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.

Fitbit Flex Wireless Wristband Activity Tracker

Fitbit-Flex-Slate

It’s widely accepted that our sedentary lifestyles are killing us, which has helped the explosion in activity tracking devices. It’s very easy to let a whole day go by doing very little. Lots of people are apparently caught in the trap of equating exercise solely with going to the gym, which they don’t have time for. This is turn makes it all too easy to just do nothing.

However, it’s easy to miss out on the many, many opportunities that could be beneficial to our wellness. Taking the stairs, travelling by bike, or taking short constitutionals are all beneficial for small, seemingly imperceptible health gains. This is the driving force behind the booming activity tracker market, where tiny devices clip to your body and log all your physical activity, helping you to see where you need to focus to achieve your health goals.

Fitbit-Flex-Black

Fitbit are one of the leaders in this market and I spoke UK Country Manager Peter Groom about the Fitbit Flex, their entry into the wristband activity tracker market. You might know Fitbix from the Zip and One, tiny clip-on trackers that we made mention of almost 6 months ago. In the activity tracker world, Fitbit’s brand is associated with accuracy, something you lose in the transition to wristband devices. Other devices have populated the wristband space – notably Jawbone and the Nike Fuelband.

The Fitbit Flex crams most of the already impressive technical ability of the Fitbit One into a much smaller unit that can easily be wrapped around your wrist without noticing the weight or bulk. The Flex is designed to be worn all the time so this is really important in helping you forget about it and letting it do its job, whilst walking, working or even in the shower. There are obviously trade-offs with this form factor – the lack of altimeter being the most obvious, but the convenience gained is great.

The matte design of the wristband is understated and doesn’t draw undue attention. There’s a tiny display, comprising 5 LED lights that you tap twice to wake and get updated progress information. The number of LED lights illuminated will give you a quick idea of how close you are to your daily goal.

However a lot of clever work has gone into the Bluetooth 4.0 active syncing so if you pull up the accompanying app you can have a comprehensive look at what data it’s pulling up. Peter was keen to highlight the multi-platform approach Fitbit has taken so you use the app, website or PC sync.

Fitbit-Flex-Red

Five taps of the LED display tells the device you’re heading off to bed and it will record you sleep quality – number of hours, number of times you wake and sleep efficiency index. Four taps will tell it you’ve woken up. You can also use the app to set an alarm causing the device to vibrate. It’s *very* weird having a buzzing on your arm as you nap but it’s also very effective. It’s also cool if you want to get up early without waking your partner.

Charging is done via USB (there’s a supplied cradle) and is recommended every 5-7 days. Your app will tell you when the battery level is low. There’s also an accessory pack that gives you Teal, Tangerine and Navy bands for £23, complementing the Black and Slate bands that come with the device.

The Fitbit Flex will be out in late Spring 2013 for £79.99

TomTom GPS Sports Watches: Exercise and Technology – the Perfect Fit?

TomTom-GPS-Sports-Watch

I’m more active that you might expect for someone who edits a gadget website and spends all day and I love any chance I get to combine exercise and technology. I’ve tried many a pedometer the FitBit One being a current favourite) and I love my Withings wireless scales. But one of the coolest fitness I’ve used was the Nike Sportswatch powered by TomTom. So I was interested to hear that TomTom was coming out with a new product that “completely re-designs the GPS Sport Watch.”

TomTom-Running-Man

The new, ultra-slim (11.5 mm) TomTom Runner and TomTom Multi-Sport GPS sport watches feature an extra-large,high-resolution and high-contrast display, full-screen graphical training tools and the headline feature one-button control so it’s easy to access information without slowing down.

Swimming-Sports-Watch

“We know that most GPS watches on the market are too bulky and complicated to use while training. Runners and multi-sport athletes can now view their performance information at-a-glance, making it easier to achieve their fitness goals.”
Corinne Vigreux, managing director, TomTom Consumer.

GPS-Woman-Running

The new watches feature TomTom’s Graphical Training Partner – basically easy-to-read full-screen graphics so you can optimise your workouts with access to relevant information. There are graphical training modes: Run, Goal and Zone. The one button controls are great for navigating key stats (and also just for controlling your watch), especially when running, swimming or cycling (I hate fiddling with buttons in the rain or through cycling gloves). TomTom claim you can use the battery for up to 10 hours in GPS mode which is more than fine for my stamina levels.

