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Motorola MOTOACTV In Depth Review

(Please Note: This product has been discontinued by Motorola Mobility, which is now owned by Google.)

As I noted two days ago, the Motorola Motoactv has completely and totally changed the face of sports watches…literally overnight.  Upon its initial release it has managed to offer an immense suite of features and functionality, as well as offering new sensor types and connection methods.  But with a first generation product also comes growing pains.  Does the Motoactv have these pains?  And how does it stand up to an endurance athlete?  Well, I set out to find out.

Like all my reviews, they tend to be pretty in depth (perhaps overly so) – but that’s just my trademark DC Rainmaker way of doing things.  Think of them more like reference guides than quick and easy summaries.  I try and cover every conceivable thing you might do with the device and then poke at it a bit more.  My goal is to leave no stone unturned – both the good and the bad.

Because I want to be transparent about my reviews – Motorola sent me a trial unit to experiment with.  However, at the same time I also went out and just bought my own at the store.  So at the moment I actually have two units.  Ultimately the unit Motorola sent me to try out will go back to them. Simple as that.  Sorta like hiking in wilderness trails – leave only footprints.  If you find my review useful, you can use any of the Amazon links from this page to help support future reviews.

Lastly, at the end of the day keep in mind I’m just like any other regular athlete out there.  I write these reviews because I’m inherently a curious person with a technology background, and thus I try and be as complete as I can.  But, if I’ve missed something or if you spot something that doesn’t quite jive – just let me know and I’ll be happy to get it all sorted out.  Also, because the technology world constantly changes, I try and go back and update these reviews as new features and functionality are added – or if bugs are fixed.

So – with that intro, let’s get into things!


The Motoactv comes in a relatively small box – with the contents perfectly organized.

(Oh, and before I forget, if you happen to go to Best Buy to find the unit, the store may not realize where the actual units are located – despite the giant display.  You can assist the folks in letting them know that the boxes are stored in the locked cabinet slightly behind and below the display.  Sounds silly, I know, but they just aren’t familiar with where they are.  Also, if you call to ask about availability – it’s in the ‘Mobile’ department (where cell phones are), not with the rest of the sport watches.)

Anyway…the box:


Once you crack it open, the Motoactv will be staring you in the face:


Move him out of the way and you’ll find all his accessory friends below him:


Take them all out of the pool and here’s what they look like:


First up is the unit itself:


Then we’ve got the little metal/plastic clip that you can attach to…well…just about anything you’d like.  Probably your shorts though.


Then we’ve got the charging block, which, is probably the coolest USB charging block I’ve seen – it includes TWO ports!


They’ve then included a micro-USB charging cable – just like what you use to charge most non-Apple phones these days:


You can charge the Motoactv from either the wall or your PC.

Then we’ve got the headphones with microphone:


They come with a second set of earbuds as well:


And finally, the user manual:


After you’ve first powered it on, it’ll walk you through some quick configuration steps – mostly around your age & weight – which helps is to better track calorie usage.  It also asks you some basic location and preference questions so that it can give you the information you expect in the format you want:


After that, you’ll be almost ready to start using it.  While you’ll be able to record activities and use the watch day to day, in order to upload it to the site you’ll need to install the desktop software, which will create a pairing between the Motoactv web service, and your Motoactv watch.  I’ll talk about that later.

Comparison Shots:

As is always the case, I find the kitchen roller is a really good place to compare different watch sizes – since it puts all of them on equal footing.  So, here’s a few different rounds of the kitchen roller:


(Left to right: Garmin Forerunner 210, Nike+ GPS Sportwatch, Timex Run Trainer, Motorola Motoactv, Garmin FR910XT)


Given the comparisons to the iPod Nano, I decided to do a bit of a quick double-shot between the two of them.  The iPod Nano is attached to this wrist strap, so it looks almost identical to the Motoactv – well, unless you compare sizes anyway:


Obviously, the two units have dramatically different capabilities when it comes to fitness – with the Motoactv making the iPod Nano look like a kids hot wheels car in comparison.  But, we’ll get into that later.



There’s no doubt that amongst the different sports the Motoactv supports, its best fit is probably running.  In addition to both the optional arm band for running, you can also use either the included clip, or the optional wrist strap.  For myself, I opted for the wrist strap – since that’s most like a normal running watch.


You’ve got a slew of configuration options that you can set, either for a given run, or across all runs you do.  This includes everything from auto lap to auto pause.  I talk about all of the unit’s common features later on in the configuration settings area.

During my runs, I found the display super easy and clear to read while illuminated.  Very similar to if you were reading the screen on an iPhone/iPod…except a quarter the size.  No matter how hard I was running there were no problems glancing down to see it.


At night is where the display really shines though – quite literally.  Brilliant color and readability.


Note that while running you can always tap a given portion of the display screen to see that particular metric in full screen.  For example, see below the four-item quadrant, and then I tap one of the items to display that in full screen.


While running (or any other sport), you can pause a workout by tapping the upper Start left button.  You’re then given the choice to either end the workout, or just re-tap the button to resume:


Just be careful not to swipe the unit against yourself if you pause at a stoplight or bathroom break.  I did that during my long run Monday night and inadvertently ended the workout, thus I had to start a new one.  The data was saved of course, it’s just broken into two workouts instead.  Both workouts uploaded just fine to the online site.

In addition to running outside, you can also run inside just as easily.  The watch supports both an inside and outside mode.  Inside the watch can use either an ANT+ footpod, or it can use the units internal accelerometer to estimate distance.


In other words, using the internal accelerometer you can just jump on a treadmill without any additional accessories and get speed and distance.  Note that you’ll want to calibrate beforehand for the most accurate paces.  This only takes a few minutes though and is super easy.


Or, even cooler is that if you’re in a rush you can actually do the calibration after your run.  Yup, it asks you to enter in the final treadmill distance afterwards, allowing it to do all the math for you and adjust the calibration settings.  This is a feature I’d love to see other watches do, with respect to footpod calibration.  On the Motoactv, this portion only refers to the accellerometer piece.  Really cool.

For fun, here’s a quick tour around the user interface using the touch screen UI:

Touch Screen Overview


The Motoactv works equally as well for cycling as running.  This is in part assisted by the handy little bike mount that you can buy.  Perhaps my favorite part of this mount is that there’s no wrong way to mount it.  That my sound silly, but if you’ve ever mounted some of the zip tie mounts only to realize it’s on backwards – you have to start all over.  But with the Motoactv mount, it’s merely a industrial strength rubber band system that pulls it tight.


Once on there, you can mount the unit any of the four directions – meaning that should your bike require mount placement in a certain area you don’t have to mount it sideways:


As for cycling from a software standpoint, the unit offers a dedicated cycling mode.  The cycling mode tailors the data fields to be specific to cycling, thus the inclusion of fields like power – supporting power meters.


Once in cycling mode you’ll have access to essentially all the same data pages as if you were running or doing any other sport.  I list all the exact data parameters you can select later on in the review.  While cycling, the display is incredibly easy to see – crystal clear visibility:


And should you want to change fields you can easily swipe.

Though, as I found out – it doesn’t appear to work with gloves. I went into my winter bucket to grab a handful (no pun intended) of different gloves.  Unfortunately, none of them worked with the Motoactv.


On the bright side, since using the touch display is really only needed for changing the view (buttons control functions) – you can use the auto scroll setting instead.  Not ideal – but at least worth noting.

When you want to trigger a lap change, you can merely tap the unit to start the next lap.  Laps can be used to differentiate parts of the workout – such as warm-up or cool-down.

Finally, note that just like running inside – you can also bike inside too on a trainer.  In this case, the GPS is turned off and the unit will use the ANT+ sensors on your bike to gather speed/distance data, as well as any power meter or heart rate data you have.

Bike Profiles:

The Motoactv allows you to setup multiple bike profiles tied to different bikes.  While the configuration options are slim here, you can specify both a wheel size as well as a weight.  The names of the bikes are not customizable, but you can select from some generic names – such as triathlon, road, hybrid, mountain, etc… I’m hoping in the future you’ll be able to rename the bikes, though Motorola has told me they don’t have any plans to do so.


It should be noted that you can’t associate ANT+ sensors with a given bike profile, but at the same time – the need to is diminished.  This is because when you go to bike, it’ll actually just scan through all ANT+ sensors that you’ve previously paired, and re-connects to those that are now active.  This is good in one sense in that you don’t have to have different profiles, but it’s less ideal if you’re with a riding partner where their sensors may be previously paired.

Power Meters and Data Recording Rates:

As noted above, the Motoactv supports ANT+ power meters.  The recording rate interval for the Motoactv is fixed at 1s intervals. For the exact listing of all data fields displayed when a power meter is connected, see the ‘Data Fields’ section a bit later in the review.

Finally, you can indeed calibrate a power meter – either via auto zero or manual zero:


Pretty nice to include that, a clear understanding of the power meter market.

