It’s rare to find a gadget these days that’s designed for a singular purpose. The MOTOACTV is a fitness tracker and that’s it. It didn’t begin life as a wristwatch or a smartphone or a video game system only to find a use for fitness later. No, it lives and breathes to be your exercise companion and is armed with every kind of consumer technology available, from GPS and touchscreen controls to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections.
It’s a small, flat, square device that you clip onto your clothing. It uses GPS combined with a number of sensors to record information as you walk, run, or cycle. With a 1.6” touchscreen you can swipe through different modes that show your route on Google Maps and tell you how fast you’re going and how far you’ve travelled. That’s what basic fitness trackers are supposed to do and with some initial calibration and a bit of personal information typed in, it does it well.
Things get more advanced when you get home. Using its built-in Wi-Fi the device can automatically sync your data with your home computer and Motorola’s web service. With clean, detailed charts you can delve deeper into the analytics, exploring the number of steps taken, calories burned, and even the changing elevation of your route. If you use a bicycle you can even set up profiles for different bikes.
If you’re a social user there are features to help you share your goals and set-up challenges, but since that’s not for everyone it’s nice to see they’ve also added a mode where you can challenge yourself using past times from the same route.
The first twist with MotoActv is that it’s also a smart MP3 player with a built-in FM radio. The base model sold in Canada offers 8GB of storage and you can sync that up with your personal music collection including your favourite playlists.
Once loaded the device will also compare the songs played to your run results and over time create preferences for songs that seem to have unconsciously gotten you to perform better in the past. It also includes a digital voice which can speak updates regarding your heart-rate or pace and you can set a personal “Fit Song” to activate just as you need that little extra encouragement to finish.
As you’d expect from a Motorola device the MotoActv has Bluetooth and when paired with an Android smartphone can be used as a remote screen to display phone notifications, text messages or even accept incoming phone calls.
Now I can’t find fault in any of the features I’ve described so far. When Motorola gets their engineering and design right they tend to really knock it out of the park and the MotoActv sits right up there with their RAZR phone in that regard, but I do have one central criticism that can’t be dismissed easily. If you’re going to bring your smartphone with you on your runs anyway, why not opt for a fitness app instead? The most popular ones, such as Nike+ GPS for iPhone or Endomondo Sports Tracker Pro for Android offer similar capabilities to those I’ve described above, but at $1.99 and $4.18, at far lower cost than the MotoActv’s $259.99.
The potential answer is durability and diversity. The MotoActv is sweat-proof, shock-proof, and scratch resistant. Your smartphone is not. It’s compatible with a range of sensor accessories, including a heart rate monitor and chest strap, plus a range of well-made holders including a wristband, armband, and a bicycle mount. With recent software updates, Motorola has even added tracking modes for forty different exercises including yoga, basketball, martial arts, and golf.
The conclusion I can come to concerns your investment. If you occasionally buy a pair of running shoes and hit the local park for a run once or twice a week than the apps I mentioned above are all you need, but if fitness has become a lifestyle for you, where you constantly push yourself, than the MotoActv is a serious piece of gear not to be overlooked.