The App Cauldron Team

Friday, May 30, 2014

Track Runner Version 3.0 brings Interval Trainer and Pacer

We are very excited to announce that version 3.0 of Track Runner just went live, bringing interval workouts and a lot more. So for those of you that can’t wait – get it here: http://www.windowsphone.com/s?appid=95c6a10c-84a7-4c26-98eb-5d6b9df93698. So, what’s new in this update?


There are a lot of activity trackers, but we wanted to turn Track Runner into your personal running coach. Does your coach babble on about your training being “half way done” when in fact you are sitting on a park bench and having an ice cream? (I wouldn’t want that as my coach!) The new intervals feature in Track Runner analyses your performance during your training and gives you voice cues to speed up or slow down so you train at the right level.

Preset are four interval workouts for different skill levels that adjust to your progress. But you can just create your own custom training in a few taps. Combinations are endless (figuratively speaking) with distance and time based intervals and adjustable intensity.

After your interval workout you can analyze your performance in your diary which shows you an interval by interval breakdown on how you have done.

TrackRunnerScreenshotIntervalTraining TrackRunnerScreenshotCreateTraining 9IntervalAnalysis


Pacer is a neat feature that I can personally see replacing freestyle runs most of the time. If you want to run 5k in 28 minutes for example, the pacer guides you through your run so that you keep running at a constant speed and don’t steam ahead in the beginning and are too exhausted in the end. It is great for improving your personal best. Advanced runners can enable negative splits, an effective strategy to improve race times and train energy conservation.


Redesign part 2:

We also continued redesigning the user interface. From diary to stats we made sure that entries are easy to read and pleasant to look at. The Performance Genius also got a facelift and countless other pages a bit of a tidy.

DIary1 Diary2 DIary5

8GeniusMisc. and bug fixes:

Finally, a few more tweaks: you can now challenge a friend via social networks to beat your record once you set one. We expanded the Help/FAQ section with useful tips about the new features as well as syncing runs and GPX import/export. We  fixed some bugs and improved stability. For example, if you had problems with your records being off or returning –8s after you imported a run from another tracking app into Track Runner, recalculating them (settings – general) will fix this issue.

We hope you’ll enjoy trying out our new features and are always happy to hear from you if you have any questions or suggestions.

Happy running!

Sarah & The App Cauldron Team

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fitness Is in the Air – The App Cauldron Celebrating #MobileFit Month

Our friends from WP Central declared June to be #MobileFit month and our App Cauldron team is tackling the challenge head-on.

To give June a run for its money expect a Track Runner update end of May! Much thinking, tinkering, coding and testing has gone into this one but it is well worth it we think. We’ll get into the details once the update is published but let me promise you this: it answers our most popular feature request and in many way surpasses expectations. More soon.

While we finish up and put our last testing in – beautiful running weather here in Boston – we also look ahead. We are currently working on two more fitness apps that will sweeten MobileFit month for the more casual fitness/wellness junkie. Working with cutting edge software in cooperation with Microsoft, the apps will put soon to be released Windows Phone technology to maximum use.

Testing with all our phones

While Microsoft is kindly promoting Track Runner in its Windows Phone stores we’ll also be active spreading the word at the Heartbreak Hill Festival and in cooperation with local running groups. But of course we know that most of you out there have an iPhone or an Android device and I stopped counting “Is the app available for …” when it reached 3 figures. With that in mind and convinced that runners will benefit from Track Runner’s newest features, we have built up a small fleet of test devices. So if you don’t have a Windows Phone but would like to test the app – for example to blog about it - please shoot us an email on “TestTrackRunner@theappcauldron.com”.

Be active – not just in June – and enjoy training with Track Runner!

Sarah and The App Cauldron Team

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Rating Reminder v A Hungry Child in the Backseat

I hate rating reminders. Let me repeat that: I hate rating reminders. I hear you ask “But aren’t you a developer? Surely you want your users to give you feedback?”. Sure yes, and we do have a gentle reminder ourselves (which you won’t see unless you actually use Track Runner). But a recent trend in the Windows Phone World, fuelled by Microsoft’s decision to include ratings in the store ranking algorithm, is to be as pushy as possible. I installed one app today and updated another one. Each greeted me with “Rate me!”.*

What is worse is their persistence. If i don’t want to rate an app, I don’t want to rate it. Unfortunately, the “No thanks” button usually leads to a “Can we make it better?” question. (A: Yes – remove that annoying reminder please.) Tapping that away leaves me breathing space until the next launch… somehow this reminds me of early 00s style websites that you couldn’t close without going through 10 silly popups asking you whether you’re sure you want to leave.

