Fitness fanatics just may have a device with enough power to capture and motivate them toward greater performance. At least that's what Motorola believes it has created in its MotoActv. A veritable miniature computer running Android, this gadget uses GPS, Bluetooth, music, and Web-based analytics to further the goals of dedicated athletes. Find out if it has the right stuff to be your coach and inspiration.
My first impression of the Motorola MotoActv was that it's a beefier, or perhaps manlier, iPod Nano. Measuring 1.81 inches tall, 1.81 inches wide, and 0.37 inch thick, it has a similar square shape but is blockier than the Nano with its slightly thinner chassis (1.5 inches by 1.6 inches by 0.35 inch). The Nano's depth also includes its clip, which the stock MotoActv lacks. At 1.2 ounces, Motorola's gadget is also heavier than Apple's 0.7-ounce ultraportable music player.
The MotoActv's macho look is further fortified by an all-black color scheme and robust metal construction. Two large, roughly ridged silver buttons, for Start and Music, occupy the MotoActv's top edge. On the right side are the volume keys and an oval power button. The left side houses a long rubber flap that covers a recessed Micro-USB port (for both charging and connecting to PCs), while below sits a tiny rubber plug capping the MotoActv's 35mm headphone jack.
Like the Nano, the MotoActv features a postage-stamp touch screen (1.6 inches, 176x220 pixels). Though a hair bigger than the Nano's display (1.54 inches, 240x240 pixels), the MotoActv's screen serves up a lower resolution and less pixel density. While the display isn't terribly sharp, it is very legible in direct sunlight. In fact, a light sensor automatically flips the screen into black-and-white mode for better viewing outside. A notification light above the display winks in white for alerts, and in the lower-right corner is a capacitive Back button.
To survive the elements and tough workouts, the device is both sweat- and water-resistant. The screen also boasts a chemically treated Gorilla Glass coating designed to shrug off scratches and cracks.
A host of accessories help the MotoActv morph into various forms, too. Inside the kit I reviewed was a clip for attaching the device to belts, sleeves, and shirts. A set of Motorola's wired SF200 Sport headphones is included as well so you can operate the device as a traditional music player.
My favorite part about its design is the band for strapping the MotoActv around your wrist for use as a timepiece. Let me be clear, though: rocking the MotoActv as a watch is a bold, or perhaps foolish, fashion statement. The band is very wide with dual rows of eyelets to accept the latch's double-pronged buckle. Aggressively styled in black with angry red highlights, the watch face is also massive, lending the whole ensemble a retro '80s sci-fi aesthetic. Frankly, it's right up my alley, but it's not for everyone.
Running a bona fide version of Google's Android OS, the MotoActv is more like a mini computer than an ordinary music player. It shares a kinship with the unique Wimm watch and possibly the upcoming Basis Band monitor. Like the iPod Nano, the MotoActv has an internal accelerometer that serves as a pedometer. Motorola also adds a GPS receiver for tracking your activity outdoors, a Wi-Fi radio, and Bluetooth hardware that supports the new Bluetooth 4.0 spec. The product comes in two memory capacities: 8GB ($249.99) and 16GB ($299).
Why all the technology packed into this gadget? Motorola told me that it's to address not only a consumer's interest in health, fitness, and well-being but also to eliminate the need to carry multiple devices during exercise. The target audience for the MotoActv ranges from hard-core athletes training for the next triathlon, to gym rats and casual runners and bicyclists. This is not merely a calorie/activity counter for couch potatoes looking to drop a few pounds; let's just say I'm not the ideal customer.
You can transfer music files to the MotoActv via USB connection using the MotoCast software, which is located within device memory. With the application, the MotoActv syncs tracks stored in the iTunes folder or can be mounted as a drive so you can drag and drop tunes manually.
There are 40 different types of exercise methods to choose from, including Running, Cycling, Walking, Elliptical, and Step Machine. More-exotic activities can be found on the device, too, such as Gymnastics, Fencing, Martial Arts, Snow Boarding, and even Yard Work. When you're outside, the MotoActv activates its GPS radio for location-based data. An especially slick trick is how the device pairs with wireless stereo Bluetooth headphones and Motorola Android smartphones such as the new Droid Razer Maxx and Droid 4 using the MotoActv app. This lets you view notifications on the device's screen without having to fumble for your handset.