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Smart Sports Watch RoundUp 2020

Sensing, not computing. Saving, not archiving. Informing, not displaying.

Some people wear watches for fashion, others for function, but no one can deny that the watch’s dominance on the wrist has been replaced by the smartphone in the pocket.

However, with the ever increasing capability and the continually shrinking size of integrated chips, that trend started to reverse when smart watches began to make their way to market.

These computers-on-the-wrist may be limited because of size, power, and cost when compared to smartphones, but they can be very functional in certain applications, situations, and expectations:

  • sensing, not computing;
  • saving, not archiving;
  • informing, not displaying.

In other words: smart watches are a perfect fit for the sports/fitness market.

In the past year, we have noticed a new breed of sports watches that are blurring the line between the standalone sports watch and the well-connected smart watch.

We are calling them Smart Sports Watches (remember that you heard it here first, folks!) and we’ll be looking at four of them in this 2020 RoundUp, each at a different price point:

Casio G-SHOCK GBD100

The “sports watch” category can trace it origin to the efforts of a Casio engineer who accidentally broke the pocket watch given to him by his father. To those in the know, the G-SHOCK is pretty much the one to pack when a watch HAS to keep working regardless of the conditions.

While it is not quite a full-on smart watch, the value-focused, tough-as-nails Casio GBD100 is “smart enough” to get a lot of tasks done without breaking the bank.

  • Bluetooth;
  • Step tracker, calories, intervals, etc.;
  • 2-yr battery life.

This is the latest additions to the G-SHOCK MOVE lineup of sports watches, now with Bluetooth® capabilities that allow continuous connection to a smartphone.

Apps are available to help with watch setting configuration and workout management. In addition to the Life Log and Activity History apps, an automatic training plan can be created, based on personal targets.

Also, these new Casios can link with the GPS of a smartphone for quicker calibration of distance measurements, enabling more accurate running distance measurements, even if used when not connected to a phone.

Suunto 5

This stand-alone, GPS-able watch from Suunto offers features making it easy for tracking sport-specific workouts (swimming, tennis, etc) and progress. The Suunto 5 also tracks basic daily activities such as steps, calories burned, stress level, and sleep patterns, all useful in recovery and readiness planning.

  • 24/7 Activity / Fitness Tracking;
  • Personalized Sport Modes / Guidance;
  • Intelligent Battery Modes;
  • GPS Navigation.

The Suunto 5 is a compact GPS sports watch with great battery life. They are able to achieve that with something Suunto calls “intelligent battery modes” that squeezes out as much juice from the rechargeable batteries as possible, depending on how the watch is being used.

This watch is also a great example of the blurring boundaries between a sports watch and a smartwatch.

While not open to every kind of app, Suunto does have a constellation of partners creating value-added functionality for their line of watches, all aiming to elevate training and outdoor experiences to a different level.

The capabilities of the Suunto 5 itself can continue to improve via software updates. We expected it of a smartwatch, but not from a sports watch. Awesome!

Matrix PowerWatch 2

The PowerWatch was the first feature-rich, body heat-powered smartwatch that you never have to charge, ever.

The first version of the PowerWatch was a nice proof-of-concept of the body heat-power tech, but not much to write home about in terms of being a sports watch. The PowerWatch Series 2, announced last year, has a lot more going for it in terms of features and usability as a sports/smartwatch.

The Series 2 has been designed with improved thermoelectric generators and an all-new solar-cell technology. These updates have increased the power and efficiency of the watch, allowing for new features like heart-rate monitoring, full-color LCD screen, and always-on GPS.

  • Thermoelectric and solar powered;
  • Full color display;
  • Heart-rate and sleep monitoring;
  • GPS location and activity tracking;
  • 200m water resistance;
  • Smart notifications;
  • Calorie counting.

The Series 2 also has better message notification integration and other “smart watch” functionalities, but like the Suunto 5, it is not really open to 3rd party developers. Still, the never-worry-about-power feature is huge, and its value should not be underestimated, especially when you are out in the middle of nowhere!

We are eager to see what Series 3 will have for this innovative line!!!

Apple Watch Series 6

The Apple Watch is, of course, a full-blown SmartWatch. However, it was clear from the beginning that sports watch sector was a major market target for Apple, even though it took them a while to get 3rd parties lined up. Landing Nike helped 🙂

With each iteration, the Apple Watch has introduced some major new capability related to health and fitness. The Series 6 is able to track the following personal biometrics:

Along with new sensors, Apple has also introduced Fitness+, an integrated fitness/workout service that uses the data from the Watch to best match programs to help users reach their personal fitness goals. Mass personalization…hmmm, isn’t that an oxymoron?

While it is the most advanced smart-sports-watch in the world, it is not built to be the toughest. Yes, it is water-resistant, but don’t go diving with it. Yes, it can take a drop, but the screen will crack if you are unlucky and hit something “just right” (or wrong). As for battery life…well, let’s just say you won’t want to be far from an outlet for more than a day.

We love the Apple Watch and it is a great smart sports watch choice for when we are around civilization (cell service/WiFi, electric outlets, etc), but we would definitely leave it at home if we head out into the wild.

Amazon links to items mentioned:

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