Magellan has announced the Echo smartwatch for runners this morning. What’s unique about the device is that it has a user-replaceable battery, uses Bluetooth Smart technology, can control smartphone fitness apps and has no onboard GPS, relying on the phone’s GPS instead.
Should a smartwatch have a GPS chip?
That last part isn’t mentioned in the news release, I learned it from a first looks piece posted by DC Rainmaker this morning. I’m not sure how well that will actually work out. GPS use can run down your phone’s battery, and if you have it in your pocket (rather than on an arm band), the satellite signals will be partially blocked by your body, which could easily lead to less accuracy.
On the other hand, this approach makes the product cheaper and provides longer battery life. It could perhaps make it smaller, although the Echo still looks pretty big to me. You can get a good idea of the size by watching the video at the end of this post.
About that battery
Here’s what DC Rainmaker has to say:
Battery: User-replaceable CR2032 coin-cell battery
Battery life: TBD – but I would typically expect something like this to be at least months
The Wahoo connection
From the news release:
Magellan Echo is powered by Wahoo Fitness’ API to drive integration with the world of sport and fitness apps. Wahoo Fitness’ API is used by 100+ fitness apps, such as Strava, MapMyRun, Runtastic, and RunKeeper, to communicate with innovative new fitness devices like Echo. Using the Wahoo API, Echo is future-proof with wireless updates to keep pace with evolving features of the app developers.
As far as what it does, the Echo “gives users control over a variety of smartphone functions including start, stop or lap on your fitness app, and next song, play and pause on your music playlist.” Controlling music is definitely a cool feature.
Availability and compatibility
The Magellan Echo is slated to be available the fourth quarter of 2013, with an MSRP of $149.99, or $199.99 with a Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate Monitor. It will be available in three colors — Black, Cool Blue or Warm Red.
The Bluetooth Smart feature is compatible with iPhone 4S, 5 and newer, as well as select Android-based phones that support Bluetooth 4.0.
What do you want in a smartwatch (and could your handheld GPS do it)?
I know many of you would like to be completely disconnected while out running or on the trail, and I don’t blame you one bit. In fact, perhaps I should aspire to that.
Geek that I am though, I’d like to be able to record voice notes and accomplish other tasks while keeping the phone in my pack. It would be even better if I could control the phone’s radios without having to dig it out, taking it out of airplane mode long enough to check for texts and read them on a smartwatch screen. For that matter, there’s no reason a handheld GPS couldn’t function in a similar manner.
What do you want in a smartwatch, or how would you like to see your handheld GPS interact with your phone?