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Quarq Qollector In-Depth Review

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Today Quarq introduced their first consumer product that isn’t a power meter, the Qollector.  Long-time sports tech followers may remember when Quarq first tossed around the idea of something named Qollector years ago.  That device was aimed at simply sucking up any data around it and storing it for later use.  And in many ways, what Qollector is today has roots in that concept.

But today’s device is a real product, and more importantly – a saleable product.  There simply wasn’t enough of a market for an ANT+ sport data-sucker-upper.  But there is a market for athlete tracking.  And that’s what Qollector is today: A GPS and cellular enabled live tracking device, complete with ANT+ data collection and transmission.

You’ve likely seen it in various high-profile events over the past 15-18 months or so, including Ironman Hawaii (Kona) last year, as well as numerous other sporting events as part of Quarq Race Intelligence.  The Qollector has a 3G cellular chip within it, and broadcasts your position and power/heart rate/elevation/etc data to friends, family, or the entire world.  It does this with a 24+ hour battery life, and in a form factor that can be taken on a swim, bike, or run.

I’ve been using the device for about a month now, testing it out all around the world:  France, Belgium, Canada, and the United States.  In forests, cities, and deserts.  Thus, it’s definitely in-depth review time.  If you want a bit of an overview without having to read a bunch of text, checkout the video below for my overall summary.

With that – onwards and into the review!

(Time-sensitive side note: If you happen to be competing in Ironman World Championships (Kona) next week, Quarq will be loaning out 60 of these units each day for athletes to use during the race, free of charge. It’s first come, first served at the Quarq expo booth, 2pm on Tuesday and then 10am on Wednesday and Thursday. I only call this out here, since it might easily be overlooked later on. Oh, and good luck!)

Unboxing:

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As with virtually all my in-depth reviews, this too starts with an unboxing of the product.  And while this is technically a box, it’s the most unboxly shape I’ve seen in a while.  It actually reminds me a lot of the now-defunct Bia GPS unit.  Since I have to unbox many square boxes, I’m always tickled a little bit by something…you know…not square.

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If we remove everything from the tube, we’ll find all these parts:

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Inside that leaves us with: The Qollector itself, a micro-USB charging cable, a nifty carrying case for general transport, a strap to tie it onto something, and some paperwork.

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Here’s a closer look at that exciting micro-USB charging cable:

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Plus the paperwork:

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And finally, the unit itself:

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Oh, and the unit weighs 113g:

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Now there are a few mounting options you can pick up too.  These include a bike mount and a tri belt, complete with gel holders and a bib holder.

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The bike mount can be used on an aero-seat post, as well as a rear bottle cage setup on a triathlon bike:

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While the tri belt holds the unit easily (plus room for keys or a credit card if need be):

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You can get pretty creative with the bike mount and a bit of cycling parts know-how.  Plus, you can always just stash it in your back pocket too.  I did that on a handful of rides where I didn’t have the mounts on this specific bike.

Setup & Config:

So there’s two parts to setup and config.  The first is setting up the software piece, and the second is the hardware piece.  The software piece involves the platform – QuarqNet – which is where all the tracking and data collection happens.  While the second is the more mundane attachment to bike pieces.

Starting with the software piece, you can do it from a desktop or mobile phone.  You’ll head over to QuarqNet and use the little slip of registration paper found inside the box to create an account and get the unit registered on that account.  Because I was feeling lazy on this day, I did this on my mobile phone.  Here’s creation of the account:

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Then you’ll go ahead and activate the unit:

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Oh, and it’ll also give you a quick 2-second tutorial on how to use it.  It’s not brain surgery.

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Once that’s complete, you can set up data partnerships.  This will automatically sync your data to these additional platforms.  As of this writing, that’s:

– Strava
– Today’s Plan
– Training Peaks
– Dropbox

Just like setting up other data partnerships, it’s a simple authorization/validation prompt.  Quick and easy.  Don’t worry, I’ll explain more about that in a minute or ten.

