March is the month when new technologies announced with great fanfare at the January Consumer Electronics and Outdoor Retailer shows start to show up. Competitor has just received samples and taken a few of these exciting new products out for some early miles. These products reflect the growing trends toward wrist-based heart rate monitoring, apps for GPS watches from Apple and Android, and wireless earphones.
Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist Heart Rate GPS Watch, $500
Suunto, a long time GPS player with a focus on mountain activities and scuba, launches its first wrist heart rate multi-sport and triathlon focused watch. Featuring the well-regarded Valencell heart rate monitoring technology, the Spartan Sport is light and comfortable on the wrist despite its thickness and weight (74g). Handmade in Finland with a full steel bezel unlike lighter competitors, it has a playful yet sophisticated look and interface. The Spartan has a very strong 100-meter depth water pressure rating and phone notifications, but no music control. It leaves out the more accurate barometric altimeter of the Spartan Ultra but does include GPS based altitude stats. Suunto likes to provide lots of on-the-run data per customizable screen, 4 to 5 data fields. To make all that data readable the Spartan Sport has a 320 by 320 display resolution topping the new Garmin Fenix 5X’s 240 by 240. We found all that data very sharp and readable in bright sunlight, even with sunglasses on by tilting the wrist to catch the sun or by changing the display theme to a white background. In our initial testing distance, average and lap pace calculations, and heart rate were consistent and generally matched others in its class. Along with its March 30th retail-release, Suunto will leverage the Valencell wrist heart rate monitoring to include 24/7 heart rate monitoring (once every 10 minutes outside of workout modes and every second in workout) to better inform a 360-degree training view via the excellent Movescount app and website. Battery life is up to 10 days in watch/time mode, up to 12 hours in training mode with GPS and wrist heart rate, up to 16 hours without wrist heart rate, and up to 30 hours with 60 seconds of GPS sampling.
Strava Apple Watch Series 2 App, Free
Strava has launched a free app for the Apple Watch Series 2 with GPS as well as an app for select Android Wear watches with GPS. The Apple Watch Series 2 app can be used phone-free. If you own an Apple Watch 2, want to use the app for running or riding, and are a Strava fan, this app is one of very few watch apps where data is easily and automatically imported to Strava or exported from Strava elsewhere. The app includes basic run stats of distance, time, current lap pace, heart rate, and time of day all on a single very readable screen. Settings include auto pause, select run or ride and units of measure. Compared to other GPS watches running simultaneously, we found distance comparable to other Apple Watch apps, somewhat optimistic. Strava has told us that the next version, expected the week of March 20th, seeks to address this issue.
Decibullz Custom Molded Wireless Earphones, $120
Decibullz is a company whose origins are in custom molded hearing protection. The custom part comes from heating the ear molds in boiling water, and then, when soft, gently pressing and molding them to your ear cavity for a custom fit. They are even re-moldable. The result is an amazingly secure and comfortable earphone fit, among the most comfortable and secure of any we have tested. They are a great solution for those who have never found a comfortable fit. There is no sensation of weight or pressure, which is also helped by separating the weight of the controls and battery into two pods. For outdoor running, the downside is that sound from the outside world is blocked, but a great option for noisy environments. Music quality is adequate, somewhat tinny and lacking base, but given how tiny the speakers are, this is not a surprise.
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