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First look at the new Magellan Echo Fit

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Here at Outdoor Retailer this week Magellan has announced their latest incarnation of the Magellan Echo line, the Echo Fit.  The Echo fit builds upon the original Magellan Echo (which was released about this time last year) and adds in both daily activity tracking as well as sleep tracking – and even a phone-less running mode.

The Echo Basics

For those not familiar with the baseline (original) Magellan Echo, I’ll briefly cover the basics.  That unit is like a smart watch in that it depends on your phone for most tasks.  Meaning that it uses the phone’s GPS to track pace and distance while out on an activity.  More interestingly though it leverages connectivity to enabled apps – such as MapMyFitness and Strava.  These apps directly integrate with the watch to display pages unique to those apps.  For example in the Strava app you’ll get notified as you complete Strava segments, in real-time.

The Echo connects to your phone (iOS and as of last week, Android too) via Bluetooth Smart for all of its data needs.  From there it uses that channel for displaying not only pace/distance/speed, but also any paired sensors like heart rate, cadence and even power meters if you have one paired to your phone.  Essentially the Echo acts as a blank slate for app developers (like Strava) to do whatever they want with the device.  There’s even a swanky golfing app for it.

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New Echo Fit Features:

But that’s all stuff that’s been there a year – let’s talk about the new stuff.  To start, the unit adds in an accelerometer that’s used in two core areas.  The first is daily activity tracking, making it like a FitBit or a FuelBand.  The unit will track your activity 24×7 and display it on a page on the watch.  Note that the user interface isn’t quite 100% final, so you’ll still see some minor tweaks between these photos and final availability.

Some of these new functions are available from a menu page that’s accessed by holding down the upper left button for a moment.  You can then see the sleep option for example, as well as a timer mode.  For daily activity tracking you only need to just tap the other left button to access at any time.

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Note that the unit depends on a replaceable CR2032 coin cell battery, and the Echo Fit is designed to last about 8 months (versus the 10 months for the original Echo).  After that you’ll simply pay a couple dollars at your local drug store to get a new CR2032 battery and swap it out.

Below you can see the step counter page.  It shows my goal (which I can define), as well as the number of steps taken.  Along the left you’ll see a progress bar that fills up as I make progress towards my goal.  Finally, you’ll see a 7-day average of steps.  I think this is a cool addition I haven’t seen elsewhere on other units, and helps to balance out high step days (walking a convention floor) with lazy days (every other day of my life).  Thus helping me to see what things really look like.

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While not shown yet on the above screens you’ll also get distance (walked) as well as calories.

Next, they’ve added in a sleep tracking mode.  You’ll start the sleep tracking manually via the menu shown two photos prior, which then takes you to the below page that starts the sleep tracking system.

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In the morning when you wake up you’ll end the sleep tracking mode.  This will then be shown 24×7 as a page just after the step counter page, where you can see your actual sleep that day – your goal sleep, and then also the 7-day rolling average.  Again a useful feature particularly for me as my sleep patterns seem to be pretty sketchy.

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Next, they’ve introduced a new phone-less running mode.  This mode allows you to run without the phone and get accelerometer based distance and pace metrics.  This is similar to many other watches that have come on the market in the last 12 months that have introduced wrist-based pace and distance.  In most cases I’d give those watches ‘grades’ between a ‘D’ and a ‘B+’ in terms of accuracy, but, I have seen continual improvement from all manufactures over the past year – so I think in time it’ll be pretty solid.

This mode requires no phone be on your body while you run, but at the same time won’t show a GPS track afterwards.  I asked what the accuracy level looks like here and it’s something they’re still narrowing down.  Fear not, it’ll be an area that I test out in more depth as part my review this fall.

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New Features for both Echo Models:

Note that while none of these accelerometer-dependent features will be available on the original Echo (because it lacks the hardware inside of it), there are some features coming to the original Echo via firmware updates.

First up is that both Echo and Echo Fit will get an update later this fall (around November) that enables smart phone notifications from both iOS and Android.  This means you’ll get visual alerts from your phone for things like incoming calls, text messages and any other app that uses the notifications center (such as Facebook or airline apps like United).

Second is an update that was just pushed out recently that adds in a new timer mode.  This mode is available on the original Echo units and allows you a basic timer.