Finally, you’ll also enter your phone number in, which serves as validation for the unit.  I skipped showing that part, so I don’t get texts from y’all.  Or maybe I just forgot to get a screenshot.  Either way…

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Ok, now at this point you can add in friends.  These are folks that will receive a tracking alert text every time you turn on the device.  Every…single…time.  So think carefully about how much these people love you.

You’ll simply enter in their phone number, and then immediately after that you’ll enter in a friendly name for that person.  They’ll then receive a confirmation text which they have to respond to, to start tracking on the platform.  They can opt-out at any time.

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As of present you can’t enter in an e-mail address instead.  For me, that’s a bit of a bummer.  For example, The Girl was in both Canada and the US recently.  But she normally has a French phone number (since we live in France), so when she’s travelling outside the country she usually just uses WiFi hotspots, so this won’t work for her.  The same goes for anyone that happens to travel to a destination race.

In talking with Quarq, they seem to understand the challenge here – and honestly, it’s likely cheaper for them to add in e-mail tracking than phone text alerts anyway.  Hopefully we’ll see that soon.  Also, while it accepts her French number, it doesn’t seem to accept a name tied to a French number. Quarq’s looking into that and it sounds like that should be resolved shortly as well.

Ok, with everything ready to roll on the software side – let’s focus on the hardware setup.

In my case I went with the tri-bike setup first, so I attached it to the back of my triathlon/TT bike, with a rear cage.  I’m using the Hydrotail (it’s a bit older now), but it bolted right in.

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You can also put it on a seat post, or water bottle cage areas with the included mounting options.  Of course, you can also always just wear it on yourself using the belt – which I did as well (mostly while running).

Workout Usage:

Now that everything is setup, it’s time to head outside and start working out.  First, we’ll power on the unit by holding down the button for three seconds. It’s got a nice firm press requirement, so it doesn’t accidentally get pressed.  When you turn it on, each of three lights below it will turn on:

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These lights are for:

– Cellular signal status
– GPS signal status
– Battery status

The unit has a 24hr battery life at 1-second recording rates, but they’re also looking at options for reducing the recording rate for longer events (such as something like the UTMB events that may span 30-40hrs).  This includes updating cellular data points every 60 seconds, by backfilling in the previous 60 seconds worth of data.

The cellular icon lets you know the status of the cell signal, and will even tell you if it’s catching up data (in queue).  The unit will queue all data, so even if you go hours without signal, it’ll eventually catch-up and update online.  Note that this is not satellite communication based (like SPOT), but does indeed rely on cellular coverage.  It does of course use GPS which is satellite based for determining position.  The unit contains GLONASS as well as WAAS functionality.

Also, the unit primarily uses the AT&T Wireless network in the US and their roaming partners overseas.  At launch (for October), it’ll only work within the US without additional configuration, however international roaming will start pretty quickly in November.  I’ve obviously been using it for the vast majority of my workouts internationally, it’s just that the roaming into a given country isn’t automatic at this time – so I have to manually set it up for each country.  The upcoming update will make that automatic.

Now one of the major features here is the ability to capture and transmit ANT+ data types.  This includes common data types as well as more specialized types.  You’ll see the left side of the device will show you icons for heart rate and power meter data.  To pair it, you just double-tap that button once powered on, and place it next to your sensor.  It’ll use proximity pairing and remember that sensor for future use:

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Once each sensor type is found, that light will stay illuminated (though, all lights turn off after a few seconds to save battery).  Just tap a button to see status again.  Also, each time a sensor is found during pairing the unit will vibrate.

You’ll also notice above that there’s a third icon along the left side – which is a dashed line.  This is the ‘catch-all’ sensor type.  Of which the following ANT+ sensors are currently supported:

ANT+ Heart Rate
ANT+ Speed/Cadence
ANT+ Footpod
ANT+ Power Meter
ANT+ Gear Shifting (SRAM RED eTAP, Campy EPS or FSA’s WE, but Shimano Di2 is not ANT+)
ANT+ Remote Control
ANT+ Muscle Oxygen

The Qollector can connect up to 7 concurrent ANT+ sensors at once.  It cannot connect to Bluetooth Smart sensors.

