For the last several years, some on our SNEWS® team, like so many others, have enjoyed working out while listening to tunes via our iPod, be it on a trail run or on an elliptical or treadmill indoors. There is, however, an annoyance factor that remains when using the iPod – no matter where you tuck or stow your iPod, you still have to pick it up and manually toggle the control wheel to change songs or tracks or simply adjust the volume, and that can be quite a pain when you are jostling along indoors or out.
While there have been other wireless control devices incorporated into apparel, gloves and such, the Timex iControl chronograph watch extends wireless control functionality into something most folks working out will be wearing anyway -- a watch.
Yes, the iControl has everything you would expect from a Timex Ironman watch -- time and date, 99-lap, 100-hour chronograph, data storage to view last workout, lap average calculations, countdown timer…you get the picture, all the basics and much more too in the same, low-profile, simple-to-use design as any Ironman watch you’ve seen.
What makes this watch special, though, is that it adds a pretty superb wireless control feature for an iPod, meaning the iPod can stay tucked away in a hydration pack, backpack, pocket, treadmill console, bike handle, bottle pack or anyplace you want and you can still change song tracks, hit pause or change the volume up or down.
Our testers loved the way the watch controlled the volume most of all. In fact, it micro-adjusted the volume of songs up or down quickly and even more easily than the finger swipe of the iPod; all you did was give a quick press on a watch button to fine-tune up or down. Over the course of testing, our users happily skipped around through tracks and songs, paused music and adjusted song volumes simply by pressing watch buttons, while leaving the iPod firmly stashed. Doesn’t get much easier than that.
All is not perfect, though. For one, the watch does not have a heart-rate-monitoring feature, which our testers also like to indulge in. That means if you, like most of our testing crew, use heart-rate monitors for training, you’re SOL if you also want to control your iPod. Either that, or you wear two watches – one for your heart rate and workout data and the other just to control your iPod and time yourself. Yes, one of our testers did that, but it felt silly and, frankly, is kind of silly. We suspect Timex will soon have a compatible heart-rate monitor version of this watch before long.
We would also like to see two other features added that are currently missing: Right now, you can only jump from one song to another, or one audio file to another. It would be very useful to add a fast forward or rewind feature since there were times, when listening to a podcast, for example, that we wanted to rewind to hear something again, without having to start the entire section over. Or we wanted to jump from one playlist to the next one without jumping like a frog from song-to-song first. Also, not being able to turn off or turn on your iPod -- only pause it -- from the wireless device must simply be an oversight.
The other limitation is that the wireless transmitter connects just to the iPod so if you use certain snug protective shells you have to choose: wireless control or protective shell. Sometimes the shell will have to win which will leave us pretty bummed.
Other than that, though, we found the iControl ultimately cool and truly practical. It’s something we’re using even well beyond our world of workouts. It’s pretty nifty to be able to use your watch to adjust the volume of your iPod while it is in a docking station playing through loudspeakers in the home or in a pocket while sitting on an airplane.
SNEWS® Rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $125
For more information: www.timex.com