First look at the new Magellan Echo Fit

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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:

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!

DC Rainmaker :

View Comments (85)

  • Follow up to my December 19, 2014 post.
    I bought a brand new battery and replaced the old one in my 2-month old Echo Fit watch.
    This solved all my previous problems.
    The watch is working as advertised, with no further problems. I had no problems with installing the battery by myself, either.
    Just an FYI for an easy fix.

  • I had so many issues with mine when I first got it and I was so disappointed.
    For me buying a new battery changed all my problems.
    I was all ready to ship it back as junk.
    I'm happy with it now.
    At least it doesn't show that I sleep 50-60 hours every night!!

  • Has this been released in UK/Europe yet? It has everything I need as a PE teacher (steps, HR, stopwatch) and would be a great accessory but cant find it anywhere. If it hasn't been released yet, are there any alternatives that have at least these three things?

  • I've been frustrated at the lack of firmware updates from Magellan. As Ray mentioned in his review, Magellan was going to put out a firmware update in November. I haven't seen one for my Echo yet and the product manager didn't state they were going to roll one out when speaking to him at CES.

  • Well, I updated the software for my Echo Fit watch.
    One of the "fixes", stated that it would provide better battery life.
    HA!
    Within one day of installing the latest and only update, my watch showed "Low Battery".
    OK, within 12 hours the battery was dead...completely.
    The battery was replaced just 2 months ago and I don't use it to count laps and I don't use the sleep function. The previous battery came with the watch and I did use it for the laps and sleep function...lasted 3 months.
    I use it as a regular watch which records my steps, calories, and mileage daily...nothing else.
    So much for better battery life.
    Does anyone know why the battery life is so short? Or what I can do to prevent the battery drain?
    Other than replacing the watch!

    • Now I have firmware 4.0.5.25., I don't know if it is the last, because I tryed to update it, factory reseat, etc, but have not receaved update. Magellan support asked me to send my watch for diagnostic, but did not answered about version of firmware...Battery life was 1 week (varta 2032).

  • PURCHASED: 10/23/2014 for $179.
    USE: Mountain Biking, Gym (Treadmill, Stationary Rowing, Circuit Training), Hiking and Walking.
    Worn in rain 3 times, no swimming, so showers.
    Battery replaced 3 times since purchase.

    Purchased a Magellan Echo Fit after the watchband on my trustee Timex Ironman with HRM (not Bluetooth) began to tear, and found out from Timex they didn’t make a replacement for that particular model. That’s another story.

    Researched various options, deciding to go with the Magellan Echo Fit after reading a very thorough review by DC Rainmaker.

    Opened the box and scanned the barcode on the small instruction card, which launched the App Store and prompted me to download the Magellan Echo Utility to my iPhone.

    I had recently upgraded my MacBook Pro to OS X 10.10 Yosemite, and my iPhone to iOS 8. So a few moments later, while reading the basic setup guide on my iPhone, I hit the link to install the Wahoo Fitness Utility and heard a slight bleep from my Mac. iOS8’s new handoff feature had handed of the webpage address from Safari on my iPhone to my MacBook Pro while the iPhone requested permission to download the Wahoo Fitness App. Very Cool user experience.

    The setup process was fairly straightforward and seamless, never had a need for any documentation or instruction. It took me about an hour to get the watch screens dialed in. Over the course of the next 2 weeks I refined the watch interface and Wahoo Fitness Workout pages to the configurations that worked for me. There were a few bumps along the way, but I was able to work through them by re-reading parts of DC Rainmaker’s review of the original Echo, not by looking to Magellan Support.

    The key for me, and I think many other users of this device, is to sync the Echo Fit with the Wahoo Fitness App, and then feed data from Wahoo Fitness to other apps like Strava. I currently have the Wahoo Fitness App linked with Apple’s HealthKit, and I push workout summaries to Strava. HealthKit shares data with LoseIt.com, so I can track my calories and nutrition there. I have noticed that Strava does not always accurately receive the calorie count from Wahoo Fitness. This is not an issue with HealthKit or Loseit.

    Functionally the device is everything I wanted and more: flexible and customizable on the fly, takes advantage of GPS data from my iPhone, and tracks heart rate through the Bluetooth strap. I was pretty psyched initially.

    The issue with the Echo Fit isn’t software or application support, it’s the build quality of the device itself.

    On my second or third ride I noticed the interior of the display was unreadable due to condensation on the inside of lens during a descent down Mount Tamalpias. On subsequent rides the display would shut off. When turning it back on, I’d have to push the sync button on the upper left of the display to reestablish the bluetooth connection. Not the easiest thing to do when you’re navigating terrain. About forty percent of the time, when re-establishing the connection, it would also start a new workout. Very annoying. The other sixty percent the Echo Fit would re-establish the Bluetooth connection with the iPhone and continue the workout that was already running. Over time, I had problems with the condensation and power during gym workouts as well.

    I have had to replace the battery 3 times since October. The claims by the manufacturer that you can get 6-11 months out of a single battery depending on usage are patently false, as far as I’m concerned. I can count the number of times I’ve worn the watch as a time piece on one hand, the rest of the time it sits on the shelf until the next workout.

    The last time time I replaced the watch battery was on March 8th, after a firmware update. I kept getting a “battery low” message after the update, even though the release notes said battery usage was one of the issues being addressed in the firmware. Ended up performing 2 factory resets before I was able to re-pair the Echo Fit with my iPhone.

    For about ten days the Echo Fit worked better than ever. The screen tap control was more accurate and responsive, the sync issues disappeared. Only the condensation issues remained.

    And then the device just stopped working. Put in on my wrist to get ready for a ride and there was no response. Tried several factory resets, tried (yet another) battery: the device simply would not activate.

    I’ve processed an exchange and am awaiting the replacement.

    Would I recommend this device to a friend? Would I purchase it again knowing what I know now? No. I would look at at Polar or Pebble.

    Magellan is a well respected company. This is the first product I have ever bought from them. It may be the last. I don’t think the company is committed to the platform and I believe their reputation is suffering due to the poor quality and lack of enthusiasm/support for the this product.

  • For those of you using Echo Fit -- do you get notifications for texts, calls, etc on your display? I've had many technical issues with my original Echo and will be giving the Fit a chance at a discounted price.

    Thanks!

  • Sms, call, email notifications does not work. Lenovo Vibe x2, Android 5.0, bluetooth 4.0. Magellan Echo Fit 4.0.5.25.

  • Did they ever add iPhone notifications?

    I bought this watch one time before but returned it because I didn't get much use out of it, but I would spend $60 (Amazon) on it if it had text notifications.

    • I don't know about notifications for iPhone,I tryed with Android 5.1 and had not... now my daughter use watch with old Android 4.2, that is why has only watch, calories and steps...And she is looking for another phone, then will try again.

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