Note that Quarq is actively talking with developers about supporting other data types (for example, aerodynamic data would be a good candidate).  It’s relatively trivial for them to do so (even for private-ANT), and they seem to be pretty open about adding in other ANT data types if folks have unique/custom applications.  In any case, we’re getting sidetracked.  We’ll talk data details in the next section.

Oh, and it also captures barometric altimeter data as well.

With everything all lit up, you’re ready to swim/bike/run.  The unit is fully waterproofed, and people have indeed used them during races within the swim section (countless pros in countless events over the past year).  In my case, my usage was limited to running and cycling, simply because that’s what I had on the docket near where I was travelling.  The unit is IPX7 waterproof, and the company says that “it features a military-spec, waterproof and corrosion proof USB port.”

Note that with Qollector the unit doesn’t really know exactly what sport you’re doing unless it has an ANT+ footpod or ANT+ bike sensor with it.  So if it’s just HR, you could be running or swimming or doing some sort of crazy planking.  It’ll all show up the same on the site.

Speaking of that site, as soon as you gained cellular coverage the unit sent out a text notification to your friends and family on your short-list.  It contained a link to look at for that workout:

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(Tip: The Quarq folks had a good suggestion of having your friends/family use a unique message tone for the Quarq number shown above, that way your friends/family instantly know it’s a tracking message vs something else.)

You can also add yourself to the list of course, and then Tweet/Facebook/etc that link out.  It’s a one-time usage link, which is unique each time you start a workout.  It’ll stay active for 24-hours afterwards.

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On that screen they’ll be able to look at your position, as well as where you’ve been.  They’ll also be able to look at your average/current metrics in the square at the bottom left:

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But the problem here is there is no graph of those metrics.  So you don’t have context of whether or not that person is riding up a gigantic hill (thus slower speed), or if they’re just dying.  I’d *really* like to see a simple graph that can pop-out along the bottom to show any of the data metrics collected (i.e. power, speed, HR, elevation, etc…) – just like Garmin’s been doing for years on their rarely-updated Live Tracking platform (seen below in a slightly older screenshot that I had handy):

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Having those graphs gives coaches (and friends/family) far more insight into how your training or racing day is going than just a simple dot of where you are and an average value for the whole ride/run/etc…

There’s a ‘Friends’ feature; that allows you at a glance to look at anyone who is a friend of yours who is training at this very moment and has a Qollector.  That could be super useful for teams or coaches.  Unfortunately, I lack any friends with Qollectors – so I can’t quite show you that.  But here’s the button:

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Once you’re done with the workout, simply power the unit off. I’ve kinda made a bit of a habit of ensuring the status light on the data/cellular side is green, simply so I know that it’s finished uploading that last 60-second chunk.  I’ll talk about what happens with that data in the next section.

So why use this over something like Garmin’s Live Tracking or Strava’s Beacon, or other similar services? One major reason: Battery life.  Your cellular phone certainly won’t last 24 hours with GPS and cellular data streaming, nor even most Ironman races without a secondary battery pack.  Plus, most of us don’t have waterproof cell phones designed for an hour or longer swim.

And the second major reason? It’s permitted in most major events, unlike most cellular phones.  That’s because it’s not a cell-phone per se, and specifically isn’t a “two-way communication device”, which is the specific language that most triathlon federations use to ban cellular phones.  It’s also permitted by WTC (which owns the Ironman brand).

Data Collection Options:

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(Warning: Some geekness ahead)

Ok, so you completed your workout and now your data is floating around somewhere.  Let’s talk about how it works.  First off, Quarq is saving all of the data from the paired sensors and GPS track data in a custom file format called ‘FUZE’.  Within that FUZE format is data recorded for the last minute, but at a rate of 1/128th of a second.  Meaning, it records data 128 times a second from sensors.

