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A day with the Motorola MOTOACTV and Iwan Thomas

The Motorola MOTOACTV isn’t a phone or a Tablet. It isn’t even a mobile accessory per se. Instead, what Motorola have introduced to the market is a fitness watch meets MP3 player created for athletes and novices alike who want to track their progress, train to a tailored programme and all to a soundtrack of their choosing.

Released on the 3rd December, in Sweatshops across the country, the Motorola MOTOACTV combines a watch, GPS, heart-rate monitor, personal trainer and progress tracker in one compact package with some fantastic online resources to help analyse your development.

We were lucky enough to spend a morning in a gym with Portfolio Director at Motorola, Craig Nicholas, Olymian Iwan Thomas and the Motorola MOTOACTV itself. We got a chance to speak to Craig about the product, talk to Iwan about how he’s been using it to help him with his upcoming charity race across the UK and try the device out ourselves in a very sweaty 5 minute sprint, here’s how we got on.

Tell me more, tell me more.

Marrying fitness with music, the Motorola MOTOACTV has 8GB of storage for your tracks. With a micro USB port for charging and transferring mp3s, whether it’s a podcast and a gentle jog in the morning or Survivor and a sprint after work, the MOTOACTV will keep you entertained as you exercise.

The music on your MOTOACTV is actually paired against your performance, so the MOTOACTV will generate playlists tailored around tracks that pump your pace. If mid-run, motivation is really waning, then this smart-watch pulls out the big guns and jumps straight to the specific track that peaks your performance like no other – we got Kylie. Boy this thing IS smart!

The fact the Motorola MOTOACTV also pairs with your mobile phone to let you see calls and read texts from your wrist, making it a neat phone companion  whether you’re training or simply going about your working day.

Web based training

With the MOTOACTV web portal, you can track your workout in the grand scheme of making your fitness goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound). Logging variables such as heart-rate, pace and calories burned online not only backs up all your data, but also develops bespoke training guidance based on the the Carmichael training systems, so even if you miss a session, it will re-jig your plan to keep you on-track for your end goal.

Just cardio?

With a focus on cardiovascular exercise, specifically running and cycling, the Motorola MOTOACTV is a competitive exerciser’s best friend. Not only can you upload your times and progress on the MOTOACTV portal to share and compare stats, but in the device itself you can also set a virtual competitor, giving you voice prompts to let you know how you’re doing.

Despite the focus on cardio, the mere fact that a heart-rate monitor can be purchased for use with the Motorola MOTOACTV means that whatever sport you’re doing, you’ll get accurate calorie consumption, perfect for zone / threshold training. The Corning Gorilla Glass fascia and weather-proofing also means that even if you’re taking the MOTOACTV outdoors, it should be able to handle a knock, bump and even the occasional splash.

Iwan Thomas

Having used a Motorola MOTOACTV for a few days and with a training schedule in place for the First Nation Home charity race around the UK, Iwan Thomas was happy to explain how even an Olympic athlete and world record holder can benefit from this very smart wrist watch.

The key for Iwan that makes the Motorola MOTOACTV a really exciting training partner for his upcoming challenge is pace judgement. As a sprinter, his forte lies in going for broke and powering through short distances at break-neck speeds. With this upcoming event being markedly endurance focused, it’ll be important that he keeps an eye on his heart rate and evens out his pace.

Being a world record holder, to say Iwan is competitive is a given. The Motorola MOTOACTV’s virtual competitor is therefore a performance athlete’s best friend with just a glance at his wrist, he can make sure he’s pushing himself exactly how hard he needs to be to better his own personal best. While this might not be totally practical mid-sprint, having done three marathons in the past, Iwan could train against his previous marathon time with both the watch fascia itself and voice guidance telling him how he’s doing.   

Our experience

Rather than leave it to the Olympian to tell us about the Motorola MOTOACTV, we jumped at the opportunity to try it out ourselves, donning our short-shorts, heart-rate monitor and running shoes for a 5-minute sprint.

Our first impressions of the MOTOACTV were promising. The device is bigger than a standard wrist watch, however doesn’t feel too weighty so didn’t make us feel off-balance when using it on the treadmill. It looks pretty neat, if you like big watches with the red and black styling coming together surprisingly well. The buttons are pretty easy to press and the screen is responsive to the touch. It might be a little fiddly to use mid run on uneven terrain, but indoors we had no issues using the device once we began jogging with the display staying on and only requiring a glance.

The voice guidance was useful, interrupting the music at landmarks in the run. While quiet to start with, thanks to easy to press volume controls on the device itself, we could adjust for this. The supplied headphones are also comfortable with over-ear attachments that ensure they won’t fall out mid-run. If you prefer however, thanks to the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, you can use your own.

Three minutes in, 15 km/h, our energy levels wavered and we dropped the pace. Luckily for us, the MOTOACTV was on the case, playing our power track and banging out the Kylie. This did a sterling job of camping it up and re-energising our spirits for a second wind in our bid to better Iwan himself (yeah right).

5 minutes up, sprint over and we were well and truly done. Soaked through and knowing we’d be crippled in the morning by DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness to you and me), rather than curl into an embarrassed, unfit ball, we instead made our way to a floating XOOM tablet and the MOTOACTV portal. Here, we saw our performance displayed across a line graph depicting a steady increase in heart rate, constant pace and a marked peak when Kylie kicked in. Oh yes – the Motorola MOTOACTV worked embarrassingly well.

It was great getting a chance to chat with Iwan and find out how mobile tech can make a difference, check out the Sports Relief site for more on the First Nation Home event and to donate and support Team Iwan.

Where can you get yours?

If you’re thinking about bagging yourself a new training partner and the Motorola MOTOACTV seems like a more compelling proposition than a pricey personal trainer, it’s being sold at the moment exclusively at Sweatshop stores across the UK. Setting you back £249 it’s pretty on track price-wise with other GPS watches that offer multimedia functionality and heart rate monitors and if you buy one over the Christmas period, you’ll get £100 worth of sweatshop vouchers redeemable on running apparel or footwear. With the heart-rate monitor due later this month and the accessory kit available right now with an arm strap, bike mount and wall charger, the Motorola MOTOACTV would make for a great Christmas gift for someone who’s looking to tone up in 2012. We can’t wait to get our review unit and fend off some of the havok Christmas dining will wreak on our wastelines, so keep an eye on Recombu for a full review later this month.

Iwan training with the Motorola MOTOACTV

The large touch screen fascia of the Motorola MOTOACTV can double up as a standard wrist watch while still logging your steps and calories

The reverse of the strap is a soft-touch rubber, secure against the skin and comfortable at the same time.

The Motorola MOTOACTV can be detached and clipped onto clothing or on the arm strap or bike mount.

At the top of the Motorola MOTOACTV is the 3.5mm headphone jack.

On the right hand side are the volume controls and power button.

At the top of the unit is a music button on the right and a start / stop button on the left.

There is a micro USB charging port on the left hand side with a weatherproof rubber seal.

The Motorola MOTOACTV clipped onto the bike mount available in the accessory pack.

The UI of the Motorola MOTOACTV complements the wrist strap and accessories with red and black highlights throughout.

Iwan defying gravity the second his performance track kicks in – magic.

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