What do most fitness apps have in common? They are generally available for iOS or Android, cost from nothing to just a few dollars, and record certain information over time. Fitness apps track the wearer’s progress and log data. Many of these programs offer voice and video instruction.

These mobile applications have come a long way from the basic step tracker to the sophisticated programs we see today. What are the features that make these apps for Smartphones so popular with the public, from couch potatoes to athletes?

Fitness Filters

Variety among products in this field is so extensive that it’s worth filtering results for your personal activity. You will come up with more than one option for bodybuilding, running, yoga, cycling, or general short fitness sessions. Start with the filter because you really need an app to suit your personal program, not someone else’s. Otherwise, you could spend an hour reading through the details of products you don’t need.

Trainer Tone

The application you choose is also determined, in part, by how much motivation you can stand and the tone you are able to tolerate. Some training apps like CARROT Fit are sarcastic, but Workout Trainer by Skimble just gives you the information without abuse. Certain trainers are so joyful you want to scream, but most keep the tone professional.

Some people need to feel like they’ve been kicked in the gut verbally in order to achieve more, but the average person trying out a new fitness routine for the first time already feels bad about his weight and how much he wheezes when climbing stairs. He doesn’t need to pay someone to call him names.

Free or Fee?

Many fitness apps are available to iOS or Android devices free of charge. Customers receive the basic training programs and ads pop up regularly. If that seems like a small price to pay for free services and you are a beginner, then go for the free stuff every time and tolerate ads for a little while. Paying for an app unlocks more programs, more levels, extra features, and shuts down advertisements.

Don’t pay for more until you are ready to move on and unlock the next level of routines and features. Even though the extras are not that costly, you might not use the services you bought until you realize this is not the program best suited to helping you improve or that a different type of exercise would be better. The app is no good to you now.

GPS and More

A number of apps, like those for runners and cyclists, incorporate GPS in order to show athletes their progress and to log routes, help them find appropriate routes for increasingly lengthy runs/rides, and time those runs. They also store data so you can see how you fared this week versus last week’s series of 5k or 10k runs or 50k rides. If you are training for an event this is invaluable support, showing how far you went and how long it took you plus how much more training is needed to meet your goal.

Certain apps can somehow even determine how intense the workout was and how many calories you burned although a large dose of estimation is involved in the process. Find an application with leaderboards and follow some friendly competition.

Incorporate Customization

Skimble’s Workout Trainer is a customizable app. Sift through their library of routines to determine your favorite series, read shared routines posted by other users, and contribute your own ideas. This is not the only such app. Pocket Yoga allows users to choose a style of yoga, duration, and difficulty level. Johnson & Johnson makes a customizable 7-minute workout as well.

Picking the Best

The best workout app for a bodybuilder will be different from the best such application for a runner. Experienced athletes probably benefit from something more intense than a Couch to 5K, a real app for non-athletes to turn them into 5k runners within weeks. Among the best general fitness applications for iPhone and Android phones is Jawbone’s UP which tells users how many steps they took, calories they burned, and tracks their sleep.

MyFitnessPal combines eating routines with exercise habits, allowing you to set goals and track your progress. Don’t forget those important aspects of fitness: diet and sleep. If sleep and/or food are issues for you, running, cycling, and weight lifting will probably support overall improvement.

For exercise building and tracking, the Johnson & Johnson Official 7 Minute Workout App is ideal. They offer more than 1,000 variations on 70+ moves with a video demonstration before you do the move yourself. The tone is encouraging but practical and professional. Let a real fitness guru be your guide, even become your personal trainer in a sense.

Do squats, mountain climbers, and bicycles for a set period of time before the clock sends you to the next move. Track the routines you have done, how many reps on the clock, and watch yourself get fitter if you are motivated to work hard.