Now – that doesn’t mean it’s recording high speed data.  Rather, it’s just capturing every single ANT+ message transmitted. Most ANT+ devices transmit 1-4 times a second.  Sometimes it’s the same data repeated, and sometimes it’s new data.  For example, some power meters will transmit once per crank revolution.  It differs slightly by device types.

The point of using this FUZE format though is that it allows Quarq to be highly flexible internally in terms of how they collect data and at whatever rates they want.  But they do this by recording the RAW ANT+ data.  These FUZE files are then transmitted every 60 seconds to QuarqNet, where they are stored.  Over the course of an activity these FUZE files are merged together, and upon completion of an activity they’ll export out the industry standard .FIT file with all the appropriate data.

These .FIT files are then sync’d automatically to 3rd party platforms.  As noted above, these are as follows.  I do expect to see this expand. At the same time, since there isn’t a way to slice off extra data before/after you truly finish your workout, I expect most of us will continue to use the main devices we have and treat this as a secondary data backup.

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Except there’s a catch (in a good way).  For platforms that support it, the unit will actually wait 4 hours after your workout for you to provide annotations. So when you finish your workout and Qollector is powered off, the four hour clock starts.  At the exact same time you’ll receive an annotation text that allows you to edit comments about the workout.

Once you’ve annotated the workout, these comments and the standard .FIT file format are automatically transferred to the partner apps (immediately).  If you don’t do this, they’ll be sent as normal some four hours later.  This is actually something a number of folks have asked for with respect to things like Garmin to Strava sync – the ability to edit details prior to sync.  Here’s a workout sync’d to Today’s Plan from the Qollector:

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And here’s my little Dropbox share full of the original .FIT files:

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Now Quarq has made an interesting little note in their page describing the unit:

“High definition data does not mean high-speed data. It means every unique ANT+ message is captured and when you review the data no message from any of your sensors is missing. When the ANT+ Bike Power profile grows to include high-speed data Qollector is ready.”

They’re 100% right here.  And they’re also poking at ANT+ a bit on the topic as well (as they should).  The power meter technical working group (TWG) has been sitting on the high-speed data topic for years.  Meanwhile, Stages, Pioneer and other companies have manually implemented high-speed data workarounds due to lack of standard here.  Heck, both Stages and Pioneer have literally made entire head units which are largely based around supporting higher definition data.

Perhaps with the TWG meeting next week at the annual ANT+ Symposium, they’ll agree to something in this area and make some forward progress.  If they do, it’s clear that Quarq appears ready to support it in Qollector.

Qollector vs Quarq Race Intelligence:

So some of you may be asking: “How does this differ from Quarq Race Intelligence?”.  The rest of you are asking: “What the heck is Quarq Race Intelligence?”

First off, Quarq Race Intelligence (which I’m officially abbreviating as QRI) is the platform that Quarq uses for monitoring races with numerous athletes competing in that race.  It’s what they’ve been showing over the last 15 or so months in numerous major events.  Typically the event has placed Qollector units on all the pros in a race, or more recently, they did every athlete at the Norseman Triathlon.  I wrote about about QRI more generally here.

With Quarq Race Intelligence it’s a full event system.  Specifically Quarq works with the event organizers to overlay the race course (swim/bike/run) and set up advanced geofences.  This allows the system to know when a competitor is on the swim vs the run vs the bike.  It can even know what loop of a multi-loop course, and also differentiate whether someone is running on a second parallel path to the bike course.  Basically the company does a bunch of prep work with race organizers so that once the starting gun goes off, the system accurately tracks people through each stage of that event.  In other words, it’s not just a simple geofence in the traditional thinking.