TomTom-Cycling

Another great feature is the ability to accurately track indoor runs using built-in sensors to count strides, so your treadmill runs aren’t “lost”. Rather than locking your data down to a proprietary platform you can sync, analyse and share stats on popular running sites and community platforms, including the TomTom MySports website, MapMyFitness, RunKeeper, TrainingPeaks and MyFitnessPal. Long-lasting battery: Up to 10-hour battery life (GPS Mode)

The TomTom Runner and TomTom Multi-Sport will be available in Summer 2013. For more information head to TomTom.

Zone Dome: Get Off the Beaten Track

RunZone

If you’re one of the UK’s 5 million recreational runners and are looking for something to add a bit of sparkle to a mundane slog on the treadmill, perhaps a trip through to rolling grasslands of Mongolia’s Himalayan foothills will give you that extra motivation to push on.

Thanks to the Zone Dome, the latest marriage between fitness and technology and product of self-confessed health and fitness veterans Running Unlimited, you can leave the insect repellent in the cupboard and become immersed in some of the world’s most inspiring locations from the comfort of your home or a local gym. The free-standing, 1.5 metre wide display shows one of five supplied themes that include Monument Valley, Route 66, Humphrey’s Peak, Dawn at Joshua Tree and even Area 51, though you didn’t hear that from us.

Able to select 20 or 40 minute runs at speeds of between 9 and 12 km/h, the Zone Dome is compatible with any treadmill and is aimed at gyms and hotels as well as luxury domestic use. Though unfortunately there’s no audio, we certainly like the idea of being able to run past elephants, giraffes and hyenas in Tanzania’s Serengeti, or trawl the rock-strewn landscapes of Monument Valley, but you might want to start saving the pennies if you’re planning to buy one for the home.

The Zone Dome costs £3,940 for the unit and five supplied destinations, with additional five-film bundles available to purchase as add-ons for £500. However, Running Unlimited says the Zone Dome could be “coming to a gym near you soon” and is currently in negotiations with a range of facilities across the UK, so if you’re not willing to shell out for a unit for the home just yet why not have a word with the manager on your next trip to Fitness First.

For more information and some pretty breathtaking landscapes visit Running Unlimited

Top Fitness Gadgets for 2013

I live alongside a canal, which is a prime running route and these past few days I’ve seen an exponential increase in people giving jogging a go, determined to “finally fit into those jeans”, or some other long-held dream. The numbers gradually dwindle over the month and by early March I can once again walk next to swans, unencumbered by fitness fanatics. That’s obviously because “getting in shape” is a hard, hard task. Fortunately there are some gadgets on hand to help out.

arctic-gym-mat

Arctic Cooling Gym Mat
The Arctic Cooling Gym Mat is an all-in-one gaming system offering a wide range of games and exercises to entertain you and hopefully tighten you up a bit in all the right places. 30 sensor fields detect your position on the mat precisely and display your movements on the TV screen so you can interact with the games. There is a two player mode on some games, so you and a training buddy can shape up – or just get involved in a dance-off.

The Arctic Cooling Gym Mat is £45.35 from www.waeplus.co.uk

Fitbug

Fitbug Air
The Fitbug Air is a wireless activity tracker, which a little dongles that measure every physical thing you get up to (there’s an untapped million dollar industry for whoever makes the first wireless mental activity tracker). The Fitbug Air tracks calories burned, steps taken and aerobic steps (over 100 per minute) so you can see the benefits of your run or walk in real terms. The Bluetooth sync with your phone means that you can also see the benefits in real time so you can track your pace. Fitbug can even send encouraging texts or emails are you a progressing – a handy substitute for friends.

The Fitbug Air can be purchased for £49.99 with a full year’s subscription or £24.99 with £2.99 monthly subscription from www.fitbug.com.

