In late summer 2014, Timex announced a product that many have been awaiting – a runner’s watch that does not depend on a smartphone for connectivity. In 2015, they started to roll out to the public.
For years, runners have been running with mp3 players and their smart phones. These devices have allowed runners to use features including GPS tracking, the ability to listen to music and other audio content, a way to upload their workouts to a training log site and in some cases, live tracking of their workouts for friends and loved ones. GPS watches have incorporated the ability to do some things like Live Tracking and a couple have an MP3 player, but the Timex One GPS+ is the first major manufacturer to incorporate all of these features into the a running watch and remove the multiple device requirement.
Even though Timex has been using the Ironman branding for many years, this watch like all other GPS watches recently released is designed for running. There are no other modes like cycling or swimming as an option. The workout options available on the watch are Run Outdoor and Indoor (you have to have a BTLE footpod for indoor tracking).
Within the Outdoor options, you can choose from Timed Run, Distance Run, Intervals, and Walk/Hike.
The intervals are full featured, allowing for a warm-up, cooldown and time and/or distance in each set. They are created on the watch. They work very well and prompt you when you need to be prompted. You also have the ability to set either Pace or Heart Rate alerts for any runs.
I ran with the watch several times and paired it with both a Mio Fuse and a Lifebeam Smart Hat for recording Heart Rate. The results were consistent overall with the Garmin 920XT and the Garmin Fenix 3. Here are some of the runs where I wore both devices with the results on MapMyRun:
- Timex – http://www.mapmyfitness.com/workout/954627771 Garmin 920XT – http://www.mapmyfitness.com/workout/954631121
- Timex – http://www.mapmyfitness.com/workout/957133937 Garmin 920XT – http://www.mapmyfitness.com/workout/957140855
- Timex – http://www.mapmyfitness.com/workout/962619725 Garmin 920XT – http://www.mapmyfitness.com/workout/962630935
- Timex – http://www.mapmyfitness.com/workout/1029297837 Garmin Fenix 3 (Oddly, MapMyFitness identifies the watch as a 920XT) – http://www.mapmyfitness.com/workout/1029299075
Timex does not have their own site for tracking runs like Garmin, Polar and Suunto, they rely on partnerships. This works really well if you enjoy using Strava, Runkeeper and MapMyFitness. It however can add challenges if you are using a training site like Final Surge or Training Peaks and there is not a current partnership. There is a bit more work to getting your data over. Timex used to be partnered with Training Peaks, but it appears that they are not with this device.
Another oddity is with how the data is sent to the sites. Sadly, if you do an interval workout, you will need to look at the watch in order to see how the laps broke down. This is rather odd because Garmin is able to send the information over. Take as an example a Fartlek workout I did on April 28th and what is shown in MapMyFitness. On the left I have the laps setting taken from the uploaded workout off of the Timex One GPS+. The only thing shown in the workout are auto-splits each mile. On the right though, you can see the upload from the Garmin 920XT that I wore on my other wrist. I hit the lap button whenever I was prompted by the Timex (and could actually remember – it wasn’t an exact science) and the different segments are better represented.
Another difference between files uploaded from Timex versus Garmin appear to be summary information about the workout. First, let’s look at the April 28th summary information from Timex:
Notice there is just PACE? Garmin on the other hand also offers HEARTRATE as seen below (I did not use a footpod with the Timex, so CADENCE was not counted – even though there is a built-in accelerometer – maybe in a future firmware update it will be offered?):
This is odd behavior because you can see by comparing the graphs from both watch uploads that this information was tracked (Timex is first):
The differences between the uploads imply that the data file written in the Timex watch can be formatted in a manner to better reflect the information being uploaded. Hopefully this will be done in a future firmware update.
One of the most important features of the Timex One GPS+ is the Live Tracking available without a Smartphone. There was an earlier GPS Watch that also offered this feature, the Bia Multi-Sport GPS Watch, but sadly the company is no longer in business. That puts the Timex in category of its own. Through a partnership with AT&T in the US and partnerships internationally, the watch is continuously connected to a cellular network. It comes with 1 year of service when you buy the watch. After the first year, you can subscribe for service with AT&T.
The Timex One GPS+ does Live Tracking very well. Garmin also has the LiveTrack feature available on several of its recent watches, but it requires connectivity to an iPhone or Android device for the cellular connectivity.