Other Sports (Elliptical, Step Machine, etc…):

In addition to running, cycling and walking – the unit actually features to other unique modes: Elliptical and Step Machine.  Using the units internal accelerometer it’s able to track your activities on these two known machine types, from distance to time to steps (or strides).

In fact, if you look later on at the data field section below, you’ll see that each of these sports has different data field values that you can configure.  This is another area where the Motoactv has set itself apart from the typical GPS running watch crowd – by catering to those who may not just be running or cyclists, but rather folks looking to keep healthy and may prefer the gym in the winter, and select to mix up the machines a bit.

Common Workout Features:

The Motoactv includes all the features that you’d expect from a GPS sports watch.  Instead of placing the below features within either the running or cycling sections of this review, I’ve gone ahead and just grouped them together below – since they are applicable across all sports.  Here’s the run down:

Auto-Lap: Auto lap enables you to configure the unit to automatically create a lap (split) after a preset period of time or distance.  You can define how long that is, via the settings screen:


Auto-Run: If the unit detects that you’re running (and outdoors), it’ll automatically start a workout under the run functions.

Auto Display: This mode will automatically scroll through the different display fields as you workout. This includes any of the custom display fields as well as the map, HR/Pace zones and lap fields:


Auto Interval: If you setup intervals, this setting basically says to automatically iterate forward to the next step in the interval.  In other words, the unit won’t wait for you to finish dying on the side of the track after that hard 400m set.  Instead, it’ll simply keep on cooking with the programmed workout…whether you like it or not…just the way track intervals should be:


Auto Pause: Auto run is what is more commonly known as Auto Pause, or Auto Start/Stop – which essentially means that when you run, the unit will automatically start.  And when you stop, it’ll do the same.  This is particularly useful for inner city running where you’re constantly hitting stoplights and want a fully hands free experience.  Note that you’re unable to configure the threshold for this however.


Coaching and Alerts: This setting is essentially audible alerts that will read out to you via headphones metrics around changes in zones – including power, pace or heart rate.  You can set this to do it on demand, or automatically on every lap.


Device Tap: This setting allows you to configure what happens when you tap your device.  You can select to read out information – or you can have the unit demark a lap.  I prefer the lap option since that’s the only way to actually set a lap if auto lap is turned off.

Racing Yourself: This is similar to the Virtual Partner/Virtual Racer features found on Garmin watches.  It allows you to select an existing run that you’ve completed – and then race against it.



This is cool in that you not only see how far ahead/behind you are from your virtual friend – but you also can see exactly where they’d be on the specific course via the map:


This takes the virtual partner feature to a whole new level.  Really cool stuff.

Data View Customization:

The Motoactv includes a significant amount of data field customization.  Each sport includes the ability to configure different data fields.  Within each sport you can have one fully configured data page with up to four data fields, such as below:


In addition, you’ve also got a separate screen you can enable per sport for: Laps, Competitor (like a Virtual Racer), Pace Zones, HR Zones and the Map.  Each of these are accessed by swiping left or right.  You can see the little dots along the bottom, they represent a different screen.

So for now, it looks like you can only add/configure four data fields.  I’d like to see more than that, to be more competitive with other watches.

I’ve gone ahead and listed out each and every data field offered and/or configurable by sport, which are in the below tables.  Because firmware updates can bring new fields, note that this is current as of 11/9/2011.

Running Data fields:


Cycling Data Fields:


Walking Data Fields:


Elliptical Data Fields:


Stair/Step Machine Data Fields:


Again, these are in addition to the other lap/HR zone type data screens, as well as the map screen.  The map screen is not applicable though on either elliptical or step machines.  If you need the map on either of those exercise machines, I suggest you validate you’re on the correct machine.  It shouldn’t go anywhere.


Perhaps the biggest item of note is the inclusion of a fully detailed map in a watch form-factor device.  That’s right, the Motoactv actually has a map of where you’re going…and where you’ve gone. The map displays a little line on the route that you’ve taken thus far.


You have three levels of zoom that you can control by tapping the screen, from most to least detail:


Maps are provided by default for all of North America, Central America, portions of South America, and all of Europe.  The unit by default has 1.6GB of maps loaded on it, but you can also download additional free maps directly on the Motoactv.com site.


Battery Life:

While I love 95% of the things on the Motoactv, the one area I am concerned about is battery life.  I’ve been doing a few tests in this area – and none are too great.

The unit claims a battery life between 5 and 20 hours, depending on a variety of factors from sensors used to music playing.  This is logical, since depending on what you’re using, you’ll influence battery life.

In my case, I’m a simple user – so I just want to run or ride.  So I decided to go with some tests that involved a standard run with an ANT+ heart rate strap and GPS enabled, as well as a separate simulated ride with ANT+ sensors including a power meter, heart rate strap, and speed/cadence sensor.

In the case of the run, I went out with a fully charged battery, and came back two hours later with a a a battery at less than 10% availability, similar to this warning message.


I asked the Motorola team about this and they are investigating what’s going on with my unit(s).

While I understand the display being on impacts battery life, I’d argue that really the point of a watch.  When I’m running – be it night or day – I want to be able to glance down and instantly see information.  This is especially pertinent if I’m doing a hard track workout where the last thing I want to deal with is turning the display on.

The same applies to cycling, where I certainly don’t want to have to tap the display button to turn back on the unit.  Especially if I’m on a triathlon/TT bike and down in aero position.

That said – the cycling test was a bit more positive, likely due to slightly different display parameters.  In that case, even though I had more ANT+ sensors, I was able to get up to 3 hrs and 34 minutes worth of battery life.

I’m optimistic we’ll see some battery life improvements here.  I think a ‘fair’ number would be between 6-8 hrs of battery life, given the display.  This would put it in the comparable range of the Garmin Forerunners at 8hrs.  Which would be enough to cover most runners, and most cyclists.  For triathletes doing an Ironman, you’re going to need 5-8 hours for the bike (depending on speed) and 3-8 hours for the run (again, depending on speed).  So realistically you’ll need 8-16 hours of battery life, of which only three watches today support that – the Timex Global Trainer and the Garmin FR310XT and 910XT.

I’m hoping we’ll see software updates that can improve this.  I use the Swimsense folks as an example of massive software updates that turned it from an 8 hour battery life to about a 7 day battery life.  Obviously different display characteristics, but if the Motoactv team can get a 20-40% improvement that will cover most folks activities.


This is the second area I’m concerned about with the Motoactv.  This because the device is rated for IP55 with the USB grommet in place.  In addition, the headset jack is fully sealed.  Which means it can handle a stray splash and light rain, but not full immersion.

The problem I see is that the unit’s micro-USB port is covered by a small rubber stopper.  A stopper that is easily dislodged (in fact, on one of my two units, it won’t stay closed).  So my concern is that since this portion is not waterproofed I can see how on a long run in the rain water could get in there – ultimately killing the unit.

I think ultimately the choice to not go with a higher waterproof rating – such as IPX7 may have been a significant mistake.  Though time will tell if folks start seeing unit returns.

Data Sensors Supported (ANT+ and Bluetooth Low Energy aka Bluetooth Smart):

The Motoactv support both ANT+, Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth Smart) sensors.  This means that any ANT+ sensors you may have, such as those from a Garmin Heart Rate Strap, or power meter – are fully compliant.

In fact, it supports the following ANT+ sensor types: Heart Rate (HRM), Speed/Cadence (SPD/CAD), Power Meter (PWR), Speed-Only (SPD), Cadence-Only (CAD), Stride/Footpod.

The sensor pairing menu is hands down the coolest one I’ve seen to date.  You first select what type of device you’re about to pair:


Then it’ll go out and start searching for devices found with that device profile.  At which point it’ll display all sensors found of that device type:


Of particular note is that it displays the device ID – which allows you to select which sensor is the appropriate one.

Now, it would be slightly more useful if it also displayed the value the sensor is transmitting – i.e. the HR value or power value, as this allows you to quickly spin a crank and figure out which is which.  Again, really only relevant for those scenarios where you need to re-pair something and others are around.  But in those situations – it’s incredibly useful.

You can pair just about as many sensors as you’d like, it simply adds them into a saved setting.  That way later on you just go to run/ride and all the sensors magically connect.  Each sensor that connects will simply show a ‘checkbox’ that it’s good to go.

For those that routinely have to pair device to sensors, the changes here are really nice. And with a couple minor tweaks, they’d transition from ‘really nice’ to ‘awesome’.  I’d also like to see naming of sensors, in the same way that the CycleOps Joule supports, the ability to say ‘P3C Cinqo’ or ‘Mtn SPD-Cad’.

In addition to ANT+ sensors, it also pairs with Motorola’s own Bluetooth Low Energy Headphone/Heart Rate Monitor sensor.  However, at this time that unit isn’t quite released yet so I can’t comment on the full pairing process – nor how well it works.  As soon as I have a unit in hand, I’ll update this and the accessory section.

