The traditional GPS sport watch ecosystem is too slow-moving and will be disrupted by the apps market

I’ve been testing old world vs. new world lately in GPS watches vs. applications. It’s interesting to see the generation gaps. In short, the iPhone (mostly the iPhone and not Android because it was further ahead and simpler to code for when using Bluetooth LE – a derivative subset of Bluetooth 4.0) is disrupting the old-world GPS watch manufacturers.

I did a workout today to compare old to new. The goal was to do a weighted ruck for 10 miles and in the middle, do a workout. I decided to make it one contiguous workout (i.e. I did not intend to break that up into workout 1 ruck, workout 2 beach workout, and workout 3 ruck home.)

iPhone:

Garmin Tactix GPS watch:

  • read PDF manual which is completely useless
  • try to figure out which app to use to create a route (Garmin Basecamp? Garmin Basecamp Mobile on the iPhone? Garmin Connect Web? MapMyRun???????)
  • Basecamp has maps from 1872 (stick drawings) so I turned that off and used Garmin Connect on the web.  For humor, I’ve included a snap shot here of Basecamp as well as one of the free Garmin Connect web app that uses Google.

fig 1: Basecamp on Mac OS X. Really?

Screenshot 2014-01-26 21.43.39

fig 2: Garmin Connect (the free web app) – uses Google or Bing

Screenshot 2014-01-26 21.45.33

  • Tried to figure out how to get the route INTO the watch.
    • Over the air? Nope.
    • Bluetooth from the Basecamp Mobile? Nope. Argh.
    • Finally found that Garmin Connect could save the route through the browser to the watch through USB.
  • Try to find the route in the watch. Holy cow. Where is it buried? Ah, finally found it.
  • (At this point, I was ready to throw the watch out the window even though I really like it).
  • Set up the screens I want on the watch.

Go TIme:

  • Phone:
    • hit start on the iPhone
  • Watch:
    • hit start on the watch
    • why are the screens on the watch not what I configured? Because it’s showing me a complete OTHER set of screens. Not sure why but whatever.
    • Add my pacing to the other set of screens.
  • (iPhone is showing pacing fine of course).
  • Do my workout – hitting lap function on the iPhone and on the watch at the same time.

Stopping

  • Phone:
    • Open iPhone Wahoo app.
    • Hit stop.
  • On watch:
    • Hold Pause button until it pauses “tracking”
    • Hold another button to get it to “resume or save” activity
    • Save activity

Uploading the data:

  • Phone
    • Hit stop / save workout on the iPhone
    • Hit “upload to Training Peaks”. Done
    • Hit “upload to ‘Garmin Connect’. Done
    • Hit “upload to Dropbox”. Done
    • Hit “upload to email”. Add my evernote address. Done.
    • (I like it everywhere for backup in case I switch systems. In reality, most people would only do one of those).
  • Watch
    • Plug it into USB
    • Open the device agent
    • Look for the activity file. It’s missing. Why? Look all over. It’s definitely not there.
    • Open Garmin Connect. Yep the data from the iPhone is there, but not from the watch.
    • Open Garmin Basecamp (horrible app). Upload the file.
    • Do web research.
    • Find out that the watch can create both .GPX files and .FIT files. It’s set to GPX if you’re hiking. Okay, change it. Too late. The file is stuck as GPX.

Now I actually LOVE the hardware of this watch. It feels like something that would survive a nuclear war. But holy crap it feels like 1965 when it comes to using it with modern day tools.  You can’t even modify the watches many, many settings and fields on the computer. You have to do it on the watch, button press by button press. Painful.

I’m quickly getting to the point where the iPhone is becoming my primary data collection device because it’s so damned easy and fast and with good battery management, you can still get 5-10 hours of activity out of it.  Hell, turn off cellular data and you can get more than that (but turn Bluetooth back on).  Add a Magellan Echo and now you have a wrist display that lets you start/stop and lap your iPhone so you don’t have to pull it out of your pocket. It’s sort of the best of both worlds.

I don’t think that Garmin and the other watch manufacturers really have a clue what’s happening around them. If they do, I wonder if they’re like dinosaurs staring up at the tiny comets in the sky and then going back to feed with not a care in the world.