Garmin-forerunner

GARMIN Forerunner 10 Watch
The Forerunner 10 watch by Garmin is ideal for anyone who wants to keep track of their speed, rhythm, distance covered and calories burned when running. With a Virtual Partner mode it is compatible with Garmin Connect, where you can share and analyse your details and progress online with other users. The watch is also waterproof to 50 metres and has a customisable screen. Plus it tells the time.

GARMIN Forerunner 10 Watch is available in black, pink or lime green for £98.52 from www.waeplus.co.uk

iT7-LG

iT7s wireless in-ear headphones
I can’t exercise in silence. The last thing I want when exercising is to be alone with my thoughts. Fortunately iT7 make some pretty great wireless headphones, designed specifically for active use. The iT7s headphones feature Bluetooth technology, making it possible for users to listen to music and take calls during workouts, without being tethered to a mobile or music device by an unwanted wire.

The iT7s headphones are available for £99.99 from the Tesco Phone Shop.

e-Lites

E-Lites E80 Regular (G9) Electronic Cigarette Starter Kit
Perfect for anyone hoping to quit smoking or planning to make love to a robot the E80 E-Cigarette Starter Kit is the ideal introduction to electronic smoking. The Starter kit includes the equivalent of 80 tobacco cigarettes, a rechargeable G9 battery and a practical USB charger. Available in Reds (Regular) Golds (Lights) or Greens (Menthol).

E-Lites E80 Regular (G9) Electronic Cigarette Starter Kit – £23.96 from www.waeplus.co.uk

Withings Internet-Connected Scales: WiFi weight loss

Innovative company Withings have announced the release of the Wireless Scale WS-30, the first in their new line of internet-connected bathroom scales. Combining Bluetooth and wifi connectivity to offer a seamless, PC-free experience from the very first use, the latest Withings technology provides users with an ultra-intuitive experience. The scales provide day-to-day feedback, while the accompanying Withings Health Companion app allows you to take control of your weight anywhere, anytime.

Withings-WS-20

Trailblazers in the world of wellbeing, Withings develop gadgets to help people stay on track with their health goals. Having released the world’s first Wifi-enabled scale in 2009, this latest product takes that concept a step further, providing more simplicity, greater accuracy and a higher degree of flexibility for users.

Easy-to-use Technology and Tools

Once set up, the scale instantly recognises individual users and gives each user access to exclusive Withings services that help with weight management. Whether you want to keep the scales in your bathroom or plan to travel with them, WS-30 is portable and doesn’t even require a computer to use. When no wifi signal is available, you can record your results by connecting to your smartphone or tablet using Bluetooth.

Cédric Hutchings, Co-Founder of Withings, says: “With Wireless Scale, we have simplified even further the way people automatically assess how fit they are. Now anyone can enjoy the benefits of self-measurement in a really simple way without worrying about connectivity.”

Withings-Wireless-Scale

Additional Features

As well as being able to recognize individual users, the scale’s Position Control™ technology provides smart, visual feedback that enables users to properly position themselves for greater accuracy in measurements. Using the app, you can store data about their weight and BMI, which you can then access from anywhere using the Withings Health Companion app. Motivation is the key when it comes to weight loss, and the app is packed with features that encourage goal setting and provide coaching services, you can use the app to generate weight graphs and map your success so far.

All this and more happens automatically as soon as you step on the scale. Graphs and tables are tracked in your personal account, saved for you to view at any time. With the ability to keep track of up to eight different profiles, the scales provide accurate measurements and mapping for the whole family. Each user can choose to keep their data private, or share it with others, such as doctors, coaches or accountability partners.

The Wireless Scale WS-30 is available in Europe from www.withings.com and retails for around €119.95.

Mio Cyclo 105C cycle computer review

Despite the daily threat of physical harm and death I do like cycling to and fro on London roads. In part this is because traffic makes buses agitating and the tube is a hot mess of sweat and agravataion in the summer. But also I like to think that I’m somehow magically getting fitter with all these rides to and from Hackney. I even got a fixed-gear bicycle so I’m peddling the whole time and not coasting down hills or relying too much on gears. But how fit am I really getting? Well the best way to find out is with a cycling computer and Mio were kind enough to lend me one for a week or two to find out (if the suspense is killing you the answer is “not very”).