Using as a regular watch:


The Motoactv works great as a regular watch – though depending on exactly how you have the display configured, your battery life may be limited.  Assuming you’ve got it set to timeout after about 30 seconds, it’ll easily last all day.  You can configure the Motoactv do have a few different style clocks, including the following:


You’ll notice on the clock that it also displays calories burned as well as steps taken.  The steps taken is done via the internal accelerometer, and I found it surprisingly accurate as I went about my day.  Occasionally I’d count my steps between given activities and see if they lined up. Usually about right.

You can change not only the watch face and the color schemes, but also how the time is displayed – such as via the 12hr or 24hr variants.  As well as how the date is displayed.

As of this writing, you cannot however configure any alarms.  This is likely due to the fact that the unit has neither a vibration motor – nor any beeping system to alert you.  So while it could blink and probably even play a video of a rooster…it’s unlikely you’d notice it.


The biggest departure from a typical sports watch is the units ability to play music – both files stored on it, as well as from FM radio.  The unit will synchronize your library using the Motocast software that you install on your PC.  You can select which files and/or folders to watch and it’ll take care of the rest. Additionally, you can also just tell it to sync your entire iTunes library, and/or selected playlists.

Once on the device, the user interface is pretty clean and easy to navigate:


You can also tie songs and/or playlists to the start of a workout, as well as define songs which will play at various intensities. In order to show you the seamlessness nature of the music piece tied in with workouts, I’ve gone ahead and paired it via Bluetooth to the Tunebug Shake (I talk about that more later on).  From there I’ve put together this quick little video demonstration showing starting the song, and then working through the menu’s to start a workout.  You’ll also hear the voice prompts along the way.

Music Overview

I’m not typically one to run or ride with music, but the unit does offer a lot of flexibility there.  And you don’t have to be within a workout to listen to music either – you can just sit back and relax.  And as I note later, you can pair any Bluetooth stereo headset to it as well.

Uploading/Downloading Workouts via WiFi:

One of the coolest features of the Motoactv is the ability to sync workouts via WiFi.  Once I complete a workout and step within range of my homes WiFi access point, it automatically will sync my workout with Motoactv.com.  Additionally, it’ll also download any new planned workouts from Motoactv.com.

You’ll actually configure your WiFi networks not on the device, but rather from your PC.  This is somewhat nice in that you don’t have to futz with any settings, but by the same token it limits you to selecting preconfigured networks.  So you can’t just upload to any old network you find.


In my experience it takes about 30-60 seconds for the upload process to complete.  But there’s nothing you need to do.  If you want a workout to upload sooner than it’s automated uploader does it, you can set to manually sync as well:


There’s no question that this should be the direction of sports watches going forward.  This is essentially just like the way the Withings WiFi scale works in that it does it automatically as soon as I step off the scale.  If other companies are introducing devices next spring and beyond and don’t have this capability, I’d say they’re already one step behind.

Fitness Tracking/Management Site: Motoactv.com

Motoactv.com is Motorola’s new fitness site – built from the ground up by their own team.  This isn’t simply another service under the covers.

For a first attempt, it’s not too bad.  They’ve actually included more functionality than I would have expected.  They’ve got the majority of the basics, though there’s still room for improvement, as I’ll talk about in each section.

Remember that your workout gets automatically sync’d via WiFi (or via the desktop software) – so by time you take off your shoes in the house, it’s likely that the workout is already there and visible online.  Note that in order to create an online account, you have to have a device.  It’s actually done using the desktop software.

Viewing Workouts:

Once you login to the Motoactv site, you’ll see all your current workouts displayed in the dashboard:


We’ll go ahead and dive into my run from last night – since that’s the one activity with the most valid data.  The rest were various test activities I had going.


Once we do that, we’ll click on the first Run.

Workout Details:

This will show the last 90 minutes of my run.  Due to a minor mess-up on my part I ended up accidentally splitting my workout in two by stopping the recording when I was swinging by a bathroom.  So the first 30 minutes were on a separate file (also uploaded).


As you can see, I can display some of the different metrics listed on the left hand side.  I can change that, based on what I’d like to see.  For example, if this were a cycling workout, I could add power – see example below:


Which would then show up on the chart:


If I had selected any laps – they’d show up down below in the Laps/Splits area:


It’s in this same region that I can configure HR zones as well:


And interestingly enough, it will also record all of the songs you listed to during the activity.  Which…in my case, was none:


Finally, last but not least, it’ll give you a workout summary of information.  This is where you get to export out the data as well:


Social Network Sharing:

You can also Tweet or Facebook any given activity, which makes a public URL for that activity.  This is pretty quick and painless.  And you can use the same Twitter button to also just create a public URL for a given activity as well – in case you want to e-mail it to someone:


Once you’re done, they can merely click on the link to see the public page.  Here’s an example you can check out of my run.

Creating workouts to download to device:

While there’s also a calendar function for planning workouts, perhaps the more interesting feature is the workout creator.  This function allows you to create workouts with targeted zones and paces:


It’s here that you can setup intervals as well:


Once on the watch, these will show up on the scheduled date/time for you to execute.  And remember – everything gets synchronized wirelessly.  So before you can say ‘magic’, it’s automatically on your watch.  Really cool.

3rd Party Site Compatibility (i.e. TrainingPeaks)

As of this writing, there’s nobody that’s compatible with the Motoactv unit, aside from the Motoactv site.  But the good news is that the Motorola folks aren’t islanding your data.  Meaning, you can export out your data to a simple CSV file – for any workout.


I suspect we’ll start to see the Motoactv supported pretty quickly by some of the bigger running/cycling sites such as Strava and Runkeeper.

In the meantime, TrainingPeaks has committed to having support for it by early December.  I’ve already supplied them a pile of example workout files and they’re hard at work on it.


The Motoactv comes with a slew of accessories that you can buy.  For runners, I’d suggest the Wrist Strap, and for cyclists the Arm Band.  Ideally they should have included the wrist strap in my opinion, but I suppose that’s why I write about sports technology stuff instead of selling it.  Note that if you’re using wired headphones, you’d probably use the Arm Band instead – though since the unit includes a clip, you can probably get away with just clipping it to your shorts/pants and running the wire that way.  Personal preference.

They are as follows:

Wrist Strap:

If you’re a runner, this is the one accessory I recommend you buy.  I couldn’t imagine using the device and running without it, but then, I prefer wrist watches over arm bands.


The wrist strap is $30.

Bike Mount:

If you’re going to be riding frequently with the Motoactv, I’d highly recommend the bike mount.  The mount will easily attach to either a road bike or a triathlon bike, as well as just about any other road/hybrid/mountain/etc bike you can find.


The bike mount is $30.

Arm Band:

If you run with headphones, you may prefer the arm band instead, since the headphone cords will be closer to your head, and less in the way:


The arm band is a bit pricier than the standard clip though, at $30.

Additional Clip (one comes with unit):

Your Motoactv will come with a single clip, but if you need an additional one – you can always pick one up. That way you’re fully fault tolerant:


The additional clip will cost you though, $20.  I suppose nobody ever said having redundancy in your sports stockpile was cheap.

SF500 and SF700 Headphones

I haven’t had the opportunity to test either the SF500 or SF700 headphones out – simply because they aren’t available yet.  But these are actually kinda interesting looking for two reasons.  First, they have integrated heart rate sensors on them – so they’ll actually be taking your heart rate via the earbuds.  Additionally, they’re wireless – via Bluetooth 4.0 using Bluetooth low energy.


Once the order I put in arrives, I’ll let ya know how they work out.  But until then, I don’t typically review stuff until I’ve had a chance to actually try it.  Note there are to variants – the SF500 and the SF700.  The SF700 runs $150 and the SF500 runs $100.  The primary difference is that only the SF700 is fully wireless.  Whereas the SF500 is only using Bluetooth to send the heart data, and not your music – so it’s still got wires.

ANT+ Accessories:

In addition to all of the Motorola Branded accessories, they also support the following ANT+ accessories:

ANT+ Heart Rate Strap(s):

There are a slew of companies out there that offer ANT+ heart rate straps, but the reality is the cheapest one you’re going to find is any of the Garmin variations.  And at the end of the day, virtually all of these straps are made by the same company anyway.

Garmin Heart Rate Strap Options

Note that the newest HR strap from Garmin resolves virtually all of the spiking/dropping issues that some folks see, based on my day to day use of it over the past year.  Of course, if you’ve got an older strap and have some HR related issues, start here.

Speed/Cadence Sensors:

This sensor allows you to use the Motoactv indoors on a trainer, as well as record cadence information outdoors.  Additionally, you can sometimes increase your speed accuracy a hair if you use the speed sensor outdoors (automatically occurs actually).


Like the HR straps, a slew of folks offer these, but realistically the cheapest will always be the trusty GSC-10 Speed/Cadence combo sensor from Garmin, it’s usually about $30.

If you need a speed-only or cadence-only sensor, the Motoactv supports those as well.  Some folks use these if they have a unique bike configuration (like a recumbent) which requires the sensors be placed in different locations.  In general though, the GSC-10 works for just about everyone.

