2017 is shaping up to be a year of fitness wearables with deeper on board GPS run capabilities and serious run wearables with more style. Three products just released this past month exemplify the trend: The Fitbit Ionic—the brand’s first and long overdue smartwatch with GPS, the Garmin Vívosport—the smallest GPS enabled band style watch to date, and finally, a stylish smaller and lighter version of Suunto’s all sports capable Spartan, The Trainer.
Highlight: The practically invisible GPS/HR Watch
Who is it for: The runner who wants full on board GPS run capabilities in an unobtrusive fitness, HR, sleep, activity, music control, and notifications band that can be worn 24/7.
The Vívosport is the smallest and lightest fitness band with integrated GPS from any major brand to date. It is a great choice if you also wear a regular watch or bracelets. At 25 grams, it’s about the same weight as the popular Fitbit Charge HR, but slightly wider. But it is lighter and considerably thinner than its predecessor the Vívosmart HR+. Despite the small size, battery life does not suffer with up to 7 days in watch mode and 8 hours in GPS mode. It not only packs in all the features of an up-to-date activity and HR band but also includes GPS run, walk and cycle tracking. The screen is more than adequately viewable in bright sunlight on the run. And for such a tiny surface with no buttons, the touch screen is very intuitive and reliable to operate even with sweaty fingers on the go. Run data fields are customizable and include average pace, and elevation via its barometric altimeter. A full activity band, it also tracks HR 24/7, sleep, estimates V02 max, calculates and displays stress levels via HRV (heart rate variability) and provides phone notifications and music control.
Suunto Spartan Trainer
$279 or $329 with metal bezel, amazon.com
Highlight: Rugged multi-sport GPS/HR watch in a compact, fashionable format
Who is it for: The adventurous runner who wants a compact size, stylish multi-sport and all-day watch that isn’t heavy, big or overly pricey.
The Spartan Trainer joins its larger, pricier cousin the Spartan Sport Wrist HR as a smaller, lighter yet solidly built fashionable option at a great price. Training battery life is 10 hours—extendable to 32 hours with less frequent sampling. But it has a strong 14-day battery life in time mode. The data screens with 4 to 5 fields each are somewhat hard to see in sunlight due in part to skinny small digits for secondary data fields and a comparatively dim screen. Highly customizable via the Movescount site, a multitude of Sports Modes and data fields can be configured to the watch. Unusual for the price point, but a staple for mountain-focused Suunto, the Trainer can save points of interest and do a breadcrumb navigation of route files uploaded to the watch. Suunto recommends a warm-up to improve go time wrist heart rate accuracy. An impressive feature of this watch is the GPS-based elevation readings, although as the Trainer does not have a barometric altimeter such readings take somewhat longer to lock in. A decently featured smart watch, the Trainer includes phone notifications, activity, basic sleep tracking, and can graph and display your heart rate over the last 12 hours, including minimum HR, all presented in an elegant modern fashion.
Highlight: Fitbit’s first smartwatch with GPS, contactless payments and music on board
Who is it for: Fitbit health insights fans and on-the-go runners who want to leave the phone, music player, wallet, and even personal trainer behind.
Fitbit is going all in with the Ionic. Priced $60 less than the Apple Watch Series 3, it has a GPS for phone-free running, hiking and cycling, an oxygen saturation sensor and a barometric altimeter. Of course, Ionic includes the Fitbit app’s rich suite of easy-to-understand and act on health insights, including its excellent Sleep Stages and Insights and cardiac fitness data from its continuous Pure Pulse heart rate monitoring. The Run mode includes auto pause and auto lap as well as the ability to customize the three-field screen for run essentials such as average pace, lap and full distance, and heart rate. The battery life spec of up to 10 hours in GPS mode and 4 days in watch mode doubles that of the Apple Watch Series 2 and is competitive with other GPS run watches. An app platform will allow developers to extend the watch’s utility. The colorful, high brightness LCD touch screen displays personalized, guided workouts, and the watch even suggests a more intense workout after a restful night. SmartTrack automatically detects the start of runs and even swims (the seamless watch case is water resistant to 50M). Ionic can even coach you through personalized workouts with its on-screen animations. Up to 300 songs can be stored on the watch including curated Pandora Plus or Premium workout stations. Listen to them on wireless BT earphones including Fitbit’s new Flyer ($130). Fitbit does not forget style and versatility, offering a variety of interchangeable bands including leather, classic, and sport.