Mio

Mio have a range of stylish bike computers that record time, speed, distance, altitude and calorie consumption. The computers are equipped with an anti-glare 1.8” screen, simple menu structure and a customisable dashboard. To top that off their computers come with built in GPS so they can track your movements. Not bad for a little device that looks like a chubby Casio watch.

There’s very little set up needed and there’s a distinct “out of the box” feel to package. You will need to place sensors on your wheels and pedals to log all this data and the 105 H which I was testing also had a strap-on heart monitor that you’ll need to pop on around your chest before getting started. The Mio Cyclo 105 series comes with a built-in ANT+ sensor and is compatible with every power meter, so the user can easily monitor performance. The Mio Cyclo 105 H is the same product, but includes a wireless heart-rate monitor in the box.

Cyclo-105_front

The computer itself is a little on the large side and clashed with the polished sleek aesthetic I’ve been trying to hard to achieve on my “ride” but if you’re less vain than I am (i.e., most people), then it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. The casing is rugged and waterproof so ready for most London weather. There’s a charger to power up the device (and the 18 hour battery life is more than good enough for most rides) and you can sync data back to your computer via a micro-USB cable.

This is my main issue with the device actually. It does a *beautiful* job of recording my movements when I’m on the bicycle and is simple and easy to use. But it really falls down at the last hurdle with PC syncing. I simply don’t want to be plugging things into my computers anymore. I’d much rather we entered the world of wireless background syncing. Maybe (definitely) I’ve been spoiled by the world of smartphones and smart personal fitness devices like the FitBit Zip but I want things to be logging my data in the background and then spitting info back at me via an app – the Withings WiFi scale and the FitBit Zip are both perfect examples of this technology. It’s a great way to actually interact with the data you’re providing – and harnesses the power of a computer you actually have on you.

This gripe aside it’s a great device and if you’re serious about your cycling fitness it’s worth checking out.

The Mio Cyclo 105 H is out now for £169.99

FitBit One and FitBit Zip: Taking the slog out of logging

Fitbit-walking

Keeping in shape is hard work and technology has always been around to ease the transition from amorphous blob into chiseled Greek statue.

Unfortunately people are lazy and when you’ve already put so much effort into actually heading to the gym/jogging/pumping iron the last thing you want to do is be carefully noting what you’ve done in a little book or logging routines in an app. I’ve tried countless innovations in search of the body beautiful and I’ve given up on almost all of them. The perfect system it seems, should do all the work for me, leaving me with as little to do as possible.

Enter the Fitbit’s wireless activity trackers – the Fitbit Zip and the Fitbit One. I looked at the Fitbit Ultra system about 9 months ago and it’s nice to see a company take a great concept and continually refine it.

Fitbit-Zip

Fitbits are little trackers you clip to a belt, bra or waistband as you go about your day to day. Unlike tracking systems I’ve used, the Fitbits have really nailed the ease of use aspect of activity monitoring. They come with little USB dongles you can plug into the your laptop and they will automatically sync with your PC. More excitingly Fitbits work in the Post-PC era and utilise BlueTooth Smart to sync with your smartphone for real time progress updates. This is a particularly handy feature as the days of plugging things into to sync data are really numbered and these sorts of background automation systems are a nice glimpse of the future (the Witings wireless scales are another gadget that implements this sort of background updating, app-enhanced monitoring really well).

The Fitbit Zip is a small pound coin sized tracker that comes with a silicon clip and is available in magenta, lime, blue, charcoal and white. It’s charged off a small battery that should last for about 6 months. You can cycle through data by tapping the display or check on your app which should have all the same info about steps taken, distance travelled and calories burned instantly uploaded.

FitBit-One

If you want a tiny bit more info in your life there’s the FitBit One which measures steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned and stairs climbed, and also monitors how long and how well you sleep. The Fitbit One has a Silent Wake alarm that gently vibrates when worn on the wrist to wake the person up without waking their sleep partner.

FitBit Zip will cost £49.99 and will be available to purchase from Apple stores and other major retailers and direct from Fitbit from 1 October.

Fitbit One will cost £79.99 and will be available in major retailers such as Amazon, John Lewis, Carphone Warehouse and Firebox and direct from Fitbit from 22 October.