Previously announced as a fourth quarter release the Magellan Echo smart running watch could appear on store shelves soon and is available now online. The wearable isn’t quite what most would call a smartwatch as it only connects to a phone for exercise data. That’s OK though because the Echo won’t be priced like a feature-packed smartwatch either: You’ll pay $149 for the Echo or $199 for it along with a Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate Monitor.
So what exactly is the Echo and what can it do? Earlier this week, I got to spend some time with the watch and pair it up to an iPhone running Strava. The popular software is one of a number of run-tracking apps on the market that will work with the Echo. MapMyRun, iSmoothRun and Wahoo Fitness are other apps compatible with Magellan’s new watch.
During the day, the Echo is like any standard digital watch, telling the day, date and time on its round monochrome display. You can also control music on your smartphone with it. Go out for a run though, and Echo becomes a small second screen for any compatible app that uses the Wahoo Fitness API. That means as you’re running, walking or cycling, you can see your pace, time and distance from an exercise tracking app.
I’m more inclined to run with my MotoACTV smartwatch since it’s a standalone device, but I can see value for many in the Echo. Folks who don’t want to be pestered by smartphone notifications — a core feature in many of today’s smartwatches — but still want data at a glance during their workouts would be served well here. And because the Echo doesn’t try to compete with traditional smartwatches, it’s not only simpler to use but less expensive as well.
I only spent a short time with the device and I didn’t run with it. However, it appears built for endurance thanks to the ruggedized design, resistance to water or sweat and long battery life. Unlike the more expensive smartwatches, the Echo lasts for 6 to 11 months because it uses a coin-cell battery. And since the Bluetooth 4.0 radio is only on during workouts or when controlling music, it won’t chew up that battery.
Echo is available in three colors: Orange, Black and Blue. It works with Apple’s iPhone 4 and up along with certain Android phones that support Bluetooth 4.0.