Power Meters:

The Motoactv supports ANT+ enabled power meters, such as those made by CycleOps (the PowerTap), SRAM/Quarq (the Cinqo), SRM, Power2Max and more.  I own a Quarq Cinqo and the unit is easily paired to the power meter by going into the sensor settings and selecting to add a ANT+ power meter.


It should be noted that the Motoactv is NOT compatible with any of the Polar power meters, including the new Look/Keo Power System, pedal based power meter.  This is because that system is reliant on Polar’s W.I.N.D. protocol, and not ANT+.

ANT+ capable power meters start at $700 from CycleOps (PowerTap), go through $1,500 (Quarq Cinqo and Garmin Vector) and top out at over $2,000 (SRM).

Running Footpod

The footpod allows you to gather pace, distance and cadence data while both indoors or outdoors.  For example, if you’re running on a treadmill this would be required as GPS won’t show you moving.  Outdoors it’s useful if your route takes you through a tunnel where you’d lose GPS reception.

Garmin ANT+ Footpod

The foot pod easily snaps right onto your shoelaces in a matter of a few seconds.  As of today, the Motoactv does not yet have a calibration option, which means the accuracy can be off depending on many factors including stride. You may want to consider the internal accellerometer instead, unless you need cadence as well.

You can pickup the footpod for about $50.  If you’re interested in learning more about the footpod, check out my ‘More than you ever wanted to know about the footpod post’.

Note that on the Motoactv, if the footpod is used outdoors it’ll override GPS for both speed and distance – so be sure you’ve got it configured correctly ahead of time.

ANT+ Weight Scale:

At this time the Motoactv does not support any of the ANT+ scales.  I asked if there were plans to do so in the future, and Motorola commented that they don’t see significant demand at this time.

Bluetooth Accessories:

At this time, neither the Polar Bluetooth HR strap, nor the Zephyr Bluetooth HR strap would pair with the Motoactv.  It’s unclear if in the future either these straps, or any additional regular Bluetooth or Bluetooth Smart (Bluetooth Low Energy) straps or devices will pair with the unit.


You can also pair any regular Blueooth stereo headset as well.  I lacked any small ones – but I did have the Tunebug Shake handy, which is a Bluetooth powered speaker aimed at cyclists. And that paired and played just fine:


I did find it interesting however that I can have the device be discoverable, but I haven’t actually found a reason to do that yet.  I suspect that it’s tied into the Motorola phones (like the Motoactv App), but that’s not offered yet for other devices.


I do expect that over time, Motorola will open likely this connection interface a bit more.  Which, is one of the coolest things about the device – the ability to not only have Bluetooth – but more importantly, Bluetooth 4.0 on there.  This will eventually bring with it all the new low energy sensors only found on Bluetooth 4.0.


As I noted at the beginning, the Motorola Motoactv has completely changed the landscape of what a connected sports technology device should be.  The graphics are clean, crisp and quick.  The data is flowing freely via numerous sensor types, and the feature set is impressive.  And the best part is, they let the consumer device what devices they want to connect to it – via ANT+, Bluetooth, or otherwise.  It’s all there.

There are however some issues.  The lesser waterproofing may be an issue, as well as the lack of audible alerts without headphones.  The battery life is also a concern.

Of course, the Motoactv isn’t necessarily for everyone, as I believe it’s important to identify your rough category of watch needs and find a product that fits.  So looking at watch recommendations, you’ve got a few different basic categories:

1) The Triathlete: Unfortunately, with the lesser waterproofing, this device isn’t for you.  You’d likely kill it during the swim warm-up.  But if you’re looking for a bike/run device, it’s not a bad fit at all, especially if you’re doing shorter to medium distance triathlons.

2) The Casual Runner: This is perfect for you, and at $250 – it offers more functionality across the board than any other GPS watch out there.

3) The Advanced Runner: I think that like the casual runner, you’ll be happy with this too.  I’ve got some pretty complex workouts I do, and at fairly quick paces – and I’m really not seeing any issues.  The only challenge I would have had though was the three-hour run.  This week happened to be a 2:00 run, but if it was two weeks ago it would have been 3 hours (single run) – and the battery likely would have died.

4) The Pure Cyclist: If you’re out there for up to 2-3 hours, this is a good bet.  But if you’re going for century rides, this isn’t your best option – since the battery will die before then.

The Motoactv comes in a few flavors – based purely on storage size.  The 8GB model is $250, while the 16GB model is $300.

Comparison Chart:

Function/FeatureMotorola MotoactvPolar Ignite 3Garmin Forerunner 55Polar Ignite 2Polar Unite
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated March 24th, 2024 @ 12:36 pm New Window
Price$150 / DISCONTINUED$329$199$229$149
Product Announcement DateOCT 18, 2011Nov 8th, 2022June 2nd, 2021Mar 24th, 2021June 30th, 2020
Actual Availability/Shipping DateOCT 2011Nov 8th, 2022June 2nd, 2021Mar 2021July 2020
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYesYesOnly via Phone Connected GPS
WaterproofingHorribleYes - 30m50 metersYes - 30mYes - 30m
Dive/Snorkel FeatureNo
Battery Life (GPS)8 hoursUp to 30 hours20 hoursUp to 20 hoursUp to 50hrs with phone GPS (4 days standby)
Solar ChargingNo
Recording Interval1-second1s1s/Smart1s1s
Dual-Frequency GNSSYes
Display TypeAMOLED
Backlight GreatnessGreatGreatGreatGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceNoNoYes (all Connect IQ Apps)NoNo
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesYesYesYes
Voice IntegrationMotorola MotoactvPolar Ignite 3Garmin Forerunner 55Polar Ignite 2Polar Unite
Has Mic/SpeakerNo
Can make/receive callsNo
Voice AssistantNo
MusicMotorola MotoactvPolar Ignite 3Garmin Forerunner 55Polar Ignite 2Polar Unite
Can control phone musicYesYesYesNo
Has music storage and playbackNoNoNoNo
Streaming ServicesNoNoNoNo
PaymentsMotorola MotoactvPolar Ignite 3Garmin Forerunner 55Polar Ignite 2Polar Unite
Contactless-NFC PaymentsNoNoNoNo
ConnectivityMotorola MotoactvPolar Ignite 3Garmin Forerunner 55Polar Ignite 2Polar Unite
Bluetooth Smart to Phone UploadingNoYesYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)YesYesYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)NoNoYesNoNo
Group trackingNoNoNoNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoYes (via phone)NoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNoNo
CyclingMotorola MotoactvPolar Ignite 3Garmin Forerunner 55Polar Ignite 2Polar Unite
Designed for cyclingYesYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableYesNoNoNoNo
Power Meter Configuration/Calibration OptionsYesN/AN/AN/AN/A
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesNoYesNoNo
Strava segments live on deviceNoNoNoNo
Crash detectionNoYesNoNo
RunningMotorola MotoactvPolar Ignite 3Garmin Forerunner 55Polar Ignite 2Polar Unite
Designed for runningYesYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)YesNoYES (ALSO HAS INTERNAL ACCELEROMETER)NoNo (but has accelerometer for indoor running)
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)NoNoNoNoNo
Running PowerNoNoNoNo
VO2Max EstimationNoYesYesYesYes
Race PredictorNoNoYesNoNo
Recovery AdvisorNoNoYesNoNo
Run/Walk ModeNoNoYesNoNo
Track Recognition ModeNoYesNo
SwimmingMotorola MotoactvPolar Ignite 3Garmin Forerunner 55Polar Ignite 2Polar Unite
Designed for swimmingNoYesYesYesSorta (waterproof but HR only tracking)
Openwater swimming modeN/AYesN/AYesNo
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingN/AYesYesYesNo
Record HR underwaterNoYesYesYesYes
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)N/AYesN/AYesNo
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)N/AYesYesYesNo
Indoor Drill ModeN/ANoNoNo
Indoor auto-pause featureN/AYesYesNo
Change pool sizeN/AYesYesYesNo
Indoor Min/Max Pool LengthsN/A20M/Y to 250 m/y20M/Y to 250 m/yN/A
Ability to customize data fieldsN/AYesYesYesYes
Captures per length data - indoorsN/AYesYesYesNo
TriathlonMotorola MotoactvPolar Ignite 3Garmin Forerunner 55Polar Ignite 2Polar Unite
Designed for triathlonNoNoNoNoNo
Multisport modeN/ANoNoNoNo
WorkoutsMotorola MotoactvPolar Ignite 3Garmin Forerunner 55Polar Ignite 2Polar Unite
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesYesYesYesYes
On-unit interval FeatureYesSorta (offers structured workouts)YesSorta (offers structured workouts)Sorta (offers structured workouts)
Training Calendar FunctionalityNoHas daily suggested workoutsYesHas daily suggested workoutsSorta (offers daily workouts)
FunctionsMotorola MotoactvPolar Ignite 3Garmin Forerunner 55Polar Ignite 2Polar Unite
Auto Start/StopYesNoYes
Virtual Partner FeatureYesNo (but can give out of zone information)Virtual PacerNo (but can give out of zone information)No (but can give out of zone information)
Virtual Racer FeatureYesYes (Race Pace)NoNoNo
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)NoNoYesNoNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNo
Weather Display (live data)NoYesYesYesNo
NavigateMotorola MotoactvPolar Ignite 3Garmin Forerunner 55Polar Ignite 2Polar Unite
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)YesNoNoNoNo
Markers/Waypoint DirectionNoNoNoNoNo
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)YesNoNoNoNo
Back to startYesNoNoNoNo
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNoNoNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitNoNoNoNoNo
SensorsMotorola MotoactvPolar Ignite 3Garmin Forerunner 55Polar Ignite 2Polar Unite
Altimeter TypeGPSGPSNoGPSNone
Compass TypeGPSN/ANoneN/AN/A
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesYesYesYes
SpO2 (aka Pulse Oximetry)NoNoNoNo
ECG FunctionalityNONoNO
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYesNoYesNoNo
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYesNoYesNoNo
ANT+ Footpod CapableYesNoYesNoNo
ANT+ Power Meter CapableYesNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoNoNoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableYesYesNoYesYes
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableNoNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableNoNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoNoNoNoNo
Temp Recording (internal sensor)NoNoNoNoNo
Temp Recording (external sensor)NoNoNoNoNo
SoftwareMotorola MotoactvPolar Ignite 3Garmin Forerunner 55Polar Ignite 2Polar Unite
PC ApplicationMotoSyncPolar Flowsync - Windows/MacGarmin Express (PC/Mac)Polar Flowsync - Windows/MacPolar Flowsync - Windows/Mac
Web ApplicationMotoactv.comPolar FlowGarmin ConnectPolar FlowPolar Flow
Phone AppNoiOS/AndroidiOS/AndroidiOS/AndroidiOS/Android
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNoNo
PurchaseMotorola MotoactvPolar Ignite 3Garmin Forerunner 55Polar Ignite 2Polar Unite
DCRainmakerMotorola MotoactvPolar Ignite 3Garmin Forerunner 55Polar Ignite 2Polar Unite
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Pro’s and Con’s:

