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RunKeeper for Apple Watch lets you leave the iPhone behind

Run, Forrest, Run! One of the most popular exercise trackers for iOS is now native on the Apple Watch. And there's a trick to gain distance accuracy if you know it.

Now that Apple's watchOS 2 is available, developers are starting to turn their apps from iPhone extensions to native apps for the Apple Watch. One of my personal favorites, RunKeeper launched its standalone software on Thursday.

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There are plenty of awesome run-tracking apps for both iOS and Android, such as Strava, Endomondo and others, but I have a whopping six years of running history in RunKeeper, so I've stuck with it. It doesn't hurt that the app has steadily gained useful improvements over time as well.

The newest version doesn't require you to run with your iPhone.

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That means later today I'll be stretching my legs for a few miles and leaving the phone behind. I nearly always train to music which isn't an issue either; that's a built-in function on the Apple Watch, provided you have a good pair of wireless headphones. There are plenty of good options in that regard as well; I use the Plantronics BackBeat Fit.

Of course, there's no GPS radio in the Apple Watch although I expect we'll see that in the next hardware version as Apple fine-tunes battery life. So at first, I was thinking I'll still want to carry my iPhone when running with the new RunKeeper app on my Apple Watch.

Then I had a thought: If the iOS Activity app for Apple Watch can be personally calibrated by running with the iPhone and its GPS radio, might RunKeeper do the same?

The answer is yes, according to Jason Jacobs, CEO and co-founder of RunKeeper. I pinged him on Twitter to ask and he said "Yes, recommended to run paired with phone a few times to calibrate for best results."

I ran through that procedure with the iOS Activity app a few months back and found that the distance and speed tracking became much more accurate, even without a GPS radio in the Apple Watch.

Also, like the Activity app, RunKeeper gathers heart rate data from the watch. That might not be important to everyone, however, I do targeted heart rate zone training for certain race distances, so I'm excited to see the feature.

There is one minor downside: Without a GPS, the watch version of RunKeeper can't provide maps of your run. Luckily, I've pre-set nearly all of my running routes in the past so I should be able to link my training runs with my effort.

RunKeeper is freely available in the iTunes App Store; to get the app on your Apple Watch, simply open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and enable RunKeeper for your watch.