Timex unveiled Wednesday its new smartwatch geared toward fitness advocates that’s capable of tracking your running speed, distance, and pace.
One of its more prominent features, however, is the ability to send and receive messages without having to be tethered to your phone.
The $US399 Timex Ironman One GPS+ isn’t the first smartwatch to offer this capability, but it could be indicative that this will become more common among wearable devices.
Samsung, for instance, is rumoured to be working on a smartwatch that can make phone calls on it own called the Gear Solo. The Neptune Pine smartwatch, which was unveiled in 2013, also supports this feature and is practically a miniature smartphone on your wrist.
Timex’s device differs in that there’s more of a fitness focus here. As its name implies, the Ironman One GPS+ is catered toward diehard runners that want to upload their workouts and track their progress. The watch’s messaging features are intended more for safety and tracking purposes than for social interactions. The watch doesn’t support text messaging, and you can’t make phone calls with it like you can with the Neptune Pine or Gear 2. It works on an email-based system.
So, for example, the “Find Me” feature will automatically send out a message to your contacts if you get hurt or need assistance. There are also tracking modes that allow your friends or family to see your location. We’re also told that the watch will support a public tracking mode that could be used during races and events.
Let’s say you’re running a marathon. You could choose to send out an alert from your watch to your contacts or social media following with a link to track you as you run.
The watch is also water and dust resistant, so you can dunk it in up to 50 meters of water without worrying about damaging the device. There’s also 4GB of onboard storage for loading your music onto the watch, which can be streamed through a Bluetooth headset.
It’s one of the first devices to use Qualcomm’s Mirasol display technology, which means you’ll be able to clearly read text on the screen no matter how bright it is outside.
Although you don’t need a smartphone to use the Ironman One GPS+, that doesn’t mean you can’t. If you choose to do so, you can sync the watch with your smartphone. We’re also told that the fitness watch will work with an accompanying app that will focus on messaging and will help first time users set up the device. It’s still unclear whether or not this app will provide feedback based on your workouts.
All of that functionality comes at a steep price, though. The watch is available for pre-order for $US399, but that also comes with one full year of cellular service from AT&T. That’s significantly more expensive than simple fitness bands like the Jawbone UP24 ($130), Fitbit Flex ($99), and many smartwatches.
The Neptune Pine, which can also make phone calls, sells for $US335, and the Samsung Gear 2 costs $US300. Timex says, however, that its new watch isn’t designed to compete with these consumer-focused gadgets, and is more advanced than your average fitness band.
The Timex Ironman One GPS+ comes at a time when smartwatch-fitness band hybrids are becoming more prominent in the wearables industry. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, the biggest tech event of the year, we saw a handful of fitness bands that show your text messages, and vice versa.
The fact that we’re seeing more devices enter the market that don’t need to be tied to your phone is a positive sign. It means in the near future, we may not have to worry about sticking close to our phones in order to get alerts on our wrists.
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