Finally, no review would be complete without the infamous pros and cons section.


– Amazingly clean user interface
– Easily records your runs, bikes, walks, other gym equipment
– Supports ANT+, Bluetooth Low Energy, Bluetooth sensors
– Supports Bluetooth headphones wirelessly
– Allows data export to CSV
– Connects via Wifi to automatically upload workouts


– Waterproofing is of questionable integrity
– No audible alerts without headphones
– No vibration engine for vibration alerts
– Battery level seems lower than it should be

As always, thanks for reading, I appreciate it.  If you have any questions – feel free to post them below, I try to answer as often as possible.  Thanks!

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Hopefully you found this review useful.  At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device.

The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love).  As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.  If you found this review helpful in your purchasing decision, you can support future reviews like this by using any of the Amazon links (unit or accessories above).  If you’re overseas, I’ve got links to all of the major individual country Amazon stores on the sidebar towards the top.

Thanks for reading!  And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible.  Further, you can always e-mail me at the address on the sidebar.  And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below.  Thanks!

Finally, I’ve written up a ton of helpful guides around using most of the major fitness devices, which you may find useful.  These guides are all listed on this page here.

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  1. blah

    you have to adjust the data sampling/UI refresh rate to get more battery life… I had to adjust it down to every 2 seconds for have it last for my 4+ hour rides.. there is a marathon mode too, but at the default rate I get about the same life outta it (around 2 hours)


  2. Paul Frylink

    The wearit watch seems to be getting closer, but no indications of release yet – it may come close to replacing my Motoactv :-
    link to si14.com

    • Pat

      WearIT looks pretty slick, almost like everything we hoped the MotoActv could be.

      I’d love to see Garmin or someone like that who already has a solid application in place, and deep experience on the hardware side go after a MotoActv-type unit. I can’t imagine we’re the only ones that loved the promise of an integrated MP3 player, running watch, cycling computer, and general fitness tracker.

      DCR dashed my hopes that the Pebble might fill this gap, so I guess I’ll pin my hopes on WearIT for the time being.

  3. Richard

    Good news! After months of inactivity the Wearit site has been updated with a lot more juicy details
    link to wearit.it
    So maybe it’s close to becoming a reality. I hope so because it looks fantastic, and waterproof too. I”ll be looking forward to Mr Rainmaker getting his hands on one and putting through it’s paces.

    • paul frylink

      Encouraging indeed. They say on the developer page that 200 developer prototypes are available.
      It looks great

  4. Brent

    This is a bit strange but i am fairly certain that my motoactv has a power maximum of under 1000 watts. If i put in a good sprint which i can complete at greater than 1000 watts the power reading goes blank. The CP graph is suspiciously flat at just under 1000 watts for the first 15 seconds or so when using the motoactv. When connected to a garmin 510 my sprint will result in greater than 1000 watts by enough margin to see that the problem is the motoactv. It just will not do > 1000 watts..

  5. Randy

    I have a MOTOACTV and love it, but the product as a whole really is on its last legs.

    I went out for a run about a month ago with the unit clipped to my waist band. I finished the run with 50 meters of all-out sprinting, and of course the MOTOACTV fell off and the screen shattered when it hit the sidewalk.

    I decided to send the unit in to get repaired, fully expecting to pay $69 for out-of-warranty service. (Considering I only paid $130 originally, it’s still a bargain.) Fast forward a week or two, and in the process of switching to a new repair facility in a new state, Motorola apparently misplaced my unit and couldn’t even assess it for a repair.

    At that point, they told me they’d happily send me a refurbished unit (at no cost – free repair!), but don’t have any in stock. They offered me three options: (1) wait indefnitely to see if they get any more, at which point they’d send me one; (2) get a refund of my original purchase price, or (3) go buy a new one and they’d refund me that amount. I was astonished that they’d offer such generous options.

    I chose option (3). Though I’m now the proud owner of a brand new MOTOACTV, it took quite a bit of searching. These things barely exist in the wild. A few places still sell the unit online, but I didn’t trust that they were “authorized retailers”. My local running store had a few on the shelf but the girl helping me didn’t even know what they were. I got one of their two units, which were being sold at closeout pricing. I’ve since invested in some bluetooth headphones and plan to keep on using my MOTOACTV until I kill it (again).

    tl;dr version: Motorola service was fantastic, but even they don’t have these awesome devices anymore, and they’ve finally been exhausted from stores too!

  6. Adam Halawi

    I purchased a Motoactv on the strength of the very in depth review on these very pages and have been exceptionally happy with its performance but as other people have noted, its waterproofing or even just its splashproofing leaves a lot to be desired and it’s ability to connect via bluetooth to my windows phoneis non-exisitent.

    These days, due to water ingress during a particularly rainy run, the start tracking / activity and sleep / wake buttons are crossed. Annoying to say the least. I want to get a new watch but I feel there isn’t really anything that comes close to this near two year old tech at present! Am thinking about the Kreyos or have just seen some comments on the wearIT as well which might be suitable – but does anyone know when it might be out?

    If anyone has any other recommendations, other than just buying a new unit then please let me know!

    • Richard

      Adam There was an article on this site a few weeks back regarding the new Addidas smart run watch
      Here link to dcrainmaker.com
      Personally though, after owning a Motoactv for 2 years and changing to a Garmin 310xt about 4 months back I don’t think I’ll be switching to the Addidas. The Garmin doesn’t have the feature set of the Motoactv or Addidas, but it just works!

    • It’s tough. There’s not a lot of great options out there with music capabilities. I’d really suggest splitting those roles out.

    • Paul Frylink

      Adam, like you, I was exceptionally happy with my Motoactiv until it succumbed to moisture and to date, have not been able to find an equivalent.
      Recently, I backed a project on kickstarter called the “Omate” smart watch which looked promising. They have just started shipping – backers should start receiving their watches very shortly, so I am not in a position to comment on its functionality as a sports watch just yet. On paper it looks good, but reality may be completely different.
      The device runs Android 4.2, so at the very least you should be able to (side) load your favourite sports app – Endomondo, Runkeeper, Strava etc. and I am sure developers will create custom apps for it in due course.
      Hopefully, mine should arrive before christmas. Here is the link to the device :-
      link to omate.com

  7. Bob

    About having to turn the screen on while running to save battery, a neat feature I think these watch makers should make are something where you twist/shake your wrist to turn the screen on. You know how when you are wearing a watch that’s a bit too loose, and it slips around your wrist, so you shake it to get the face back on top? Sort of like that.