Shifting to Qollector, this is something that you as an individual buy and use.  It doesn’t have ‘event knowledge’ loaded into it.  Meaning, if you go and compete in Ironman Florida as an individual in November, it’s just going to look like one giant track over the course of the day. It won’t be fancifully divided up into swim/bike/run, nor show the course overlay.  But it will show your friends and family exactly where you are at all times.

So the key difference is that QRI is a race platform targeted at races, whereas Qollector is targeted at individuals.  They use the exact same hardware, but it’s just a lot more ‘gel’ wrapped around QRI usage in an event.

Ideally Quarq wants to get to the point where you can take your Qollector to most major events and essentially register to that event, allowing your unit to act more intelligently than it would all solo-cup.  The same goes for being able to load in a pre-planned route for training.  For example, The Girl would have no idea what my specific route is on any given day.  I may give her a region I’m riding to, but not an exact route.  I’d love to be able to upload a route and have her be able to tell at a glance that I’m either off course, or stuck somewhere off the side of the road.

Hopefully Quarq is able to cook on these types of features over the course of the winter, making the system far wider reaching by spring as athletes start to get back into the racing season and ride further on training rides.

Update Oct 21st: Quarq has posted an initial list of all races for 2017 that a consumer Qollector can opt-in for Quarq Race Intelligence for that race.  Sweetness, it’s a massive list!

Pricing and Availability:

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The unit will cost you $349USD, which includes the first 6 months of cellular data (it uses 3G networks).  After that, it’ll cost $99USD per year for cellular service.  You can’t add it to your existing cellular plan, as everything is baked into the device including international roaming.  To put that price in perspective, that $99USD costs $8.25 per month, or basically about 5-7 gel packets.

Given the target market for this device is folks that sign-up for $700+ Ironman and $300 Ironman 70.3 events, I think the pricing is roughly in the right ballpark (perhaps a tiny bit high on the device itself, but it does include 6 months of usage).

The plan right now is that Qollector will be sold completely on Quarq.com – that’s largely because they’re trying to work out things like device cellular provisioning and such.  Aspects that get more complex if 3rd party retailers are in the mix.  It doesn’t sound like those are ruled out, but rather, just not what they’re focusing on upon launch.  Fair enough.  The unit will be available on October 11th, though, you can also try it out at the Ironman World Championships next weekend in Kona .

Also, it won’t be available for worldwide (non-US) purchase until 2017 (no specific month yet).  However, you will be able to use your device internationally starting in November 2016.  As I noted above, I use mine internationally already with some minor/temporary workarounds until the automated international functionality is in place.

Summary:

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Overall, Qollector is a device that has a lot of potential, even if the audience at this time may be somewhat niche.  It’s not going to appeal to everyone.  Quite frankly, if you’re focused on running 10K road races, then this makes no sense compared to a phone with Strava Beacon.  However, as any endurance athlete can attest to – when you’ve got a 6-8 hour long training day out in the mountains or desert or other less populated area, having something that can give friends and family (or coaches) piece of mind can be incredibly valuable.  Especially once you start talking ultra marathoners and other ultra endurance events.  These areas are the target market for this device.

Perhaps more interesting may be the secondary data applications that I suspect will soon converge on using the device, be it pro-type usage from various national federations or elite teams trying to collect as much of their team data as possible in a converged platform and transmitting it to their team cars.  Or industry types trying to gather data for comparing products.

I’ve covered a few minor nits I have with the device throughout the review (e.g. inability for basic graphs for live tracking) – ones I suspect (or at least hope) Quarq can quickly remedy.  But I also think there’s opportunity for them to establish a specific list of events that they’re going to build out course support for, even if the race isn’t officially involved.  For example, I’d love to see them publish an event list in October or November 2016, of 2017 events – be it 20 or 200 events big – that they’d have courses for.  And then to allow Qollector to understand those courses like it does in Quarq Race Intelligence.  Today, that doesn’t exist for regular Qollector users.

