GPS watches and fitness trackers feeding data-hungry athletes

See the new fitness trackers and GPS watches to hit retail shelves in 2015.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2014 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 6 – 9. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Fitness is more than just training for your next race — staying fit year-round allows outdoor enthusiasts to hike farther, run faster and stay out in the wild longer.

If you look around Summer Market, you’ll see that the fitness tool market is growing to match consumer demand. The ever-more-sophisticated GPS watches at exhibitor booths are joined by a host of more straightforward fitness trackers that can track steps, miles, calories and even a person’s sleep patterns. How many calories have your burned on the show floor today?

Fitness trackers have become so prevalent, that even the biggest names in tech (Apple, Google and Samsung) are taking part. “Fitness bands have become their own category [at outdoor retail], and we want to be a part of that category,” said Shawn Cummings, senior director of innovation and market strategy at Timex.

Timex may be jumping into the fitness tracker pool, but its new Ironman One GPS + Watch (MSRP $399) is what likely will make waves in the market. In addition to providing the usual GPS tracking features, the watch can receive and send text messages, let others track your progress during races via GPS, and can send out an emergency message with a link to your specific location, all without having to tether to a cell phone. “We’ve partnered with Qualcomm and AT&T,” Cummings said. “And that’s allowed us to provide a whole new experience.”

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Garmin updates its Fenix series with the Fenix 2 ABC Watch: (MSRPs $400/$450 HRM-Run Bundle), which offers the same extensive features as the Fenix 2 with an updated interface and more running stats, like vertical oscillation, cadence and ground contact time. There also are dedicated swim modes for both open water and pool swimming, as well as a mode for alpine skiers and snowboarders.

Mio, best known for its wrist-mounted heart rate monitor watches, has put the EKG-accurate technology into the new Fuse fitness tracker, which tracks your steps, calories, distance and pace, all while tracking your heart rate sans chest strap. TomTom uses similar in-watch versus chest-strap heart rate monitor technology in its new Runner Cardio Watch (MSRP $270). It’s also available in a Multi-Sport model, to track cycling and swimming metrics.

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Magellan enters the fitness tracker game with its Echo Fit Smart Sports Watch (MSRP $150). Like other trackers, it tracks your steps, distance, calories and sleep, but it offers some added functionality: the Bluetooth-enabled smartwatch has a large digital that displays sports data, lets you control apps and music, and can display different customizable watch faces as well.

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Soleus is showcasing its new Go! Fitness tracker which not only tracks your activity data, but also connects with your iPhone to give you caller ID and text messaging notification on its OLED display. The NBX1010 SmartBand (MSRP $80) from New Balance Sports Monitors communicates its data back to your smartphone via an app, including calories burned, steps taken, distanced traveled and sleep time. Plus, it boasts an automatic, 24-hour burn formula for accurate daily calorie monitoring.

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Timex and Garmin also are entering the tracker market. Garmin’s Vivofit Fitness Tracker (MSRPs $130/$170 HRM Bundle) is waterproof up to 150 feet, features a digital display, and is the only tracker with a battery that lasts more than a year. The tracker gives wearers a personalized daily goal, lets a users start at a lower activity level and gradually increase that level as they progress. It also acts as a nagging workout partner — a red “move bar” appears on the top of the display after an hour of inactivity, then builds with four more bars over the following hour, gently reminding wearers to get up and move. Timex is rolling out the IronMan MoveX20 (MSRP $130) which connects to a smartphone via Bluetooth and tracks steps, calories, as well as sporting a workout mode so users can get their pace, time distance, etc. while they run.

--Billy Brown

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