  8. Darren abbott

    Just bought the motorola motoactv from sweatshop £125 ,after reading the reviews was very excited to get home to charge it up and go for a run , plugged it in nothing will not charge start up just dead , will be taking it back to the shop for my money back tomorrow …. Will be replacing it with a tomtom runner

  9. giorgitd

    Woot Sport has this *today only* (15 Feb 14): $80 for 8 Gb refurb, $120 for 8 Gb new and $130 for 16 Gb new. Just FYI. I’m thinking about getting one just to play around with, knowing full well that one rain storm or a sweaty run might kill it.
    link to sport.woot.com
    I also looked into Liquipel, thinking that if it were inexpensive enough, I might go for the 16 Gb, do the Liquipel and hope that it would prevent the incidental water/sweat from killing the Motoactiv. But Liquipel seems to be $60 for practically any personal electronic device, so maybe not for me…
    link to liquipel.com

  10. giorgitd

    Woot Sport has this again today (30 March 14), but only 8 Gb models, New, $120 and refurb $100. So, a price *increase* of $20 for the refurb relative to February 2014 (same price for new).

  11. giorgitd

    Woot Sport, today (30 April 14) has the 8 Gb version (refurb) for $80+$5 shipping. So, back to mid-Feb pricing. Woot sure is loaded with these!

  12. Keshav

    I still want to buy one so If I order one from Amazon would it still work perfectly fine – water issues,battery issues and sync with motoactv and is there any thing similar in the market with some other brand!

  13. Sergey

    Hi! I’m wondering about, if there are some other watches that allow you to actually see the map? I think, i’ve seen some in Suunto, but I have no clue if there is something less expensive?

    Thank you a lot, you have great reviews!

  14. gobber

    what about swimming?

  15. Nick

    I still think the Motoactv was ahead of it’s time. It’s still my favorite device for running and biking.

    There are a few things that are now incorrect on the review because of update. The app in now compatible with all Android devices. It does call and message notifications from phone. The battery life is much better now with the extended and marathon workout modes. These modes change the update time from 1sec to 2 and 3 seconds. This makes it so I can go for a 3-4 hour run with the screen on and still have 45% battery left.

    Also, you can now upload and download workout information through bluetooth and the phone app. This works with android phones on both mobile data and Wi-Fi.

    You can also create workouts on the phone app.

    Another thing is that it can do basic activity tracking throughout the day with data like calories and steps. It sync this information every night to the Motoactv website.

    There are also developed apps that allow the device to export workouts, automatically on the device, to Runkeeper, Google Drive, Dropbox, as well as post to Facebook through Runkeeper.

    Again, I still haven’t found anything that I like as much as the Motoactv, and unless big changes come around on other devices, it seems like I never will.

    The only thing I’m worried about is that the Motoactv website will shut down and I wont be able to create interval workouts.

    Is there anything out there that you think could replace the Motoactv for me?

    • Paul Frylink


      I am with you on the Motoactv being ahead of its time.
      Sadly I got less than 6 months use out of mine before I killed it with moisture.
      It has been well over a year now since it died and it has left a lasting impression on me – I have been patiently waiting for something similar to come along.

      About 4 months ago, I dropped my Timex global trainer and broke the on/off button, so that left me with no GPS running watch. I bought a Magellan/Mio Cyclo 505 for my bike and also ended up running with it in my hand until my Omate arrived (see below).

      Contendors for me have been :-
      – Anothor Motoactv Hesitant due to moisture issues and obsolescence
      – Wearit Seems to be vapourwear – have been following this one for over 2 years now and nothing is happening with it
      – Leikr Seems a bit big / only IPX67
      – Adidas smart Gps accuracy / waterproofing, price and battery life uncertainties turn me off

      I have been watching (ha ha) the developments in the smartwatch market (Android wear etc), but so far disappointed :-
      – Samsung gear No GPS
      – LG G watch No GPS
      – Samsung gear live No GPS
      – Motorola 360 Due out soon, but probably no GPS
      – Samsung Gear solo Rumoured Smart phone/watch – who knows?

      I know you can pair these with a phone, but what is the point? That means I have to take 2 devices for a run!

      1 month ago, my Omate Truesmart watch arrived in the mail. I backed this on Kickstarter last September – it took 9 months for my reward to arrive!
      Ray has a fair bit to say about Kickstarter projects, and I understood the risks when I backed this regarding delays and change in specs etc.

      So I was pleasantly surprised when it finally arrived – quality and functionality are great.
      It is essentially an android smartphone on your wrist (it has its own Sim card). It is not too big and while it is ‘weighty’ it is not too heavy.
      Being Android, you can run any available running app you chose – I have tried a few and currently use Strava but I need to research a few more apps to find one I can configure the screen the way I want. My eyesight is not what it used to be, so I struggle to read the tiny screen.
      No ANT+ unfortunately, but apparently Bluetooth LE is coming …
      It has regular Bluetooth, so I can stream music/radio to my Cynaps cap while out for a run.

      While this sounds like a glowing review (and I do love my Omate), would I recommend it as a sport watch? – NO
      – It is not a sports watch – it is a smart phone
      – Waterproofing – supposed to be IPX67, but users are experiencing issues with moisture. I wouldn’t trust it near water.
      – Support (or lack thereof) – being a startup company, there is currently no network of support. If it breaks you’re on your own.
      – Battery life. It is OK for what it is trying to do – after all, it has 3G,GPS,WIFI,Bluetooth a colour touchscreen. I charge it daily just like my regular smart phone. The longest I have used it as a sport watch is 90 minutes – with 3G, GPS and Bluetooth going, it consumed over 50% of the battery. Turn off 3G and Bluetooth and you undoubtedly get better life.

      So, that’s the state of play for me.

  16. Honza

    Thank you for the fantastic review. I have a Samsung smartphone and I wonder, if I will be able to answer calls with Motorola Motoactv when connected through Bluetooth.
    Thank you

  17. Himanshu

    I have used the Motoactv for the last 2 years. This watch just has been absolutely wonderful!! I have no issues with battery whatsoever. I am just researching a new watch and Garmin 220 seems like a winner but that also does not seem to have the features this 3 years old watch has. I am NOT interested in music capability. My question is what am I gaining in buying one of the recommended watches from Summer 2014 collection (link to dcrainmaker.com)? Or shall I just purchase another Motoactv from Amazon or somewhere? Running capability is the main feature I am looking for. This is the only GPS watch I have ever owned so looking for the experts here for some guidance.

    • The main reason I wouldn’t recommend it is that as of last week or so, the Motoactv site is now offline. Thus, there’s no longer a way to get data off of it (without hacking it).

      Ultimately, while the Motoactv was ahead of its time in many areas, it was far behind its time in one key area: Waterproofing.

      Thus, given it’s no longer made (and hasn’t been for years), and as of a week or two no longer has a site, there’s really no reason I’d buy one.

    • Nick

      I’m not sure why you think that. The motoactv website is absolutely NOT offline. I just used it this morning and am uploading a workout right now. I still have not found anything that measures up to the Motoactv and I doubt I will for quite a while.

    • Weird, I had multiple people contact me last week noting it went out. Great to hear then.

      (Though, really, I still wouldn’t recommend buying one simply because there’s no improvements coming to it, and the site could go out at any point.)

    • Nick

      I do agree that buying one now would be foolish. I just wish I could find a replacement that I like.

    • mathieu

      Hi guys ,

      First of all , thanks to all for your comments and thanks Rainmaker for your very good blog. I discovered it there’s a few days and you make good work :-)

      I use everyday a little Fitbit ultra in my pocket ( since 2 years ) and i’m fully satisfied of it.

      But for running tracking , it lacks some features like music player, GPS, etc etc.

      I found an offer to get a motoactv device but last comments do not convince me …

      – Motoactv.com seems to be still up and running. And I’m not sure that Motorola would shutdown it as it must not cost so well and that some users might still use devices.

      – As Nick said there is 2 months , it seems that last update brought some interesting evolvements. Even if Motorola won’t publish no more updates no more , maybe this device reach its optimal status.

      Why do you say that buying one today is foolish if we cannot find a real concurrent on market ?

      ( Excuse my poor english )


  18. Duan

    I’m disappointed with the current crop of android wear especially the moto 360, I was going that they would have incorporated what made this watch so good. Right now nothing seems to be as good as this device. It’s too bad you can’t expert you workout to strava because at least then you have a portal to go through. There a lot of them for sale now and it’s tempting.

  19. Paul Frylink

    Three years on, it looks like we might finally be getting close to the Motoactiv.
    Sony smartwatch 3 running android wear actually includes a GPS – hooray!

    link to sonymobile.com

    I think I still may get the 920XT though…

  20. Bart Bouse

    I couldn’t resist buying a Motoactv last week with the low price even though I know that the website could be shut down anytime, the battery life sucks, and you can’t sneeze on it or it will be water damaged. It’s a product I just always wanted to try. If I like it, however, I may be inclined to buy the Timex One GPS+ when it comes out if the reviews are good. I run with music and just like the form factor. After using it only a couple times, I’m really impressed with some things. The setup was simple and the interface is clean, intuitive, and easy. The single button start stop is great compared to others like the Garmin Fenix which should come with a keyboard as you have to push 20 buttons to get on or off. The wifi sync has worked incredibly well and the redsneaker link to runkeeper has worked very well. I use Tapirik to automatically get the data to Garmin and Strava. I may purchase Runkeeper Elite to get automatic uploads to Runkeeper from the Motorola website. The ant+ connection and bluetooth headphone connection were easy and provided no dropouts whatsoever. The tracks were consistent and just as accurate as my 305 or Fenix. Maybe better than Fenix. I hate the Fenix, as you know. The touchscreen performed well and, as opposed to the Fenix, I can read the darn thing while running. So far for the way I would use it, my only concern is battery life. A 4.5 mile run with bluetooth headphones, ant+ mio link, and music dropped the battery from 100% to 40%. Is this consistent with others use of the Motoactv? Used in that manner, it doesn’t appear one could even get a half marathon without a power shutdown. Heck, I don’t think you could do a quarter marathon. What was yours or others battery life experience?