Pricing and Availability:

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Almost last but not least is pricing and availability.  Starting on August 15th the original Echo will drop in price to $129US (without a heart rate strap).

Meanwhile, the Echo Fit will be available in October at $149US without a heart rate strap, and $199US with a heart rate strap.  It’ll be available in all the below colors (blue, black, purpleish, and grey).

They’ll be working to establish major partnerships for uploading the calorie/step data (they already have it present for the athletic data), hopefully in time for or around launch.  Right now they’re just sorting out with some of those companies the best way to present/send that data to them (an item that every activity tracker company that comes into the market has to solve).

My Initial Thoughts:

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To me this is a natural evolution of the Echo lineup.  It immediately makes it competitive to other activity trackers on the market, especially those targeted more at Fitness – even more so when the smart notifications show up.  Further, since it already has a ton of app-driven screen functionality it offers a unique twist that others can’t match.

At the same time however, I do wonder if it’d do significantly better just a bit cheaper at $129US.  That would put it in line with units like the new Timex Move x20 as well as with the more established Garmin Vivofit and Polar Loop.  Now all three of those lack the app functionality, but that’s functionality that’s harder to explain to most consumers in a retail setting – but easier to demonstrate once they start using it themselves.  Thus a lower price point might get the ball rolling a bit more.  But again, just my two cents.

With that –  like most other products I’ll be aiming for an in-depth review around the time the product hits retail availability later this fall.  And as usual, feel free to drop any questions below – thanks for reading!

33 Comments

  1. Rolf

    this is about both the Echo Fit and the new Timex

    On these devices, does the HR strap connect directly to the watch, or go through the phone?

    Reply
  2. Matt B

    $149 is steep, but does offer significantly more functionality than both the Garmin Vivofit and Polar Loop (ability to use the phone as a GPS receiver for the watch). The only question is whether you need/want that functionality.

    Any word on how many days of data can be stored on the watch between syncs?

    Reply
  3. Jeremy

    Yes! I love my Echo and have been saying since I got it that I'd wear it all day if it could display other notifications. The price is a bit high, but the compared to my $99 Fitbit Flex, it seems fair. It'll be really interesting to see how the price compares to the eventual iWatch (assuming that's rugged enough for sports use)

    Matt: With the Echo, you pair your HR monitor with your phone and then your tracking app passes the value to the watch for display (I use iSmoothRun with a Mio Link and my Echo)

    Reply
    • Matt B replied

      Jeremy,

      Thanks for the response. That's good to know regarding the HR monitor.

      My question was regarding the ability to store step/activity data -- say if one was to go camping/hiking for a week or two, would the Echo Fit have enough recording space to keep all of it without syncing to the Echo Fit app?

      Reply
    • Jeremy replied

      Sorry, that was an answer to Rolf.

      That's a good question though. I know the FitBits can store daily data for a few weeks without a sync. Hopefully it'll be somewhere around the same amount.

      Reply
    • Rolf replied

      thanks for the info, Jeremy.

      Reply
  4. I know the original Echo doesn't have a vibrate function, but does the Echo Fit? One of my favorite features about my Jawbone Up is that I have it set to vibrate after 30 minutes of inactivity to remind me to get away from the desk.

    Reply
  5. Paul

    I'd really like to find an activity monitor that will count my steps and load them into Fitbit (because my entire family is sharing data there together) automatically but also one that I can use to record my bike rides into strava. I don't need anything crazy fancy or for $200-500, I just want to compare my millage between this week or next, or last year and this year, to see if I am improving or slacking. Strava is great for that but packing the cell phone everywhere I go isn't so great, and it also doesn't do well on touring/camping bike rides where there's no place to charge it. ;)

    Maybe this is the device I'm looking for and maybe it isn't. I'd like to see more and what extra features come with the Echo Fit in October.

    Reply
  6. Andrew Wessman

    Just curious but have you seen anyone from Casio there talking about their Omnisync watch? I bought one a while back as a cheaper alternative to the Echo (you can find them for ~$70) that's fully waterproofed. It leverages the same Wahoo API as the Echo, and it's worked fine for me for running and as a simple stopwatch in the pool, and also provides phone alerts. The display is not nearly as nice though.
    But I don't think I've ever seen a product with such poor or nonexistent marketing. Are they even trying at shows like that?

