New Balance has been working behind the scenes for several years with key partners in the digital domain to develop wearable tech products. Today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it unveiled the RunIQ watch ($300) and companion PaceIQ wireless headphones ($110) that will hit stores in a few weeks.
We had a sneak preview of the RunIQ at The Running Event in December and were impressed with its elegance and simplicity for running and as an everyday watch. The screen and data layouts were simple and easy to see. You can change the watch face color motif to suit your preferences, even to Strava orange, one of the partners in a collaboration with New Balance that includes Intel for the electronics, Google for the Android Wear operating system and Jabra for the wireless headphones.
Class aside (and this is one classy watch) the RunIQ is first and foremost designed to be, as New Balance puts it, “Made to Run,” and a smartwatch “For runners made by runners.”
Beyond its looks and a very competitive price for a full smartwatch with GPS, what makes the IQ a strong, new competitor for runners’ wrists? It has GPS, real time heart rate monitoring, and the usual stats of pace, distance, time, and heart rate with zones. It combines a touchscreen with three buttons for on-the-run operation, including a lap button, for sweaty fingers reliability. Battery life is rated at 5 hours with GPS and HR running and up to 24 hours in typical use, typical stats for Android Wear watches and the Apple Watch. It is also waterproof to 5 ATM, which is fine for surface water swimming and of course rainy day runs.
RunIQ seamlessly uploads workouts to Strava, which essentially is the run stats app for the watch. In parallel with the launch, and in collaboration with Strava, New Balance has also created the New Balance Global Run Club, a digital and physical community to bring New Balance runners together. It will include virtual training programs for key events and races, some of which will be centered in New Balance stores.
If you have an Android phone the RunIQ does far more than just track runs. RunIQ can access thousands of apps from the Google Play store. “OK Google” voice control is built in. It can also be loaded with music, up to 50 hours of Google Play music, and used phone free as a music player with wireless headphones, but only if you have an Android phone. IPhone integration is more basic and like other GPS smartwatches: phone notifications, music control, and some limited voice commands.
The PaceIQ wireless headphones, based on the fine Jabra Sport Pace headphones, are an integral training partner not only for music and calls but also for using the NB RunIQ Sport Button, letting you hear run stats from the watch, even without a phone.
The RunIQ and PaceIQ are available now at newbalance.com for pre-order with a Feb. 1 release date.