When I first got my hands on the $150 Echo Smart Running Watch from Magellan, I was excited to put it through its paces (pun intended). Many of us know Magellan as a rock solid GPS maker but I knew this piece of wearable tech wasn’t going to have a GPS unit inside it because the company told me so at CES a few months back.
In short, this is a great device for runners, bikers and anyone who relies on a smartphone when they exercise. This may sound counter-intuitive… After all, if you use a smartphone, why do you need a smartwatch?
The reason is simple. A smartphone is absolutely impractical to look at when you are running, biking, walking etc. There are many times when I have almost dropped my phone as I tried to use it while running. That is where the watch comes in. It syncs with a number of apps on your phone and provides a great display and adds some additional functionality as well.
And this explains the name “Echo” referring to a slightly less pronounced replica of an original. So, while the watch won’t do everything your phone does, it will display time, pace, distance and heart rate (heart monitor not included). There are also music functions like start, stop, next song as well as sports and sharing functions.
The black-and-white LCD screen is absolutely gorgeous – it is big and bright and can be read easily with sunglasses in bright sunlight. I even tested it wearing sunglasses in a tunnel and it was legible – not easily readable but it worked.
When the Echo isn’t connected to an app, it functions as a normal watch displaying the time and date. It’s also great on battery life. One of the first smartwatches I used and considered really useful was the Tissot High-T as it was able to vibrate and remind me of meetings without the need to take a phone from my pocket. It was absolutely fantastic for tradeshows where I booked meeting after meeting in a short period of time. But it required a charge every three days. The Echo can go six months to a year and a simple battery replacement lets you go that long again. I have used the watch intermittently for about a month and the battery is still at 100%.
By utilizing motion sensing technology the watch knows when it isn’t being worn and goes dark to save energy. There is also a free Magellan-written app which lets you control numerous watch features like whether you want an analog or digital display and more.
In order to connect any app to the phone you have to press the pairing button (top left) on the watch when the app is ready. At that point you confirm on the watch (bottom right button+) that you want to connect to the phone.
The strap is great as well – it is infinitely adjustable making the watch extremely comfortable to wear in most situations. If there is a room for improvement it is that the watch is a bit thick… It isn’t heavy but if you wear a dress shirt, you may have a challenge getting the watch to fit under it. Moreover, now that I have seen how convenient this display can be, I am wondering why I can’t see my appointments on it as well. This would be a nice feature but would require the watch to be connected to the phone all the time which would drain battery life more quickly. Magellan decided this watch is not a Swiss Army Knife, it is more like a finely made chisel which helps you sculpt your body into better shape with easier access to information about your workouts.
This gets me to the fact there are a limited number of compatible apps at the moment. So far, these work with the watch (iPhone links included – Android support is coming in a few months):
- Strava (Strava Bike, Strava Run)
- Wahoo Fitness
- iSmoothRun Version 4.2.2
- MapMyFitness (MapMyRun, MayMyRide, MapMyHike, MayMyWalk)
- Gold Pad Version 6.2, which includes stroke count and shot tracking for Echo
In addition, AllTrails should arrive tomorrow and in the future, expect integration with AllSnow, Ski Tracks and RunKeeper.
I tested Wahoo Fitness and MapMyRun and out of the two preferred the former for its ease of use.
The Magellan Echo Smart Watch can certainly amplify your fitness regimen. If you are looking for a smartwatch that is smart enough to know the phone is smarter and act as a phone enhancement during workouts, look no further.
Update March 17, 2014: One last thing I would like to see is integration between an iPhone and the watch so that the countdown timer on the phone can be seen on the watch display face. There are times during a workout where interval training can be enhanced by using the iPhone timer which is extremely convenient because you can access it without unlocking the phone. Personally,
I have used this function to let me know when I can stop running in place between sets of lifting. In other words, one set of lat pull-downs then one-minute of running in place, etc. Being able to see the time elapsed on the watch would be very helpful.
Be sure to register and attend Wearable Tech Expo July 23-24 in NYC to see everything there is to see in the world of wearable technology.