I understand these developers; Being far up in the search results is critical to the success of an app, and with rating quantity and quality both being a factor for search position, those ratings may translate to real-life dollars and euros. I wonder though what users think of this – my guess is that they don’t like the constant reminders.

I think Microsoft should play the grown-up here who puts an end to overly annoying reminders. Maybe the OS could determine the time you spend with an app and handle the rating reminders instead of the app itself. That would level the playing field a bit and users would hopefully find this a much nicer experience that the current rate me craze.

*: I resisted the urge to give them 1 star for being annoying.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Track Runner v. 2.0

I am thrilled to announce that Track Runner’s major update has just been submitted and will be out shortly. AppListWhiteBG

As this is a  significant update both on the content and design front we’re going to give you a proper walkthrough video soon. For now, let’s take a sneak peek at the new look and features you’ll be able to enjoy.

We’ve expanded Track Runner’s statistics, now offering elevation profile, weather data, and a first glance view of your most recent achievements.

We’ve revamped the run screens which now feature a battery saving option as well as the large and small map screens. When pausing the run, an easy to navigate menu offers quick help and access to all the necessary run settings among other features.

Most notable in this context is our coolest new social feature: live tracking. You can send your friends a link via facebook or text message and they can follow your run and even cheer you on while you’re running. Messages are read out to you via voice notifications as you go so it’s a guaranteed motivator. Speaking of motivation: if live cheering doesn’t get you on the track, maybe our new live tile with gentle reminders will do the trick.

Another neat new feature is gear tracking. This allows you to track your mileage on your shoes or other running gear. Once you’ve added your gear, the app will keep track of additional mileage automatically while you watch in amazement how well your favorite running shoes are holding up. 

It wouldn’t be an update without plenty of bug fixes and we want to sincerely thank you for giving us great feedback to keep improving our app. Thanks to your input, we considerably improved handling, language support, stability, and support on low memory devices.

TwitterIconLast but not least, we’ve completely redesigned Track Runner and think we’ve achieved a much sleeker, calmer UI experience. Special thanks goes to Emily Theis for our new app tile and some font guidance. We also thank Arturo Toledo (whom much of our run screen redesign is owed to) for keeping us “on the grid.” :)

I hope you like our new look and are looking forward to exploring the new features as well. For those who aren’t yet using Track Runner there’s even better news: the app is now completely free and still without annoying advertisement or sign up requirements. So, what are you waiting for? GET! IT! NOW! http://www.windowsphone.com/s?appid=95c6a10c-84a7-4c26-98eb-5d6b9df93698

                                     The App Cauldron Team

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Quantity v Quality in App Stores (Part 1)

Apple, Google and Microsoft all brag about the number of apps in their respective stores. Today, at DVLUP Day New York City in front of a crowd of 250 aspiring WP8 developers, Nokia shared that 400K apps developed by (apparently) 450K developers* made it into the Windows Phone Store to date (see https://twitter.com/dvlup/status/447363457336111104/photo/1). In absolute terms, this does not compare well to Google’s & Apple’s 1 million+ apps, but in relative terms the Windows Phone platform improved from about 20% to about 40% the number of apps available in the iOS Store over the last year. (All numbers from PR releases and Wikipedia).

At first glance, that is good news for both users and developers in the Windows Phone ecosystem: Users benefit from a wider app selection, happy users lead to greater adaption and thus more downloads for developers. So – with such a rich app selection, and virtually every paid app on Windows Phone offering a free trial, we should expect to see a high number of downloads per app? Unfortunately not. In November 2013 (http://techcrunch.com/2013/11/20/windows-phone-now-sees-10m-transactions-and-500-new-apps-daily-has-served-3b-total-downloads/), Microsoft announced 3 billion downloads. That was four months ago, and with 16 million daily downloads today the number should now be at most 5 billion. That equates to less than 12,500 downloads per app, which is less than a quarter of Apple’s & Google Play’s north of 50,000.

Surprised? If you looked at the Windows Phone store recently, you may have noticed that many of the 400.000 apps just aren’t very good. There are some great Windows Phone apps out there, beautifully designed and packed with amazing features. But many others really shouldn’t be there and Microsoft should never have let them into the store. We’re guilty too – we recently published a bunch of apps for the DVLUP NFC challenge. The sole purpose was to test a few app ideas and collect DVLUP XP at the same time. Don’t check them out, they’re of no use without an NFC tag (of limited use even with one) and will be taken offline soon. Many apps on Windows Phone are plainly awful. They are either terribly designed and constantly crashing or the 700th Flappy Bird clone.

