Magellan Echo Running Watch: GPS + Bluetooth Join Forces

Magellan-Echo

Magellan are GPS experts so it’s nice to see that they have finally joined the smart running watch race. But rather than show up late to the party with your arms swinging (a lovely Nigerian expression for when you don’t bring any food or drink to a party), Magellan have a neat, and potentially game changing party trick – Bluetooth Smart connectivity.

Magellan have acknowledge the dominance of smartphones in the current tech landscape – I now sort of automatically expect any device I have to play nicely with my smartphones. This is especially useful when I’m doing something like running and don’t want to be distracted by fiddling with buttons in my pocket. Via the Echo you gain playback control over your music, and can input start, stop or lap controls – handy if you want to take a quick breather or if New Edition starts playing and you’re not in a New Jack Swing mood.

Echo-Running-Man

In what I consider to be a nice touch, the Echo wirelessly connects smartphone fitness apps like Strava, MapMyRun, Runtastic and RunKeeper to your wrist rather than making you upload utilise a bespoke app and related ecosystem. The data is displayed in real time and leverages the Wahoo API found in things like the RFLKT.

Echo-Water

If you’re a hardened running pro, you’ll be pleased to know that the Echo is just as tough as you and has a ruggedized, water-resistant design giving you no excuses not to fight your way through damp running conditions (other than “it’s cold and I don’t want to”, which is what normally stops me).

Magellan opted for a replaceable battery to avoid charging issues. I have a USB-powered sports watch that is sitting in need of a charge by the side of my bed so I can see the wisdom in this decision – but I do like the general idea of rechargeable batteries from an environmental perspective at least.

The exact UK release date is unknown but should be some time towards the end of this year. What is know is that the Echo will be out in three colours – Black, Cool Blue or Warm Red. US pricing is $149.99 or $199.99 with a Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate Monitor.

Magellan SmartGPS: Map to the future

There’s GPS and then there’s GPS. And then passed that and at the next right is Megellan SmartGPS, a device that integrates social, local and mobile content, including Yelp and Foursquare, through Magellan’s cloud-enabled Smart Ecosystem.

Smart-GPS

The Magellan SmartGPS is the first navigation device to wirelessly sync your navigation data, (favourite places, contacts), with smartphones or regular computers, and to intelligently deliver stored and dynamic location-based information to the GPS display that is personalised to the driver’s locale.

“Magellan pioneered the GPS navigation industry, and in today’s socially-driven world, we recognise that consumers want and need a much more comprehensive navigation solution that surpasses what traditional GPS devices and smartphones can offer.”

Peggy Fong, President of MiTAC Digital Corporation.

The SmartGPS does this via its contact with with Magellan’s custom-built Smart Ecosystem, an extensive cloud-based database of constantly-updating, location-relevant social media and navigation content automatically pushed to the SmartGPS display.

There’s obviously core navigation features and on-board maps but everyone has those these days – even my phone. The SmartGPS goes one up with valuable, timely information so you can discover places and services around you at the right place and right time. The screen can simultaneously display maps, navigatation, and reviews, tips and offers from Yelp and Foursquare for nearby restaurants, stores and services.

The display works off a series of location-relevant information “squares” that are displayed on the SmartGPS screen and graphically flip between service establishments in the vicinity. Tapping on a square displays detail info including the address, phone and any available special offers or consumer reviews, plus an icon to navigate to their selected destination. In addition, the SmartGPS delivers current gas prices in the vicinity, weather, traffic events and speed camera warnings.

A smartphone Bluetooth connection can also be used to update the SmartGPS information squares with the freshest, dynamic content as the SmartGPS pairs with your phone automatically when you enter the car. You can use this connection for an “always on” connection and to place hands free calls through the SmartGPS.

The Magellan SmartGPS is also compatible with Magellan’s award-winning Wireless Back-up Camera ($149.99 MSRP). When the vehicle is in reverse-mode, the SmartGPS will automatically switch from navigation mode to become a rear-view monitor.

Sadly the Magellan SmartGPS is US only for the moment and will be yours (or theirs) for $249.99 from Spring 2013.

Magellan eXplorist GC: Geocache me if you can

How many Geocache enthusiasts does it take to change a lightbulb? I don’t know but it’s probably a co-ordinated effort. Non-Geocachers might not get that … but they can always look it up. Anyway, enough reference humour! Geocaching, if you are unaware, is one of the nerdist outdoor pursuits that I’ve encountered and makes for a great day of family fun for nerds who have defied all odds and managed to breed.

ExploristGC

In basic terms, geocaching is a high tech game of hide and seek, organised through the website www.geocaching.com where you find a bunch of “caches” or hidden log books across the planet. Decipher the clues, find the notebook, write your name in and move on to the next. Like most pursuits the fun is all in the chase.

So where does technology come into all this? Well, obviously you can have a lot of fun geocaching with a regular map, or even an app, hardcore enthusiast play with dedicated GPS devices – including the brand new Magellan Explorist GC – a dedicated Geocaching GPS decive.

A fist-sized green pebble of a device, the eXplorist GC enables out of the box paperless geocaching, preloaded with some popular geocaches. You can connect to a computer via USB and load geocaches using the dedicated PC software – or as the MD assured me, simply drag and drop into the file system if you are a Mac user.

So what’s it like to use? The screen is excellent in bright sunlight and reasonably responsive to play with. The interface about as straight forward as you can imagine with simply icons and limited choices – the sort of thing I’d happily hand over to a young child as part of a family treasure hunt. All the features you’d expect in a dedicated Geocaching device are there – waypoint creation, a worldwide basemap (with an interface that resembles Shadows of the Colossus), active tracking and a trip odometer. Having all your cache info on one device is handy and lets you focus on the thrill of the hunt. If you’re like me you’re probably thinking “can’t my iPhone do all this?” And yes you are right there are apps. But the SiRRstar III GPS chipset makes GPS tracking pretty accurate and most importantly free overseas, where some amazingly free geocaches can be found. And the rugged casing and simple design of the eXplorist GC make for a fun and child-friendly experience.

Out now for a RRP of £179.99