    Reply
    • Rolf replied

      does the casio watch support pairing a BLE heart rate monitor directly to the phone?

      Reply
    • Andrew replied

      Yes; the watch just serves as a display and you can connect a BTLE sensor directly to the phone and have HR then relayed to the watch. Same as the Echo (see Jeremy's comment above).

      Reply
    • Rolf replied

      Whoops, I actually meant I wondered if it linked direct to the phone. Thanks for the answer, though. It looks like this batch of inexpensive fitness watches are basically the Wahoo RFLKT in watch form.

      Reply
    • Rolf replied

      Arg. Linked directly to the watch is what I meant...

      Reply
    • Andrew replied

      Correct- I also have a RFLKT and it works the exact same way- no sensor to watch communication, everything goes through the phone. I think the Omnisync and RFLKT also use the same BTLE device profile, as you can't use them both at the same time.

      Reply
  7. Richard Kaufmann

    I've been scratching my head over this one for a bit today, and I don't think I like it.

    First, I love my current Magellan Echo. I keep my phone in my pocket (I'm not that fast, so the extra few ounces won't affect my Strava rank much!) The Echo shows me pace and HR, and I have one of the buttons set to "next track," and another set to "lap." Just works, and it's great.

    Why do I not like the fit? Because if I'm not jogging, the thing on my wrist has to do a lot more than the Echo. I currently use an Android Wear watch. It does good stuff... stuff I don't need while jogging, but stuff that adds spice to life when I'm not.

    And any sleep tracker that has to be told I'm going to sleep: immediate DQ. Go to jail. Do not collect my $200. Others may have other opinions, but I usually don't have enough active neurons to mess with buttons as I doze off.

    So what do I want? A Magellan Echo with the Valencell HRM and a stride sensor built in. That'd have been a killer. $200 would have been a fair price.

    And what'd be better: something like that new Timex thingie -- standalone 3G, all the whiz bangs, built-in HRM... just put the thing on your wrist and it does EVERYTHING. And, and this is really important, it needs to look good. As in really, really good. I'm not holding my breath, but maybe 2015?

    (I work for a sister company to one that makes stuff in this space. I'm writing this as an individual.)

    Reply
    • matt b replied

      So, you don't like the Echo Fit, but you like the original Echo? It adds functionality and keeps the price the same.. I'm not sure how that's a downgrade.

      I agree with your sentiments about having optical HRM and all the other "whiz bangs" but I'm pretty sure Magellan is not aiming to be that. I have not personally used the Echo (or Echo Fit obviously), but it seems to be a great value for what it is.

      Reply
    • Richard Kaufmann replied

      Time value of money argument... the original echo was a better use of $149 in 2013 than the echo fit is of $149 in 2014. Specifically, if my Echo broke today I'd buy the cheaper "unfit" Echo for $129. The extra features aren't worth $20 to me.

      Something I didn't mention... my smartphones have lots of things that track my steps. The Moves app knows when I'm biking, running, walking, driving, etc. I can go back and remember where that good restaurant was someone took me to... And all for the price of $0 (plus giving away all my confidential information, firstborn, etc., etc.).

      Reply
    • matt b replied

      To each their own on determining whether the addition of an accelerometer is worth the additional $20.

      As for the phone as an activity tracker. I have owned some version of Fitbit since the Ultra was released -- I'm a big fan of the concept of tracking your activity level. While only having one device would be ideal, the phone is just too clunky and not always on your body to be really accurate for a "24/7" tracking device. How many times have you left your phone on the coffee table to get up to grab something from the kitchen? Or left it on your desk when you walked across the office to grab something from the printer? For many, that may not matter. But with the trend of phones getting larger and larger (I'm looking at you Galaxy Note), phones are going to progressively less and less convenient for this purpose.

      Reply
  8. Jim

    Any activity tracker that seems to demand BLE (BT 4 and something like Andriod 4,3) is a deal killer for me. For one, when I do a run, I leave my phone home, but want detailed info. And on top of that, I have a phone that I bought just a few months back, with BT4 but android 4.2! (4.3+ has been promised, but could still be months away)

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Honestly, you won't find any units from here on out that will support legacy Bluetooth (or anything recently either for that matter). The battery drain is simply too big.