Compare this with iOS – from amazing utility apps to awesome games, most apps are great. Well designed, thought through, well developed and tested. Trainyard, Notability, Doodle Jump, Instagram, Snapchat and so on were all initially designed for iOS, and while some of them are now available on WP8, the gems in the making are likely developed on iOS and perhaps Android. That’s a shame, because Windows Phone is a superbly designed OS that runs great on lower cost hardware, is very easy to develop for and for most parts provides excellent documentation and a friendly developer community.

In Part 2 of this post, I’ll look at what attracts quality developers (Hint: paying $100 to each developer publishing an app it is not), why Microsoft’s in-app ad solution is an insult to developers and why we here at the App Cauldron develop for Windows Phone.

(* More developers than apps suggest a few may have registered for different purposes. Perhaps because installing cracked apps via http://www.g***s-wpd.com & co requires a WP developer Account?)

Monday, March 10, 2014


It’s been fairly quiet here I know and that’s because the Cauldron Team is working like busy bees on the complete redesign. Thanks to our beta testers, the content for our next huge update is tested, debugged, improved and ready to run so once we’ve finalized the new look Track Runner is going to be better than ever!

For a sneak peek of what you can expect: Gear tracking! Weather data! Elevation profile!

And there’s more. So much more, we’ll make a short film out of it. ;)

So, thank you for your patience while we’re putting the finishing touches in place and we hope you look forward to the big update.

Cheers! The App Cauldron Team

PS: Upcoming: A MWC recap including Zombies! Stay tuned.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Running Streak – Catch Up

I realize I have failed in my ambitious plan to run everyday and blog about it frequently. At least I have kept the running bit up as our twitter followers may have noticed from my daily #RunningStreak tweets. I have been running for 26 days in a row now (haven’t had a chance to dash out yet today) and it is definitely starting to show in the gooreservoir frozen1d as well as the bad.

The good: I live on a bit of a hill (readers from Switzerland and Colorado insert condescending snort here ;)) and it can be quite cruel to run up at the end of a run. Thanks to my frequent neighborhood dashes it is getting easier and easier though which has to be good for my cardiovascular fitness and certainly my ego. I tend to get a bit of a stiff neck when working as I am mostly crammed behind a laptop or staring at the small screen of my Lumia 521. Running shakes up the neck muscles nice and proper and although it feels quite rough at times, my neck is in a much better condition generally. My body is clearly melting fat and turning it into muscle – admittedly one of the reasons I started running in the first place. And lastly, I get to see beautiful sights like this frozen pond for as long as I can stand running in the cold. 

winter storm warning cropped

The bad: All the muscle building comes at a cost. Muscle ache, stiffness of legs just short of cramping – you probably know the drill. One of my toes is not coping well with the constant use (maybe I should have a gait analysis at some point?). Plus, running every day can be a source of stress. It takes time (which is why I often dash out in the night) and the weather requires constant planning and reconsidering plans (will it be warmer in 2 hours? Do I prefer it warmer and snowing or colder and not? When is the sun setting? Wearing the right outfit according to temperature etc.). I have to do laundry every other day which again takes time. And sometimes I just want a break. But then…

The ambitious: Giving up now is not really an option. Pulling through for not even a month is just sad. And I can’t really make my mind up about an “exit strategy” that does not feel like failure. It is also undeniably useful in terms of bug-fixing to run and test every day. We are working on a bunch of awesome features right now, some already in beta and some to be released within the week. And it is a pleasure to see the app grow and progress and make it better by own experience. So, we’ll see how far I get. At least with live cheering in beta, I’ll always have some nice company. :)

The bottom line: I do not regret having started the challenge and most of the time, the good things far outweigh the bad. So, I’ll just crack on and see how it goes, And maybe I even inspire some of you to do the same.

So, take care and keep it up!


Friday, January 17, 2014

Track Runner Wins Nokia Create Master Mission Maps & Places

We are proud to announce that Track Runner was chosen the winner of Nokia Create’s Maps & Places Master Mission. Nokia Create is a global app development competition looking for innovative new apps for Nokia and Windows Phone 8 in a series of categories, among them clever use of Windows Phone’s maps & places.

champagne_celebrationsWe thought entering the competition was worth a shot given Track Runner’s unique track and lap recognition but winning still came as an awesome surprise and great distinction.

Nokia Developer News commended our app the following way: “Track Runner impressed us in the Maps & Places Mission for its innovative use of mapping to satisfy the specific desires of runners. Using precision GPS, Track Runner knows when a user is running laps and automatically calculates lap time and splits.”

Prizes include a showcase at the Mobile World Congress and app promotion via Windows Phone store and Nokia’s App Social channels.

You can read more about the competition and prizes we won in this press release.