And similarly, today, there’s nothing like this device on the market.  Sure, there are various GPS and satellite trackers, but nothing truly aimed at the endurance sports world, and nothing that collects data and understands how to talk data to 3rd party platforms as well (such as Strava, DropBox and Training Peaks).  And it’s for those reasons I’m pretty excited about the device, and where it’s going.

With that – thanks for reading!  Feel free to drop any questions below!

(Preemptive ‘Where is the Annual Power Meter Buyers Guide Post that I said would be next?” answer: In a few hours.  Just making sure I didn’t write too much crazy-talk while on the redeye last night back across the pond.)

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89 Comments

  1. Valerie Smith

    I’d like to see a comparison of VeloPro and Today’s Plan. That would be interesting.

  2. “See your friends who are using the same device” is in my DCR drinking game. How many incompatible “track your friends who are also out riding” systems do we have now? Garmin, Wahoo, Quarq, Strava come to mind.

    • Indeed, though, with Garmin and Beacon it’s at least feeding into some aspect of the same backend. But it’s not clear to me (since I haven’t tried it since last week’s update), if a Garmin user can see a Beacon user like they can see another Garmin user.

      I do know that Garmin does have an exclusive on Strava Beacon device integration though…

    • Exclusive? Good to know.

      My hope is in Strava saving us from Garmin/Wahoo/Quarq/etc., because they could actually get the bulk of active users.

  3. Jack

    I am interested in this product just for the tracking aspect. I’ve never been satisfied with Garmin’s live tracking nor the idea of draining my phone battery broadcasting and not have it in an emergency.

    My only issue with this product for my use case is that it feels like it is overkill for my needs. I haven’t been able to find any other dedicated live tracking devices most seem to rely on your phone. Do you know of any dedicated live tracking devices that are out there?

    • There’s the aforementioned SPOT..

    • There was Garmin’s GTU, which was great since it was the size of a small pack of gum. But that’s long-since been discontinued, plus it didn’t do ANT+ data either (less interesting to you). I’m not aware of any other sport-specific units currently on the market (plenty of dead ones).

      The upcoming Pebble Core though may indeed fit this niche well…

    • Jack

      Good point about the Pebble Core. I’ll have to look in to what it would take to add live tracking functionality to it. I know you can “hack” the Core, but I’ll need to figure out where to send the data.

      Thanks!

    • Tyler

      That Garmin GTU was promising, both for athletes, senior and teen tracking, etc.

      Any idea if Garmin will offer something similar any time soon?

    • Pebble Core: It’s just Android, so in theory any apps there will work if ported manually.

      GTU: I don’t think we’ll see a follow-up anytime soon. The biggest challenge for them was the cellular piece and approvals in various countries.

    • Pebble Core is probably going to be similar to the Particle Electron, service-wise. It’s about $3/mo including 1MB data, and $1 per additional 1MB. Yes, 1MB is a tiny amount, but tracking packets are only a handful of bytes.

      With that, $100/yr isn’t far out of line.

    • Erik

      Ray, I’m in for a Pebble Core primarily (possibly solely) for cycling. Do you plan to do a review of it? The idea of using it as a live tracker has me excited now. I’ve done the Garmin thing a couple times, but people (read: wife) tell me that it’s not reliable. I’d really like for my wife to be able to follow me when I’m riding so that, in the event I get hit by a car, she can call the insurance company to get that check as soon as possible.

    • DJH

      We had a GTU, but when that was discontinued, we ended up with a SPOT. The ability for the device to communicate even if there’s no cell service is important. The main reason we wanted something like this was because we ride solo in places where there’s no cell service. Looks like the SPOT is still the only real option for this purpose…

    • Bill

      I loved my GTU-10. I could set up geo-fenced areas (home, work, etc) to let my wife know automatically whenever I crossed into one regardless if I was bike commuting, on a training ride or driving across the state. Plus, she could keep tabs on me during my rides which made things way easier on multiple fronts. We were really disappointed when they cancelled it’s subscription capability.