      Reply
    • Tyler replied

      There's a good list (sorted by manufacturer) of which phones support BLE on this page, if you expand the android section, and then mfg.

      I didn't realize there were any android phones still on 4.2, that had been released in the last 2 years.
      Been very happy with the continuous and quick software updates from Google, carrier and manufacturer for this gen of phones. My 2 year old phone has gone continually more efficient.

      link to fitbit.com

      Reply
    • Jim replied

      The Withing Pulse doesn't need BLE. It works with Android 4.0

      Reply
  9. Karl

    Through the phone.

    Reply
  10. Tripod

    So many new nice toys coming out. Is there budget for all of them.

    Reply
  11. Ralph

    Excited about this product now that Android is supported! I suspect next version will have optical HR monitor built in.

    Reply
  12. Ayush Gupta

    Thanks for the preview man. If they add Spotify support, then I am sold.
    Also, why don't most of these companies not support Endomondo? Is there a good alternative to Endomondo which registers running, cycling, hiking and Concept2 rowing (just manual logging for this machine)? Any suggestions? :D

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      The main reason is that Endomondo doesn't really have an official public API. They have some private stuff and some hackish stuff, but that's it.

      Reply
  13. Matt W

    I purchased an Echo last week after reading a few positive reviews. After several runs and a number of hours off-run fiddling with it, I can say to any of my fellow Android users, avoid this completely. It's unbelievably buggy and most of the time, simply does not work. I have one of the "officially" supported phones and still had a terrible experience and returned it.

    Even if they manage to work out the bugs, the device itself is still awkward. The buttons do not seem to respond except to a fairly hard long(ish) press but if that press is just a millisecond too long, it disconnects the device from the phone and reverts it back into dumb watch mode, and then you have to spend 3 minutes fiddling with it to get it connected again. Then you pray and beg for it to stay connected... something I was not able to get it to do for more than 5 minutes at a time. Seriously, a complete disaster. In order to move between data pages you have to press on the screen itself... completely inconsistent as to whether this ever works. All in all it eventually made me so mad that I wanted to throw this thing in the trash rather than return it; fortunately reason finally took over and it went back to the store.

    So bottom line. IPhone seems to work (pretty decently according to reviews); avoid completely if on Android. And since a ForeRunner 15 is only a few bucks more, I simply can't see the market for this. I was interested because as an app developer I though there might be some nice things I could do with the API but a normal user? I'm not sure I understand the allure.

    After going through a ForeRunner 620, fenix 2, and now a Magellan Echo this year, I still find myself back using the trusty, reliable, accurate 310xt.... oooooo, look at that shiny new Timex One GPS+! Wait! No! Bad, Matt! Stay away!

    Reply
  14. Arnau

    And..what is the difference to echo 1? Thx!

    Reply
  15. Mike

    Great preview and your end to end review of the base line Echo was extremely informative!
    Quick question, do you know if the Echo fit's accelerometer will allow the watch to display cadence information sans foot pod?

    Thanks for your time!

    Reply
    • Chris replied

      Hi Mike,

      I know this does not directly answer your question but If you use ISmoothRun (my favourite for running) even with Echo on IPhone 5 it will use the accelerometer chip in the phone to measure steps, cadence and even average stride length for your activity. It's a few dollars for the app but has some great features even for more advanced runners.

      Reply
  16. Sean

    Hi Ray,

    First of all, amazing site and greatly appreciate the amount of effort you put into it. Have a quick question about the Echo Fit which might be a bit premature. I am currently a Vivofit/iSmoothrun user who is looking at this watch as a possible solution to replace Vivofit and pair with iSmoothrun and give me one device to wear.

    When the watch is paired with an app (say iSmoothrun or Strava), does it disable the step counting? I hope it does since that would keep the run data completely separate from the activity data. If it does not, I might be better off looking at the current Echo which can be used for runs, while Vivofit is used exclusively for activity data.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  17. Murray

    Can anyone confirm that either of the echo devices have native support for runkeeper, rather than requiring to capture the data via a 3rd party app such as iSmoothRun?

    Reply

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