TomTom Spark adds music playback to the fitness mix
TomTom has been making fitness wearables for longer than most manufacturers, and its latest product, announced at IFA 2015, builds upon what has become a successful formula.
Instead of producing another me-too smartwatch in a bid to keep up with Joneses, the GPS specialist is sticking to its guns here: the TomTom Spark is primarily a device for fitness and activity tracking, packing a GPS sensor, heart-rate monitor and activity tracking all in one device.
If you’re familiar with the TomTom’s range of running watches, the Spark will come as a familiar sight. It has a reflective monochrome display that’s really easy to view in bright sunlight – ideal since it’s primarily intended to be used out and about – and a four-way controller button below it.
There’s no touchscreen here, but then again touchscreens can get a little fussy when you’re out cycling or running in the rain. The watch is also waterproof to five atmospheres, so it seems to be the ideal companion for keen swimmers. The double-clasp wrist strap helps here, too: because the latch secures in two places, there’s no loose part to drag and flap around while you swim. In both large and small sizes, the strap felt comfortable and secure on my skinny wrist.
TomTom Spark: What’s new?
There are two big new features in this version of TomTom’s fitness-tracking watch. The first is Bluetooth music playback. The Spark includes 3GB of internal storage and can be paired directly with a Bluetooth headset so that you can enjoy your favourite tracks while you exercise.
It’s very basic, though. There’s no facility to match the pace of the music to the pace of your run, for instance, and although you can skip, pause and navigate through your tracks using the watch’s screen, even that feels a touch clunky. You’ll have to use the buttons on your headset, too, if you want to adjust the volume.
The other new feature for the TomTom Spark is basic activity tracking. In previous models, the TomTom could be used only to track specific activities – a gym workout, run, cycle or swim – the rest of the time it was just a glorified digital watch.
Now, the Spark will track your activity continuously, monitoring your steps and calories burned throughout the day, and, as so many of these devices do these days – it will also track your sleep automatically once you hit the sack. There’s no need to press a button or activate a special mode.
Luckily, these new features don’t have any impact on the usability of TomTom’s wearable. Getting to the new activity-tracking screens requires you to navigate left from the main clock screen, while the music controls are found by clicking up.
Early verdict and price
The TomTom Spark comes in a variety of different versions. Some with the heart-rate monitor, some without, and not all models have the music-playback feature either.
The top-end TomTom Spark Cardio + Music model, however, costs a reasonable £189. It looks like a decent option for those who want more from their fitness wearable than occasional heart-rate and step monitoring.
It’s a shame that TomTom hasn’t yet added notifications support, but perhaps that’s an improvement for next year’s model.
The TomTom Spark goes on sale today for pre-orders, and will hit the shops on 15 October.