About a month ago I took delivery of the 8GB version of the new MotoActv device. First impressions were that it's very slick. It comes with almost everything you need to get started. For the money it could do with a HRM strap, but at £250 it's in the right ball-park of a GPS watch (Garmin 305) and an iPod Nano.
It feels like a good quality device. Build-quality is excellent, the touchscreen screen is bright & responsive, and the interface is pretty. The wriststrap is also pretty good, and the device is smaller than the 305, so it can be worn all day quite comfortably. If you do wear it all day it'll act as a pedometer, even when the screen's off or timed-out. If you've got a Motorola 'phone you can connect it to the device (BlueTooth) so you can take calls and read text messages while working out. That seems like a load of bollocks to me, though, because when you're working out you should be doing just that. If you're the sort who can't go for a run without having to respond to calls and SMS you're not a proper runner.
The MotoActv web site is quite similar to Micoach or Garmin Connect - lots of slick design and interface features to ease the process of recording stats, creating workouts, and so on. There's plenty of bugs in the MotoActv site, from missing data on some summary screens (such as the schedule) to complete loss of workouts, but Motorola is, allegedly, on the ball with those. Since owning the device I've seen some of the reported bugs get sorted out, though some have been done poorly. It's a complex beast, though, so maintenance & debugging might not be as straightforward as one would think.
In use, though, the device is, on the whole, pretty poor. It has all the features you'd expect, such as GPS, music, and all the in-workout figures you'd want, but it's just not done very well.
For example, the MotoActv site lets you construct your workouts, just like every other training device does. You can set up workouts that are as simple as 45min at 4min/km, or intervals. You can also set-up multi-activity workouts, such as 10min warm-up, 40min fast, 10min cool-down, again, just as you can with other devices.
This is where the problems begin. Firstly, MotoActv represents that single structured workout as three individual workouts. On the device, although it appears in menus as a single workout, when underway it's represented as three separate workouts, each of which needs to be stopped before you can move on. MotoActv calls each part of the workout an "Actvitity". So, to do that workout you do the following:
This is even worse with interval workouts, which you create on the MotoActv site. When creating interval workouts you shouldn't include warm-up or cool-down phases in the structure. You just set up the high and low intensity intervals. When you're doing an interval workout you start the workout on the device and then go. When you think you've warmed up enough you press START INTERVAL, so you lose some of your workout stats. You do get some voice instruction, but that's just to tell you that the interval has started and the pace at which you should be running. During the intervals, both LOW and HIGH, you don't get any coaching, so if you want to check that you're in the right pace zone you have to check by looking at the watch or tapping the screen for audio feedback. This is also stupid - it should nudge you, and Micoach does this brilliantly. Once you're done with the intervals you end the workout and then do your cool-down.
The way intervals are handled becomes even more bizarre when you realise that there's an option in the settings to have the device move on to the next interval automatically!
CoachingFrankly, there isn’t any. All it does is tell you that things are starting, about to end, or are ending. There is a really gimpy synthesised voice after about 30 minutes that tells you to stay hydrated by drinking 300-600ml of water every half an hour - a pint every 30 minutes. Feck me. There are no automatic reminders or updates on your speed, pace, heart rate, distance, and so on.
Weirdly, as you approach the end of an activity, the voice announces something like “You’re nearly at the end of your workout. One minute and forty three seconds remaining.” 1m43s - WTF!?
The built-in Wifi is a marvellous idea. Runs are generally sync’d before I get in through the door - they sync as soon as you’re in range of your configured Wifi networks. Or that’s how it should work. Sync has been broken for about four days, both over Wifi and via USB, so nothing’s syncing at the moment.
On a daily basis I get about 22 hours out of mine, and that includes wearing as a watch with the screen time-out set to 15s, and for about 60 minutes’ activity with the screen time-out disabled.
If you log a support ticket you’ll be told to do a factory reset regardless of what your ticket is about. I submitted one because the web site failed to display my workouts. Even though they’d been sync’d and showed up on the site, when viewed they just reported “No raw data found”. Once a workout has been sync’d it’s gone - you can’t re-sync it like you can with Garmin. There’s a method around this in Nike+ and, I think, Micoach.
I looked at many reviews of the device before buying it, including a couple of in-depth reviews. However, they all failed to address multi-activity workouts, and I suspect knowing how they work would put many people off. It’s clever or Motorola to prevent access tot he MotoActv site to people who haven’t bought the device - you create your account with the desktop application, not via your browser.
It’s a nice device. It brings GPS and music (with and without iTunes) together, but for someone who’s after something to help with structured training it’s junk. As it’s built on Android there’s plenty of scope for Motorola to sort this out, but until they do you should really look elsewhere for a training aid. I reckon Motorola has released a beta version, perhaps even an alpha, so that, rather than getting athletes involved on the payroll, they can get feedback from customers who’ve already shelled out £250 on their hardware.
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