As seen above, Garmin LiveTrack gives the option to see other information like Heart Rate, Speed and Elevation as shown above on the Web site seen in a full browser, but the data is much more limited on the Mobile Web version.
On the other hand, the Timex One GPS shows all relevant information for Live Tracking on both the mobile Web site and the in the full Web Site. This is a nice feature.
Not only can the Timex One GPS+ communicate location information with Live Tracking, but it also can be used to both receive and return messages with people directly. This is done through email communication with the watch using the built-in cellular connectivity.
When you get the device and activate it, you will create an email address of email@example.com. This can be given out to people for them to contact you. The watch will prompt when a message comes in. There will also be a flag on the Messaging icon (which is a little misleading because it is an email rather than text message or IM).When you tap on the messaging icon, you will have access to your inbox and each message can be opened from there.
You also have the ability to take action on the emails. This is available by swiping to the bottom of the message where you have two options: delete or reply. When you choose reply, you again have two options: Select Message, or Create Message. When using Select Message, you can choose from several pre-made messages including the following:
- Out running. I’ll let you know when I’m done.
- Where are you?
- Done with my run. See you soon!
- Here’s where I am:
- Ok, Thanks.
You also have the ability to write custom messages by choosing Create Message. When you do this, Timex loads a rather clever keyboard for use on the watch. Since a watch face is obviously a small area on which to type, Timex had to come up with a way to cover all the letters, but still make them reachable. The way they do this is by having multiple screens broken up into blocks of text containing letters, numbers, punctuation, or a combination of these. When you press on a block the selections zoom out to cover the full face so each one is easier to choose. It really works very well and you can use it to craft short messages up to 280 characters.
You can also use the watch to send SOS or emergency messages. There are demos on how to do this and other functions provided by AT&T here.
The other banner feature of the Timex One GPS+ is the addition of a built-in MP3 player, freeing runners from carrying their smartphone or other device. Adding music to the device is very easy. All you need to do is connect it to your computer where it will be mounted as an external drive (like a thumb drive). Choose the Music folder and drag whatever tracks you would like to this location.
Originally when the watch was released, all tracks had to actually be .mp3 files, so music purchased from iTunes had to be converted or it would not play. However, May 8th saw a firmware update that allows playback of unprotected music purchased from iTunes.
Updates are done over the Cell network with no computer connectivity needed; a feature which I found is pretty cool and very convenient.
In order to play any music on the watch, you must connect a pair of Bluetooth headphones or an external Bluetooth speaker. The watch will notify you if you do not have one connected.
Once you have the headphones connected, you can re-open the music player and use it. It is one of the most basic MP3 players I have ever seen. You have the options to Play/Pause, Track Forward, Track Back, or Reshuffle tracks. Really, that’s it. You can’t even control volume on the watch. You must use the headphones for volume control which can be difficult with some pairs. Also, in what seems to be a touch of irony, you can’t control the tracks from the headphones however, you have to do that on the watch…
Another issue with the music player is you have no control over how your tracks are played. They are shuffled, or you reshuffle them. This can be really distressful if you like having playlists set up for activities. It is great having the ability to play music on the device, but it really is not full featured and may cause frustration for some.
The Timex One GPS+ is an exciting device, but it somehow does not feel complete. Overall, it delivers on what it promises, but in many ways it feels like it’s compromised. Examples include the odd exclusion of lap data and summary information on uploaded workouts as well as the ability to control volume from the watch, or change tracks using headphones. Not to mention not being able to use playlists.
Fortunately, these items can potentially be fixed in future firmware updates (like they already did by allowing tracks bought in iTunes).
Other features that would be nice to have would be cadence using the already built-in accelerometer and notifications from Smart Phones. There is an app already on iOS and Android, but it does very little to communicate with the watch other than reading messages. Just because one may not want to run with their smart phone does not mean that they wouldn’t enjoy having communication with it during the rest of the day. That would make the watch a contender to be worn all day and have it competing with offerings from Garmin, Suunto and Polar which have all been adding notifications.
The watch has amazing potential with updates and definitely should be on everyone’s radar. And with a recent price drop of $100, the watch can be purchased for under $300, making it very competitive. [Eric is the author of Hampton Runner: LINK]
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