Based heavily on Qualcomm’s TOQ platform and focused on fitness; the soon to be released Timex Ironman One GPS+ is a fascinating product that for many in my age category may be a must have device. It is the closest thing to a Kindle technical experience in a watch, I’m talking about the Kindle Paper White eReader not the Kindle Fire, and this combination of features makes this product stand from all of the others Smartwatches I know of. Let me explain.
Kindle Paperwhite eReader vs. Kindle Fire
What makes the Kindle Paperwhite eReader very different from a typical tablet are two things. It has an ePaper display which not only is far easier to read and uses far less power than a typical LCD screen it is also far easier to read in direct sunlight; and it can be purchased with a lifetime data plan with no monthly charges. Yes the Kindle Paperwhite has the option of coming with one of the most unique features in a product a lifetime of free data and it actually works all over the world. This means it is virtually always connected to a cell phone network and that gives it some really unique capabilities and a lot of potential which has yet to be fully explored.
The Timex Ironman One GPS+
While you won’t be reading off this watch anytime soon the two major differentiators for this watch is that is uses Qualcomm’s unique Mirasol display and it comes with a lifetime data plan. Unlike other Smartwatches this watch doesn’t connect to your phone but to AT&T. That means even if you phone is off your watch remains with you and it won’t have the data connection problems that many have reported with Smartwatches when the pairing breaks.
The Mirasol display, much like ePaper, is a transflective technology which uses far less power than a typical LCD and it is optimized for outdoor use (which means it’ll have a push button backlight to see the display at night). This is critical to a watch because, when running, biking or hiking, you’ll need to use its functions while in bright sunlight.
The always on data function can pass through messages but its killer advantage is that with the included GPS capability it always knows and can report where you are. Runners and hikers can get into trouble, lost, mugged, have heart attacks, and there have been a number of rapes. You have a fast help capability where you can call for aid and the respondents will know exactly where you are. I can think of a lot of parents and a number of spouses that would find this one value invaluable for peace of mind. Now is you are someplace that doesn’t have cell coverage it won’t work but this Smartwatch could actually save your life.
The GPS will also allow you to track where you ran and share that route.
Now this approach does have shortcomings. Because it is a stand-alone product apps will be limited and it won’t surface as many Smartphone features as one of the other products. But how many features do you really want a watch to have? Right now it is basically a FitBit on steroids capturing and reporting exercise information and route. Also with both the 3G and GPS function turned on battery life drops from 72 hours to 8 hours but you really only need those functions when you are hiking and running. I have a heart monitor watch that has similar shortcomings but I only need the heart monitor up when I’m working out and I don’t work out for 8 hours (though I likely should).
Wrapping Up: Looking Forward
This is a very well differentiated product but probably best for those that want to exercise, keep track of a loved one, or have health or safety concerns that a body mounted panic button might address. This product and class will most benefit from coming broadcast power and/or vastly more capable batteries because it doesn’t use that much but needs a larger source than can be reasonably provided by a battery today. I also expect future versions will bend 3G and Bluetooth capability to provide the best of both connected and paired functions and apps. In the end this is the most innovative product I’ve yet seen and it clearly will be on my own product wish list come the holidays when it will become available. It’s isn’t cheap at $400 but its unique functions will make it worth the cost for what I expect will be an impressive number of buyers.