SNEWS Qs: TomTom makes smart technology accessible in new fitness watches

TomTom launches fitness watches of its own, after partnering with Nike on the Nike+ Sport Watch.

TomTom is well known for its GPS navigation, but few know that the company has been powering the popular Nike+ Sportwatch for years.


Considering the product's success, its no surprise that TomTom is officially getting into the fitness watch business, debuting its first product at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2013.

The Nike+ Sportwatch had been very successful, TomTom Senior Vice President of Marketing and Product Management Tom Murray said. “It’s already captured about 25 percent of the market share in the U.S. over the last two years.”

Murray said TomTom is taking the next step to venture on its own with its new Runner and the Multisport fitness watches.

“We’re obviously known for automotive navigation and what we did there was we took very complicated technology and packaged it up in a way that anybody can use it so they never get lost or so they could avoid traffic,” Murray said. “We thought we could make it even easier for people to get their information when they’re running, cycling or swimming so that they can achieve their fitness goals.”

Murray gave us a run through of the Multisport, which upon our preliminary tests, is intuitive to use and easy to upload information from consumer apps like RunKeeper. The one big button on the product, QuickGPS signal acquisition and vibrating cues have made our workout statistics a little easier to track during testing of the MultiSport unit. It has a battery life of up to 10 hours and has a sleek design we’re not embarrassed of on group runs.

“We think we’ve developed a product that makes it easy to get the information you need while running and achieving your goals,” Murray said.

What are some of the fundamental differences between the Multisport and the Runner?
Primary difference is the multisport supports multiple sports. If you were going to run and swim, run and cycle or do all three of those activities as part of your workout routine the Multisport product would be the one for you. If you’re focused exclusively on running than the Runner product would be the one that you’d choose.

We read that the products are able to track workouts on treadmills, why did you decide to do that?
It tracks your running whether you’re indoors or out. If you live in areas where the weather is bad or cold and you run on a treadmill, you still want to get credit for every workout. You want to be able to monitor your performance whether you run outdoors or indoors.

What thoughts went into the design of the watch?
What we heard loud and clear from the consumer was that most of the watches on the market are too bulky and they’re uncomfortable or distracting when you run. When you use these products you don’t want the watch, you want the information that the watch gives you. What we tried to do was develop an innovative design that’s very slender and lightweight. It hugs your wrist and fits all wrist sizes – whether you’re a man or woman.

We focused on a really large, easy-to-read, high-resolution, high-contrast display so you can see the numbers really clearly. That’s important when you’re moving and you want to be able to look down and be able to see how you’re doing.

Tell us about the Graphical Training Partner Feature on the watch (The feature has a road and two avatars and your avatar is either bold or light if you’re on pace or behind, respectively)?
Let’s say I want to push myself to beat my best time in a 10K I’m running in a couple of weeks. I can race against my best time and see very clearly with a glace at my watch whether I’m running behind or ahead of my best time. It’s simple to see. The whole idea is make it easy for people to see the information they need so they can focus on their workout.

Why, instead of multiple buttons, do the products have only one button?
What you do with the button is press it left, right, up and down. You can see how intuitive it is. You don’t need to memorize complex combinations of buttons. Plus it’s so big I can even use it with gloves on in the wintertime.

--Ana Trujillo