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Motorola Watch: Music, Fitness, GPS

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Motorola is not the first brand name you think of for outdoors or fitness products. But a new device, the MOTOACTV watch/GPS product, is advertised to “set a new standard” and act like a “personal trainer and DJ while you run.” Worth a test, no doubt.

At first glance, the MOTOACTV appears to be Motorola’s answer to Apple’s iPod nano, though with a fitness twist. It’s the same size, same shape, comes with either 8 or 16 GB of memory, and it has the same touchscreen interface as its Apple cousin. But the MOTOACTV (say “moto-active”) has GPS functionality built-in and other features that make it, in the eyes of this Apple geek, better than the nano for anyone who is active in the outdoors.

Wear it as a watch or via armband

For my test, I plugged the device into my Apple desktop and after one failed install attempt, the MOTOACTV was successfully downloading songs. It grabbed music from my iTunes collection that I had selected using the device’s software. Next, I headed out the door for a run intentionally not knowing exactly how to use the device.

It was a windy and chilly 22 degrees outside. Wearing the MOTOACTV like a watch, I laced the headphones from my wrist up through my jacket sleeve and began the run. I had the MOTOACTV tracking my location via GPS and displaying my location on a small map. No map download was required, it came pre-loaded.

Music player + GPS + fitness tools = MOTOACTV watch/gadget device

The simple aerial map view helped me find which roads passed over a river and beneath a highway on the run. But the interface had only limited ability to zoom out, which meant that it was not helpful for long run route planning.

One click of the button labeled “music” on the top of the device and I was rocking out. Boom. On my chest, I wore a Garmin heart-rate monitor strap, and the Motorola picked it up right away. Bam. It kept track of my time, distance, speed, and calories burned as I ran. A few minutes into my workout, it was whispering reminders in my ears about my current pace and distance relative to the goal I was prompted to enter at the beginning of my run. Shabliggity!

Like other products that blend music and fitness, the MOTOACTV takes advantage of music’s motivational power. The device can learn what songs or type of music motivates you on the go by measuring your output or performance against different songs. From there, it can bring together a personal “high-performance playlist” to help push your workout up a notch.

The MOTOACTV weighs just 1.2oz but is somewhat big at about 46 × 46 × 10mm. However, I found it no less comfortable than a men’s status-weapon style watch that one could wear all day. I was impressed with its comfort on the wrist and liked the tech look.

MOTOACTV has a dynamic interface and touchscreen functionality

It’s sold as “sweat-proof,” rain resistant, and scratch resistant. Battery life is enough for anyone but the most hardcore — the unit is rechargeable and lasts for a maximum of 5 hours while jamming and tracking GPS locations concurrently.

One neat feature we did not test, the device purportedly displays text messages and answers phone calls when mated to Motorola phones such as the company’s new RAZR. I use an iPhone so could not try that function.

At $249 (for the 8GB version) and $299 for the 16GB, the MOTOACTV is at the upper end of its category. But for your money you get an iPod mashed together with a Garmin Forerunner GPS, with a dash of motivation and bling. One could not ask for much more. It’s a neat training partner on a run or bike ride in the city or the woods.

—Contributor Thomas Puzak lives in Bloomington, Minn. He is an athlete on Team GearJunkie.

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