Sport Watch Review: TomTom

History: The first legitimate running watch I had was a GPS TomTom Nike+ running watch. It tracked my distance, pace, time, and not much else besides tell the time. I only wore it for running and wore a different watch for everyday activities. After a run or two I would plug the watch directly into my computer and it would sync my workouts with the Nike+ ecosystem. When my watch died, Nike sent me another one. I had that watch for nearly two years. Those were simpler times back then for sure.

Screen Shot 2016-12-30 at 3.49.29 PM.png

Years later I am now back in the world of TomTom with their Spark Music + Cardio GPS (aka Runner 2 aka Spark) watch! [Note: this is not the Spark 3 that now has the breadcrumbing feature, a watch that somehow escaped me as I was making this purchase-I blame TomTom’s confusing naming schemes for their watches.] Earlier this year the band on mt Fitbit Surge started coming apart to the point where wearing it was incredibly uncomfortable. If I am going to wear a watch all day I do not want to be constantly reminded that I am wearing one. Also, the charging port on the watch was loose, something was off, to the point wear the watch would only charge if it was in a very particular position. Unfortunately the bands on the Fitbit Surge are not interchangeable so my only options were get another Surge at $250 a pop or to sideline the watch. As much as I love the Fitbit ecosystem (see the FitBit review for more) I decided to try out something else which was the Spark. I had a lot of success with their brand in the past so I was intrigued to see they had a new GPS watch with heart rate and the ability to store music on the watch itself. I abhor having to run with my phone (especially the incredibly large iPhone 6 I have now) so I had been using my iPod shuffle as a source of music. The idea that I could go out for run sans iPhone and sans iPod shuffle while still being able to enjoy music was a huge sell for me. 

Likes: After having the watch for a few months now I can say it was a good choice for me. I was able to apply some credit card points to get the watch and the TomTom Bluetooth headphones for a just a little over $100. I love being able to store music playlists on the watch since it is a pretty novel feature for a GPS running watch. The watch also has some awesome fitness features where I can set up different training goals for the run whether it’s a distance, time, heart rate zone, intervals, and pretty much anything a runner could need. To go along with that is real-time feedback  to tell me if I need to speed up to meet a time goal, work harder to stay in a certain heart rate zone, or the usual "half-way point” and "almost there” notifications. As I runner I love the big screen which is very clear and easy work with during a run. I can use this watch for runs, Zumba workouts, NTC workouts with stats (heart rates, calories burned, etc.) that are pretty on line with what I was getting from my Fitbit Surge. The watch also makes an attempt at being an activity tracker by tracking steps, total calories burned, 24/7 heart rate, and sleep.

Dislikes: There are however some things that could be improved upon with this watch. In regards to the activity tracking it does a pretty good job considering the watch is more geared for actual workouts, but there isn’t as much incentive to reach your goals as there was with the Fitbit platform. I am also not a fan of its sleep tracking feature. The watch itself resets at 4pm to 0:00 and anytime I “rest” after 4pm is considered “sleep”. So for example if I am sitting a my desk late in the evening before bed those hours can be considered as “sleep”. In the picture below you can see blips on time earlier in the day I was considered to be asleep when I know for a fact I was not. There does seem to be some improvement with this feature with recent updates but it is not nearly as accurate as the Surge. The Surge would always be spot on as to exactly when I fell asleep and when I woke up. Fitbit also provided more information in regards to light sleep vs. deep sleep where the TomTom platform just tells me how long I slept.

The TomTom platform in general feels archaic, clunky, and disorganized. It is not nearly as intuitive or as fun to look at the Fitbit platform. TomTom has been promising a complete overhaul of their app but they have made unfulfilled promises before. For example, the company has been promising smart notifications on their watches for well over a year now. Most recently they have added phone and text notifications to their TomTom Touch (more on that later), but still nothing on the GPS watches. Being able to get those notifications on my Surge was quite nifty and I miss it more than I thought I would. 

The watch in general is quite large to be wearing all day and sticks out tremendously when I dress up. Fortunately, that does not happen very often. The Spark does have interchangeable bands though which is nice. I went with the lavender but having a black band for formal occasions in something I am considering. A color and touch display would be nice. Having the bevel to navigate the screen makes the watch even bulkier but touch screens can be difficult to use with sweaty fingers.

Overall I am quite pleased with the watch thus far despite its drawbacks although I am constantly looking at other watches. I would probably jump around with running watches more if I did not care about keeping my stats in one platform. Luckily TomTom can sync with Nike+ and Strava (along with many other apps) so my running stats can consistently stay in those two places. However, any stats regarding activity tracking has been halted on FitBit and now exists solely on the clunky TomTom platform. 

Currently I am looking heavily at the TomTom Touch as an everyday wearable to have since it does have smart notifications along with the ability to track steps, calories burned, heart rate, and sleep. The Touch also measures body composition via bioimpedance. I am skeptical about accurate numbers however seeing the progress I am making either up or down in muscle:fat would be helpful. I already get this data with my FitBit scale but I’d be more likely to check it on a regular basis at a consistent time of day if it was on my wrist. So far I have heard a lot of mixed reviews about the Touch so I’m still on the fence about whether shelling out $120 to have a tracker that is more sleek with smart notifications to wear during the day while reserving my Spark for actual workouts.