Adventure Tech: Magellan Introduces Smart Running Watch

Magellan Echo Family Photo

Over the past couple of years there have been some significant advances in terms of sophisticated watches for use while running, cycling or doing just about any other outdoor exercise. Suunto and Garmin in particular have gone head-to-head in an effort to expand this market. Consciously absent from that competition was Magellan, a company that is known for building excellent GPS navigation devices but hadn’t jumped into watches just yet. That all changed yesterday with the announcement of their latest product the Echo. A watch that pairs with your smartphone and gives you full control of fitness apps directly from your wrist.

The Echo uses Bluetooth technology to connect the watch with your iPhone or Android device to unlock all kinds of potential. The link lets your smartphone handle most of the heavy lifting and while streaming data about your pace, heart rate, distance and so on directly to the screen of the watch. You can also control the apps from the Echo, including full control over your music as well. If your favorite fitness app provides notifications they will appear on the watch as well, keeping you full informed at all times about the state of your workout. Your performance can then been analyzed and shared over social media too, if you’re into bragging about your killer times to your friends.

Echo uses an open API designed by Wahoo Fitness for use with apps. That means that it should be easy for many of the top running or cycling apps to integrate support for the watch, but before they can be used with one another, those apps will need to be updated. Magellan says it is working closely with some of the top apps for iPhone and Android to get them ready for the launch of the Echo, which is expected to come in the 4th quarter of this year. The new watch will be officially unveiled next week at Outdoor Retailer and I hope to get a better look at it when I’m there.

Magellan is taking an interesting approach with the Echo. While the other companies creating similar products have tried to cram as much technology into the watch as possible, Magellan has instead decided to pair the watch with a smartphone and let that device do all of the heavy lifting. Since mobile phones already have integrated GPS and a host of other technology, there is no need for it to be on the watch itself. That should make this a much more lightweight and energy efficient product. In fact, while Suunto and Garmin’s watches feature built-in rechargeable batteries, the Echo uses an easily replaceable watch battery that you can buy in any drug store. Using Bluetooth 4.0 technology, this watch should sip power slowly and last quite a long time on a single battery.

We’ll have to wait to see how well Echo performs. If it receives good app support, it should be quite an interesting product. I don’t personally run with my smartphone, but this might give me an incentive to change that. Looking forward to learning more at OR.

Kraig Becker