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RunKeeper 3.0 for iOS gets overhauled interface, new features

One of the most popular iPhone fitness apps has a whole new look and some interesting new amenities. But is RunKeeper still the best run manager?

RunKeeper 3 is lookin' good.
RunKeeper 3 is lookin' good.
Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

I usually hang up my running shoes for the winter, but the arrival of RunKeeper 3.0 for iOS makes me want to brave the cold, ice, and snow (of which there's ample supply here in Michigan).

Let me pause here to note that although the App Store is home to many great run-management apps, I've been a RunKeeper fan -- and user -- since way back in 2009. And I'm not alone in my adoration of the app: It's a regular presence on the iTunes top-10-freebies list.

So what's new in version 3.0? The first thing you'll notice is the totally overhauled interface, which replaces the functional but rather plain one from version 2.0 with something attractive, elegant, and familiar: RunKeeper 3.0 borrows the very popular Instagram-style toolbar, with five icons spanning the bottom of the screen for quick switching between important areas.

Thankfully, however, the developers labeled those icons with text, so you're not forced to guess what everything does. (That's long been my bugaboo with Instagram and other apps that have copied that interface approach.)

Overall, I'd say the new RunKeeper looks gorgeous, and it wisely keeps the important stuff (tools and tracking for your next activity) front and center.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Also new in 3.0: improved support for taking and sharing photos in-app, meaning it's now much easier to distribute your post-race snapshots via Facebook and/or Twitter. And if you subscribe to RunKeeper Elite, which you can now do in-app for the regular price of $19.99 annually, you can enable live tracking from the Start screen.

This is a cool feature: it lets your followers (friends, family members, etc.) track your progress on a map and get real-time updates. Developer FitnessKeeper also promises improved tracking accuracy (for iOS 6 users).

One of my favorite carryover features is goals: You can set one for, say, a distance (like running 10 miles, which I did over the summer), or to finish a particular race or lose a certain amount of weight. The app will track your progress and give you encouragement along the way. It also keeps tabs on your PRs (personal records) and lets you choose from a variety of preset training plans (Beginner 5K, Running 4 Fat Loss, to name a few).

In short, I continue to rank RunKeeper as not only the best fitness tracker out there -- it's certainly the best free one -- but also one of the best iPhone apps, period. (An update to the Android version is coming soon.) The new interface is just icing on the cake.

Agree? Disagree? What's your favorite run tracker, and why?