This may not be TomTom's first foray into the GPS sport watch business (that distinction came with the Nike+ SportWatch), but the announcement of the TomTom Runner and Multi-Sport are proof that the GPS hardware provider is getting serious about the fitness tech segment.
The Runner and Multi-Sport are based on identical core hardware but feature different software, wristbands, and accessories. The core unit uses a large, high-contrast, monochrome LCD display covered with Gorilla glass, so it should be up to being knocked around a bit. TomTom tells us that the display is not e-ink, but has been designed for easy viewing in direct sunlight. We're also told that, despite its massive screen, the Runner and Multi-Sport will be among the thinnest GPS sports watches on the market when they launch. The unit is waterproof up to a depth of 50 meters and features a vibration motor for silent, haptic notifications, a GPS antenna, and an accelerometer.
The screen is not touch-sensitive, so the majority of the user's inputs take place on a large, multifunction button below the display on the wrist band. This button can be tapped or pushed in four directions like a d-pad to make onscreen selections. TomTom points out that the GPS receiver is embedded beneath the button, where it is clear of interference from the watch's internal electronics -- which should aid in GPS signal acquisition.
A Bluetooth connection should also help the watch to position itself faster when paired with a smartphone running a companion app by making use of the phone's location and network data to speed up GPS acquisition. The app also allows users to make changes to certain watch functions and presets and perform data synchronization. Users can also connect their Runner or Multi-Sport with a Web-connected PC or Mac to sync run data with TomTom's online community or with other fitness communities such as Runkeeper or MyFitnessPal.
Thanks to the accelerometer, the Runner and Multi-Sport can track indoor running on a treadmill without the need for a separate foot pod (like the Nike+ system) by measuring the swing of your arms as your run. User can access a variety of training modes including a virtual race mode where you try to beat your best time along a route.
As I stated, the difference between the Runner and the Multi-Sport lies in the software and accessories. The Runner features programs specific to running, but the Multi-Sport adds metrics for tracking swimming (stroke type, number of strokes, laps, and so forth) and cycling performance. The Multi-Sport ships with a more robust wrist strap and a handlebar mount that can be used to affix the core unit to a bike when removed from the strap.
The TomTom Runner and Multi-Sport also use their Bluetooth connections to communicate with a variety of accessories, including heart-rate monitors and bicycle speed and cadence sensors, that will be available for purchase separately or bundled with the watches.
Pricing and precise availability will be announced closer to the TomTom Runner and Multi-Sport's summer 2013 launch.