There’s plenty of commotion surrounding the smartwatch space these days, but let’s not forget that some of us have essentially been strapping tiny computers to our wrists for years now. GPS-enabled running watches are a serious tool in a runner’s arsenal, and Garmin recently outed two new ones — the Forerunner 220 and 620 — to help runners get a better grip on their performance.
Both gadgets offer a similar level of basic functionality — each pack a 1-inch color display (which is somehow a first for these things), an accelerometer for tracking motion, Bluetooth 4.0 low energy support for smartphone syncing, and alerts for when you’re pace gets shaky. Both also look substantially better than their Forerunner forebears, to the point where you wouldn’t feel totally out of sorts wearing these things out on the town.
The 620 takes it even further though with the addition of a curious Recovery Advisor, which gives runners a rough estimate of how long they should take it easy before embarking on their next one. Throw in support for Wi-Fi syncing (which seems a little extraneous considering that a solid chunk of users probably bring smartphones on runs anyway), and the ability to estimate the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use while in motion, and you’ve got yourself a pretty tidy package. Of course, all those extra training tidbits will cost you — while the more basic 220 watch retails for $249, its more robust brother will cost $399.
Still, I have to wonder how much time these standalone running watches have before they get completely overshadowed by their smarter cousins. After all, devices like Samsung’s Galaxy Gear have already gained the support of a few fitness and running app developers (think Runkeeper and MyFitnessPal) and that nebulous Apple iWatch supposedly plays up the exercise angle in a big way. Don’t get me wrong — professionals and hardcore runners will never give up their standalone devices, but when future Couch to 5Kers finally graduate to a higher level, the smartwatch landscape could look totally different. On the other end of the wearable gadget spectrum, quantified self players like Fitbit and Jawbone could pave the way for increased pressure on Garmin, especially since the latter has been snapping up startups to boost the potency of its wearables.
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