On that note… someone get a glass…!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Winter Running – The Running Streak Continues

Shame on me, I have not been blogging as much as I planned to. However, in better news I have run at least a mile every day since January 1, making today the 8th successful day of my running streak. For those of you following Track Runner on Twitter, you will be quite up to date with my running endeavors. For everybody else: Follow @TrackRunnerApp to cheer me on and hold me accountable. If I am not blogging here, I will post a tweet or Facebook message about my daily run so I can’t cheat!

I must say I am still getting used to the daily running routine. It seems to take up a lot of time planning, obsessing about weather stats (notice the subtle addition to our beta since I’ve been running in the freezing cold?), recovering, recovering some more, washing, dressing in layers, undressing the layers… you get the picture. Surprisingly, I have not had any injuries and not much pain after the rather excessive muscle ache of the first three days and I have a feeling I get into a rhythm as far as the running is concerned. The cold is a clear motivator not to be too slow or stagnant.

run1-6-2014diary1Another thing that really motivates me is to combine doing errands with running. I’ve “dashed” to the local CVS for some toothpaste and even visited “nearby” Newton Centre (a 9 km roundtrip) where I treated myself to some Starbucks coffee before returning in the darkness. Instead of using the cardio equipment at the gym, I run as a warm up (how ironic given therun1-6-2014diary4 current temps) and simply do lifting after some recovery.

I know many people run to clear their head or have time to think but somehow I have not yet reached a state where I can do that. Possibly because I have been mainly running on sidewalks and roads (parks etc. seem a bit too dangerous at the moment with frozen over puddles galore) and in the merciless cold, running feels more like a survival training than a quality “me-time.” I think that’s why I am very much into having a clear destination for a run, it feels better to have achieved something and be able to say: Hey, who needs a car. Look what I have accomplished on my own two feet. :)

Speaking of “achieving something” – of course I am testing Track Runner in extreme conditions and although it’s not always plain sailing, it helps a lot with development to run with and experience the app and the progress on a day to day basis. May of the newer additions were inspired by runs in the last 8 days. It is thanks to my Newton Centre trip in the dark that we have been experimenting with live tracking as a safety net. It was me typing in weather information by hand in a tedious back and forth between weather app and Track Runner that made us add weather data by default. But we have also received many requests and user feedback that helped us improve the app. Big cheers to our beta testers, who are eagerly playing with the new features to make them “release-worthy”!

run1-6-2014diary2run1-6-2014diary3I hope you enjoy reading about my winter running and drop in again soon when I write more about the gear that makes running in the cold bearable.

Until then, stay warm and happy.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Days 2 and 3 – Playing in the Snow

run1-3-2014thirdcroppedDays two and three of my running streak challenge were dominated by what was announced to be a major snowstorm. It was supposed to start at 4 A.M. on Thursday and continue until 10 A.M. today (Friday) so I decided to go for a past midnight run on Thursday. I actually started running when the first snow fell and it turned out to be a good call, knowing that it would only get colder and snowier from then on. I only did 2.7k and it was great to be running in sleepy Brighton/Newton, undisturbed by cars. While Track Runner was working reliably on my Lumia 521, I had a bit of a measuring up the competition field day (or night) with our company HTC. It gave us valuable insights into how not to handle certain situations as we are driving forward the January update. Temperatures were not too bad at -7° C/19° F and my winter running clothes kept me mostly warm although there was room for improvement in the setup.
Thursday brought ample snow but not the raging storm we expected. A bit of a let down for nature sensationalists like me to be honest. ;) Nonetheless, I enjoyed not having to run in the new snow/sleet and was rewarded by beautiful sunshine this morning which made me seize the (running) day and show those -11° C/12° F who’s not afraid of the cold. And luckily, the improvements I made to my running outfit and the general getting used to colder temperatures meant that I enjoyed most of my icy winter run (or snow trot). The only problem was the snow “walls” that people shoveling their driveway left at each side or at the side of the road. I can’t believe how egoistic people can be to only shovel their own driveway and not even think to leave a hole/path for the sidewalk. (Sorry for ranting but it had to be said!). Needless to say my shoes were quickly drenched from ramming them into the deep snow and that made me return quite early. But honestly, I am starting to like the daily runs and it feels good to be active around this time of year. I hope you give it a try! Any tips are also very welcome!
The App Cauldron’s Sarah.
P.S.: This is a special shout out to one of our most loyal beta testers who has been testing Track Runner in rural Alaska. You can read about his adventures here. He also wrote a great side-by-side comparison piece on testing Track Runner v. Runtastic Pro v. Endomondo, which you can read here and here. Thanks @Alaskanjackson, and I bow to you every time I hit the sub zero Celsius streets of Boston.