    • Paul Frylink


      I used my Motoactiv once to record a 6 hour event. I did this by turning the screen off (no bluetooth either).
      I can’t recall how much battery was left afterwards – may have been less that 20%, but it coped with the 6 hours OK. I was able to check progress, by pressing a button whenever I wanted the screen back on.

      It is not ideal, but if you are prepared to press a button while running to turn the screen on, you should be able to get a marathon out of it.

    • Bart Bouse

      Thanks Paul. Last night I tried wired headphones with bluetooth off and got a better result. After a 4.5 mile run I had 60% battery left. I ran at night in the dark so it was even slower than the first use but still had 20% more battery by turning off bluetooth. I’m guessing, if I needed to, I could turn the screen off and probably get another 20% or more. At that rate, a person should be able to get a half marathon in with some battery left. I will assume your were not listening to music on the 6 hour event but maybe I’m wrong.

    • Paul Frylink

      That is correct, no music or other sensors were in use apart from the GPS.

  21. Bart Bouse

    I apparently didn’t have the latest firmware. I upgraded Friday then ran a 5k Saturday morning in OKC. Used only 10% battery on a 5k with music, gps, and ant+ connected to mio link. Really, not that bad. At that rate, possibly being 10% every 3 miles, one might get a marathon on a full charge with music. The only annoying issue I’ve seen with the Motoactv is that I have apparently accidently started the gps a couple times while wearing as a normal watch. I really don’t know how it is happening. Easy enough to delete the tracks but annoying. As opposed to say my experience with the Fenix, I’m at least getting through with workouts without shut downs and other failures. The data is just very good and the experience great with music and no phone or ipod. Redsneaker is finicky in getting data from motocast to runkeeper. I had to try several times Saturday to get the 5k data to sync. Obviously, this is on the Redsneaker side of the equation and not a fault with the Motoactv. So far, for $140 this thing is great. Just sad I didn’t get one a few years ago when it was still being produced and supported.

  22. Bart Bouse

    Didn’t Lenovo purchase Motorola Mobility from Googe? Any chance Lenovo will revive or reinvent something here after the Moto 360?

  23. Bart Bouse

    Motoactv users – Please go to Tapiriik and ask him to add syncronization with Motoactv. I have no idea technically what is required but understand the source code is open source know and portal open. If redsneaker can push it to runkeeper then Tapiriik could do the same automatically and get it to Garmin, Strava, Runkeeper, etc. automatically. That would be awesome.

    • Bart Bouse

      Does Motoactv have an open API that makes sync by Tapiriik possible? Collin says he is willing to look at it. I know nothing of the technical side of this.

  24. Bart Bouse

    Here’s a link to sync your motoactv step and calorie count to fitbit http://www.fitnesstransfer.com. This can in turn be linked to myfitnesspal, etc. apparently. I do not believe it will transfer specific workouts but will transfer the steps and calories from all day including the workout.

  25. Jojo Cuarto

    Hi, the past week or so, I’ve been having issues syncing my workouts to the motoactv website. I get an “unable to process the request” error message when I go to the site to review details from my last few runs. I understand that Motoactv is not actively being supported so does anyone out there know of a third party app that I can use to transfer my workouts into while using wifi? I keep hearing about Tapiriik, but I think that’s still dependent on me using the motoactv site to upload my workout to and then transferring the file manually as a .ctx extension.

    • Bart Bouse

      I had the same problem this week on two workouts. I finally got one to go through after attempting several times the day after the workout. I use redsneaker (listed on Ray’s tools/utilities page) to get the data to Runkeeper. However, this was also not working for awhile this week as I suspect redsneaker was unable to log in to Motoactv. If Motoactv continues to be buggy or goes down, I think, for lack of a better term, we are screwed. The only options that I am aware of beyond that would be to manually pull the files off the motoactv through windows explorer or the like each time by attaching a usb cable and searching the files on the motoactv or to root the device. Rooting, although I don’t know much about rooting, is adding nonapproved software to an android operating system device to get additional functionality. Many people have apparently semi-successfully rooted the motoactv. I have avoided rooting and really thing I’d probably just buy a new device rather than spending the time rooting. However, it may be worth a try. There are several pages on the internet and references in the motoactv forums on rooting. I’ve only had the motoactv a couple months and really like it but clearly see why Ray and others aren’t interested in it any more. Motorola should be ashamed at their extremely poor customer service on this thing now. Essentially, the motoactv was released in late 2011 and by late 2012 Motorola gave up on it for various reasons which I believe are (1) Motorola refused to seriously open up the API (which they still haven’t) to allow developers to truly link to other platforms like Runkeeper, Garmin, Strava, etc. They must have believed this would cost them money to open it up but the opposite occurred. It cost them because they wouldn’t. (2) The motoactv suffered from serious water death problems and they were slow to react. Instead of listening to customers they blamed customers. and (3) Maybe most importantly, Motorola sold to Google and Google didn’t care about the motoactv division as it hadn’t made any money and was competing with Garmin, Polar, Sunnto. As aptly put in a forum, Motorola screwed up and they “could have owned Garmin” if they had corrected the problems and listened to people like Ray and customers. But they didn’t and the best GPS watch, hardware wise, made in the last 6 years is history.

  26. Jojo Cuarto

    Thanks for your reply Bart. It’s been frustrating because I have an upcoming Half Marathon I am training for and I wanted to upload my last tempo run. At first, I thought it was an issue with the sync from my watch so I deleted the run from the motoactv portal. But now I don’t know how to re-sync that particular run from my watch so I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. I may look into the rooting option, but I agree with you that Motorola is losing out on the market share because their great product does not have the customer service it deserves to continue growing.

    • Bart Bouse

      It’s definitely a tragedy of Shakespearian proportions. Almost six years later the only other gps watch to integrate music, android, touch screen, and whole other list of firsts is the Adidas Smart Run which by all accounts couldn’t navigate you a city block without taking a detour through your neighbors kitchen and the battery life is even far worse than the Motoactv. The upcoming Timex One GPS announced in August still has not hit the market and is experiencing serious delays. What’s really concerning about the upcoming Timex is that if we compare the promised battery life on the Motoactv and Adidas Smart Run to the actual it was about one-third at release and later about one-half. The Timex is slated to have four hours upon release. If we apply the Motoactv/Adidas Smart Run claims to the Timex it means the Timex will actually get about an hour and 15 minutes. I think this is the reason they can’t get it to market after five months. So, still noone can build a gps watch comparable to the Motoactv but Motorola couldn’t have done worse in customer service or responsiveness to issues. They didn’t care then and they sure don’t now. I think I will root my and try it but if not, I’ll move on to something else. I have a couple other gps watches so I won’t cry anymore over the Motoactv.

    • Paul Frylink

      I do feel your pain/passion regarding the Motoactv obsolescence.
      Bart has given a very good summary of the situation above.
      Motorola’s next attempt in this space is their Moto 360 – while this may appeal to a wider market, as far as I’m concerned, its useless as a sports watch as it does not have an inbuilt GPS – Opportunity lost.
      I recently opted for the new Garmin 920XT – no music on board, but a fantastic sports watch.

  27. Bart Bouse

    Jojo and Paul,
    Tonight I ran again with the Motoactv. To describe my love/hate relationship with this thing, I arrived home from work, went to my closet and threw on running gear, grabbed the motoactv and turned it on (had it completely off), grabbed my Planatronics backbeat go bluetooth headphones and headed out the house, the bluetooth headphones connected in two seconds to the motoactv, in the garage on the way out I started the music on the Motoactv, I exited the garage and hit the start button on the motoactv, and finally less than 5 seconds later I had a gps lock. The whole process from the time I picked up the completely off motoactv to gps satellite lock could not have been more than 20 seconds. My brand new iphone 6 can’t even compete in connecting to bluetooth headphones and starting runkeeper in this short time. The gps lock time makes the relatively new Garmin Fenix look like a dump truck and my 305 like a horse and buggy compared to a Ferrari. It is without doubt the smoothest most brilliant gps watch experience with bluetooth headphones and lock time. Now the hate, I have never figured out the voice coaching to my satisfaction and Motorola has never given any clear instructions for it, the Motoactv dropped the headphones once during the run, then, after uploading the Motoactv site gave the same “unable to process the request” error message tonight when I attempted to look at my data. So, I went here link to forums.motorola.com and used a root method given to me by someone on the Motorola Motoactv forums. This was fairly simple and I’ve never rooted anything but trees and sports teams. I finished the root and uploaded the workout to Runkeeper without issue. Soon, I’ll see if it is automatically uploading to Runkeeper or have it auto upload to dropbox. I have tapiriik syncing Strava, Garmin, Runkeeper, and Nike+. Good Luck if you try it Jojo but it was fairly painless. I figured I had nothing to lose at this point after three days of not being able to easily see my Motoactv data on their site.

