ISPO 2017 Roundup, Part 1: Garmin, Casio, TomTom, AxSys,…

Once again, the ISPO Munich was on.

Finally, I went there not just a random blogger who sorta-kinda works with brands willing to set him up with product samples, but as someone turning into a pro blogger looking for serious cooperations.

Brands/companies still don’t quite know how to work with social media influencers (especially ones at the beginning, not with thousands or millions of followers) and bloggers, but that’s a different story.

You are probably here because you want to hear what’s new, what I found of interest – and the ISPO always delivers.

As the biggest sports industry fair in the world, and a pretty diverse one, it’s hardly a surprise that there would be only too much to discover.

DCRainmaker celebrated that wearables and similar things are basically all in one hall, making his life (and one-day visit) much easier, but even he had to go further.

Me, I covered enough steps for close to two marathons during my three days of meetings and discovery here.

The ~5 km of running with Icebug and Silva’s evening run for Outdoors Against Cancer (and on the treadmill in Salming/Qualisys’ Running Lab, which will require a post of its own) were nice recovery from all that running around.

It was worth it, though, with lots of interesting products and probably-fruitful meetings… even as I’m quite of two minds about the fair, given how I want to focus on good gear, supposedly made to perform, shown to really perform in my own use, in order to #GetAtHome ;)

Smart Watches and Wearables

As mentioned above, wearables are mainly collected in one hall now, and the trend towards them continues apace, if you look at the products here.

(Even as Fitbit is struggling and was not present, for example, and even as studies show that many people stop using the activity tracker they bought after mere months…)

Suunto

Suunto, once again, did not make an appearance at the ISPO with its own booth (or rather, a booth in that of Salomon).

They have quite enough on their hands seeing to it that Spartan Gets Stronger, announced that the Spartan Sport with inbuilt optical heart rate is really coming around the time of the CES, so have their work cut out for them.

There were quite a few Spartan Ultras on the wrists of people at the fair, though, and not all of them in the booths of brands belonging to Amer Sports (the parent company of Suunto, which also owns Arc’teryx, Salomon, Wilson, Precor, and others).

(Terho from Suunto would have been at the Wearables Technology conference taking place concurrently with the ISPO, presenting Suunto’s new Movesense platform, but unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to meet.)

Samsung

This seems a good place for a quick shout-out to Samsung:

They’ve had their troubles recently, which shall not be, ahem, noted.

I’m not sure how well the Samsung Gear3 (frontier) smartwatch would perform as an outdoors, let alone sports, watch.

That said, the look at it at the Samsung booth was quite interesting.

The display is brilliant, the interface solution of touchscreen and rotating bezel they went for is noteworthy, and the Tizen operating system is feature-packed and, from the quick look I got, runs fluid as f…

Which is all to say, I still hope that Suunto gets the Spartan truly stronger, I have started to rather like it (just wait for the next feature updates…), but I can understand better now why some people would be unhappy with the display and touch functionality (compared to smartwatches like the Samsung).

Garmin Booth at ISPO Munich 2017

Garmin

No news after the CES here, either, but Garmin showed off its new watches and devices.

So, I finally got a look at the fenix5 lineup, a little walkthrough (which I’m afraid I didn’t record for you) – and there should be a chance for me to spend a few months with a fenix5X in the future, to see and present how it works in actual use and practice.

The cable/charging question that puzzled people after the first looks has been clarified, and there’ll really be no (easy) way to charge the watch while wearing it on the wrist (but the cable will be the same on all forthcoming devices). Niche issue, though.

Even so, a fenix that has all the smartwatch functions of a fenix3, optical HR, as well as maps display, is going to be interesting for those travel and mountain outings. And for the sports…

Talking of sports: Kinematix’ CEO told me that they’re looking into the use of ConnectIQ so that one can leave the phone at home and still get their wearables’ data on running dynamics recorded and displayed. (More on the Kinematix Tune to come.)
Interesting way of opening up one’s platform while avoiding having to do all the work oneself that Garmin is following here.

Thinking of everyday use: The quick-release watch bands alone are the kind of nifty idea I like to see. Sure, they’ll also make it easier for the company to sell more accessories, but being able to swap straps like that, just pulling on one lever each, is a nice touch.

Talking of niche and (in) touch: I continue to be rather intrigued by the InReach lineup of handheld GPS devices that is now coming.

Garmin, I had failed to notice before, bought Delorme and their InReach satellite communications system and is now bringing out the first two devices which combine the functionality of a standard handheld GPS and a two-way satellite communicator.

In times of disappearing airplanes and such, even as ever more places in mountains such as the Alps get cellular coverage, there are still few ways of checking in or calling for help otherwise. But, here is one more such way…

Casio

Those Suunto fans who don’t go down the performance/smartwatch route to Garmin often end up or come from Casio, with its lineup of tough and outdoors watches.

I myself had a Casio for quite a few years; a seemingly analog watch, bought in Japan, that could show calendar and contacts above the dials. Ah, the memories…

Now, things with Casio are getting smart and really interesting:

With the Pro Trek Smart F20 – officially, the Casio PRO TREK Smart WSD-F20 Smart Outdoor Watch – there will soon be one of the first Android Wear 2.0 watches out there, and one of a few, if any, truly intended for the outdoors.

Ruggedness, the looks of an outdoor watch, an onboard low-power GPS, the usual ABC sensors (altitude, barometer, compass), internal memory for maps, all with a touch display brilliant as the ones we’re used to from our smartphones… and a few tricks for communications and smartwatch use, to boot.

It remains to be seen when and at what final price it is released, how it performs in real-world usage – but I definitely like what could be seen of it so far. (And I’ve bought into the Android ecosystem so much that Google probably knows me better than my wife knows me…)

TomTom

Compared to the shiny displays of a Samsung or Casio smartwatch, TomTom’s lineup looks like a throwback to the good old days of wearables… and it is all the more interesting for it.

With 24/7 tracking, including HR tracking via optical HR sensor, GPS including quite a few routing features – which TomTom should know something about, considering they are (also) a navigation device company – these are the devices for someone who doesn’t need all the bells and whistles (and probably, hassles and high price) of a fully-fledged, newly hatched, smartwatch.

You still get many of the features of such a one, just in a package that has a monochrome display, giving a longer runtime, and an unobtrusive look (with easily exchangeable straps no matter which device)…

And you get all that in either the simpler, cheaper Runner 3 model or the new Adventurer with bigger battery and added barometer/altimeter.

Even in the world of mere wristband trackers, TomTom has a nice, uhm, Touch:

The device of that name is “just” an activity-tracking wristband.

Except that it doesn’t just track your steps, and your heart rate, and all the usual. The better model also tracks your body composition…

As admitted, there is a good chance that this measurement will be off.

But, as long as it is consistent, this would still give you an indication of how you’re trending, and thus a great indicator for where you’re developing or how your experiments with different diets are going.

I’m a big fan of that kind of long-term tracking.

And, one more thing: TomTom just revamped the companion app for those devices. In what looks like a great way, with automatic summaries of the main data for those who just need a quick overview, and with the possibility to delve into all that data down to the second, put it all in relation, if that is your thing…

AxSys Performance Tracker

AxSys Performance

Hidden away a bit was the small booth of the sports performance tracker soon coming out from AxSys in the UK.

Where the smartwatches and activity trackers have a certain flash to them, hoping to attract customers through form as well as function, the AxSys system is pretty much pure function.

Just, function that ordinarily comes from trackers made for entire sports teams and made for their supervision by a coach.

Here, the tracker will be comparatively cheap (at a few hundred bucks); that’s even their major claim on their website: “Elite Performance Tracking at a Consumer Price

Still, in keeping with that intention, the tracker is waterproof (with wireless charging) and tracks sports performance (motion, acceleration, impact) via GPS with a much-higher-than-usual sampling rate.

That GPS claim alone was quite noteworthy, for the little while I saw the tracker turned on, it found its location in the fair’s hall very exactly and didn’t shift it around much at all.

The intention is not to finally provide GPS freaks’ dream accuracy, however (tempting as that alone may be).

Rather, the system is meant to compare the results with those of elite performers and to tell you whether you’ve trained hard enough, are at risk of injury due to over- or undertraining, and are training specific to your sport and even position…

Their own position, on the market, is likely to be a bit tenuous with the market of sports teams a tough one and individual athlete’s interest probably leaning more towards having heart rate and smartwatch functions, but the system does look interesting for delving deep into movement tracking in sports and the information hidden therein.

Oakley Radar Pace

Sunglasses that feature under wearables? Had to be Oakley…

You’ll notice that I have pretty much zero interest in any of the sports tracking headphones.

Where others want oHR in their watches because they can’t stand a heart rate strap, I have no issues with that but tend not to want anything in my ears.

For “hearables,” I’m waiting for Doppler Labs to release their Here One into the wild, because those are all about audio in the world. But, you’ll hear about that.

The one exception I’m making is with Oakley, because they are just crazy enough to pull something like this off in an interesting and useful way…

Oakley Radar Pace

With the Radar Pace, they don’t just offer another model in the Radar lineup, they are back to offering sunglasses with inbuilt earphones… and far beyond that:

Like a personal assistant such as Siri or Alexa, you address your Radar by voice, get info from it – and there’s a whole training coach function right from app + glasses.

Listen to that voice in your ears…

Running Analysis

At the end of this overview of smartwatches and wearables I found of interest at the ISPO, I want to mention the Kinematix Tune wearable and the Salming/Qualisys running analysis again.

I’ve had the Tune for a while now, it just turned out that most of my rather trail running-specific shoes (as well as my Nike LunarEpic) are of unusual heights at the ankle and thus don’t work with it.

Still, I’ll want to get back to testing it and showing the insight it can give into one’s running style.

Salming Qualisys Runlab

The running style analysis from Qualisys is a completely different thing, at a whole ‘nother level… and that will definitely be a post of its own.

Now, also, I’ll want to collect my thoughts on other gear/technical wear and follow up with a post on that, but there was relatively little happening on that front (for me)…

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