  28. Bart Bouse

    The Mototactv portal has been down approx. nine days. Though I and others have repeatedly posted to the Motorola forums only a volunteer and no employee has responded. The volunteer has not responded in three days. Users everywhere including France, Belgium, Australia, and of course U.S. report an inability to use the portal. Activities may be uploading but you generally can’t access the data or export it. I have rooted my device. With the problems with the portal, without rooting, a Motoactv is mostly reduced to a wrist worn bluetooth ipod shuffle. This is because Motorola will not open up the API like virtually every other fitness company has done. If there was any doubt before, this is surely a “DO NOT BUY” gps watch at this time. I have rooted and will be testing the upload to Runkeeper but I doubt most people will want to mess with this kind of hassle in a gps watch. It surely doesn’t fit in the “just works” category as Ray likes to call it.

    • Jojo Cuarto

      Thanks Bart. I guess at this moment, I have 2 options. Buy a new watch (maybe the Garmin 920?) or root my current watch. Since my wife will probably say no to the first option, I think I’ll be following you down the rabbit hole and rooting mine tonight.

      I’ll let you know how that goes. :-)


    • Jojo Cuarto

      Hi Bart, I followed the instructions to root my motoactv and now I have the Export TCX option in the Settings Menu. But when I click on it, it just shows my saved workouts and the export button. Nothing happens when I click on the button. I’m assuming I did something wrong because it doesn’t seem to be prompting me for a third party site to load the run into.



    • Bart Bouse

      Make sure you try to scroll down. The Runkeeper button will be below the export button. I had to try to scroll down a couple times before I found the Runkeeper button. Press it and you should be able to put in your Runkeeper login. I’m at work and don’t have the Motoactv with me but will look at it tonight and let you anything different.

    • Jojo Cuarto

      Thanks Bart,
      After I posted here last night, I re-rooted my phone and I’m now able to see more options under the export button (i.e. Google, Runkeeper, Facebook, DropBox, etc). Now my question is, when you click on Google for example, how do you type in your username and password? I don’t see anything resembling a keyboard that pops up. FYI, it was almost 2 in the morning when I did this so I probably didn’t notice it because I was half asleep (which makes it more amazing that I didn’t brick my phone!). And no rush on getting back to me on this. This is my first time rooting anything so to have a still-functioning watch is still awesome to me.

      Thanks again,


    • Bart Bouse


      I think you are posting in the motoactv forums as well. Go to Settings – Export TCX – scoll down and make sure enable WIFI is selected. Make sure your Motoactv is hooked to the internet by wifi. Then selectt Settings under the Export TCX then select Google Drive. At this point it should load a web page to log in your google id. Enter your id and select enter. It will then show another page, scroll down and select “accept”. Also, if you are having problems to to Settings – Wireless – wifi networks and verify that you are connected to a wifi network with internet access. That should do it.

  29. Nick Ward

    Jojo and Bart,

    I have to say I don’t understand why you aren’t able to get onto the Motoactv portal. I’m on it right now actually and when I get home I’ll put up a test workout for you two to see. I’m able to do everything I normally do on there and I uploaded a workout to it from my watch last night.

    • Bart Bouse

      Aren’t you a lucky one. Just go to the Motoactv forums and see how many people everywhere in the world have not been able to get on the last 10 days. Two people in the forums have reported emails from Motorola support saying they are moving the portal to a new server, therefore they admit a serious problem. No one can understand why it takes them 10 days and counting to move the portal to a new server.

  30. Bart Bouse

    Just tried it. It’s still down. Can you go buy me a lottery ticket? Your the only one in the world I know that can get their workouts to show in the portal.

    • Nick Ward

      Oh boy, I completely misread. I thought you were saying that you couldn’t get to the portal at all. I haven’t tried to actually look at my workout until now. It shows my most recent workout on the main page, but, like you, I can’t see go to the workout page at all.

      Sorry about that.

    • Bart Bouse

      Others are reporting they cannot export from the page at all, as well. Some fairly upset “former” motorola customers who have a couple years worth of data they cannot access or export.

    • Jojo Cuarto

      Thanks Bart. The issue I have is that I can’t type in my ID and password. There’s no keyboard that pops up that allows me to type in my ID. I think it may be because when I rerooted my phone, I actually ended up setting the software version about 5 versions back, so the one that my watch is on is a bit buggy. I need to reroot once again with the correct software version and hopefully that will fix my issues.

    • Jojo Cuarto

      Success. I’m in sync now!!

    • Bart Bouse

      Another run last night and everything went pretty well. The Motoactv acquired satellite signal in 5 seconds inside my house. That part is incredible. It was 28 degrees and blowing so I started everything inside and hit the door running. I had a Mio Link on the right wrist under a shirt and jacket and Motoactv on the left. The heart rate data was wonky. This is a Link issue and tells me the Mio Link has problems transmitting through clothing as previously without a shirt or jacket covering it, I could get it to work on the other wrist. The TCX exporter to Google Drive worked fine. I had to re-enable wifi but it sent it immediately thereafter. Tapiriik synced it quickly with Garmin and Runkeeper but Strava won’t accept the data through Tapiriik from Google Drive. Garmin shows Greenwich mean time which is confusing but otherwise okay. Runkeeper probably shows the best data. Also some issues with total time versus moving time but otherwise the solution is working. The Motoactv did upload to the motorola portal but as the case for the last two weeks, you cannot view your data.

    • Bart Bouse

      I figured out my problem with Strava sync with Tapiriik. The tcx file from the Motoactv is uncategorized. If I go to either Garmin Connect or Runkeeper and edit the activity to show it as a run then Tapiriik will sync it to Strava the next time it syncs. So, this is one additional step if I want to get it to Strava and/or make sure it shows as the correct activity type. No big deal. Other than sometimes having to type a couple buttons on the Motoactv to re-enable wifi to get the tcx exporter to wifi sync and edit the activity type on the pc, if I want the data to Strava also, the root with tcx exporter is a complete and successful workaround to get away from the Motoactv portal. I do love the quick satellite lock of the Motoactv and the verbal cue when the gps lock is acquired and heart rate monitor is attached. In this colder weather I need to get a pair of gloves that work with touch screens. I’ve seen some running gloves with such capability advertised. None of the several pair of running gloves I have work. Only completely necessary at the end of a run but handy nonetheless.

  31. Ricardo

    HOLA… yo tambien tengo varios problemas con el portal de MOTOACTV.. no se puede visualizar ningun recorrido realziado, tampoco deja exportar… el portal esta muy mal… no saben si existe otro programa o portal web que permita descargar los datos directamente del reloj gps Motoactv.???
    que pasó con le portal???
    saludos desde Ecuador

  32. Camilo

    Good news, I was just able to download all my workouts via the motoactv portal, in case you want to give it a try.
    I thought I was going to loose them forever in the motoactv black hole. I kept trying and never worked. But today I selected Export All Workouts, TCX and it worked like a charm. Good luck.

  33. Camilo

    BTW, TCX is the best option for export, right?

  34. Geert Cornelissen

    I have the motorola now over a year and i must say with the ltest update from ofcourse 2 years ago everything works super and the website is up and running but i use also tcx exporter. When i look at al the other watches this is the most super and the battery is about 8 hours now with running

    • Paul frylink

      Yup, it was ahead of the game. Just wish it was waterproof – and I would probably still have mine…

    • Pat

      I switched back to Garmin with the Fenix 3 and haven’t looked back. GPS acquisition, multisport, notifications, waterproofing and battery life are far superior. I miss the music player but that’s about it.

      Motorola really had a winner. The MotoACTV was 2-3 years ahead of its time and a v2 could have been excellent. It’s too bad they abandoned the product. It would be interesting to see what someone could come up with doing a sport-oriented watch with Android Wear, but for now, I’ll keep my week-long battery life and “real watch” appearance with the Fenix.

    • Geert Cornelissen

      Yes your right about waterproof and batterylife but look also at the price,i bought mine for 139 euro new and the fenix3 is+_ 450 ore more,i use the moto also as a normal watch ,ok its a bit bigger but looks also nice,ok no swimming ,i heard moto is sold to a korean compagny mayby something new wil come.

  35. Rafael

    Has anyone nano-coated their motoactv? I wonder if that would be enough to help with sweat and moisture.

  36. Steven

    Ray, not sure if you know, but is the MotoACTV speed/cadence sensor (that looks just like a Wahoo speed/cadence) ANT+ and Bluetooth? It says ANT+ on the box, but I’m not sure if it’s Bluetooth too. If so, I can save $30 and buy a motoactv rather than wahoo :)