      Speaking of that, If I remember right, Garmin claimed they cancelled it because they couldn’t find any 3rd party providers to support 3G and they had been using AT&T as well. If that is in fact the case, how does this offering differ from that, and how much longevity can we expect from this product?

    • Yes, definitely plan to review the Core. Though, that’s still slated for early 2017.

    • DJH

      @Bill, if I recall correctly, the GTU didn’t use 3G, it used 1G, which was the reason they had to discontinue it. That network was being shut down. But I completely agree that it was a terrific device. We use the SPOT now, but it’s not quite the same. The geofences were great. And the device was so nice and small.

    • gingerneil

      I’ve backed the Core and really looking forward to seeing what it can do. I am really hoping that they (or the ‘community” as its Android and therefore I am hoping will attract devs) will expand on music playback to more than just spotify, get the control right (voice control while running?!?!!), and port the garmin app over to enable integration with live tracking, watch syncing without a seperate phone etc. It could be awesome… or tank.

  4. JD Griffis

    Disappointed in the price, it’s just too expensive for me to justify it at that cost; even though I *really* want something like this. I use my phone (Glympse) for tracking on the bike (no problem), but don’t like to carry it for running; and it can’t be used in events. This device overcomes those limitations, which is fantastic; just too expensive – I think because of all the bells and whistles that I *don’t* need. Family and friends have wanted to track athletes during training (for safety primarily) and in events for as long as I’ve been doing this. Nothing fancy needed, just track me and show where I am and the speed I’m moving on a map – that’s it! Keep it closer to $100; and I think they’ll sell a ton of them.

    • So…from a curiousity standpoint – what’s the right balance between service fee vs device fee, in your opinion?

      Meaning, I can say that $100 isn’t likely attainable for the number of devices Quarq would be producing (low-volume), but, perhaps there’s a case where they could make it up on the service side if that were higher.

    • JD Griffis

      Interesting question… I really do think the volume side of the equation would go up greatly if the cost were more affordable (similar to the race photo cost debate…). $100/year is already a pretty good chunk of change for the service. I might take a serious look at something closer to $200; vs the $350. And a bit off the wall, perhaps; but if I could somehow add it as a device to my own cell plan; that would really start making it tempting. I looked up the Pebble Core device referenced above, and that actually looks very interesting – if it could have simple live tracking. Think of it this way, I want something that mimics Glympse or Road ID app on my phone; but smaller – no other functionality needed. Just a small device that I turn on and my wife can track me while I’m out riding or running (or in a race). I don’t need tons of stats and other features, since I use a Garmin 910XT.

    • kcb

      There are also some GPS/cell dog trackers that are cheaper and have longer battery life if you just want to put a dot or path on a map.

      link to thepawtracker.com

    • Zoltan

      How about just providing a nano-SIM slot and let the user decide what data plan/carrier to go with?

    • My bet is that most people would end up paying more with a nano-sim and their own carrier.

      Going by this pricing*, the rates are about $10/month for most companies to add a wearable device to a plan. With the exception of T-Mobile, which is $5 a month. Not sure if those prices are 100% current today – but that’s the ballpark.

      Even if I saved only $3 a month (though I don’t have T-Mobile) – I’d happily pay that to Quarq vs having to deal with just one visit to my local mobile provider store…which always seems to end poorly.

      (All of which ignores things like setup complexity, further waterproofing, etc…).

  5. M

    If they shoved a much bigger battery in a pebble core, there would be some overlap (minus the ANT+ mainly), but this still sounds a ton simpler and better.

    • gingerneil

      I dont know what BTLE chipset the core will be using, but I have a VERY distant hope that it may do ANT+. We’ve seen this in some Android phones, so why not.. ?

  6. Adam Glass

    For my endurance cycling the SPOT (or the Delorme) are a better match e.g. safety concerns on long bike rides amongst the hills and mountains with intermittent cellular coverage. Nobody really cares how fast I’m going — it’s ‘am i going at all’ and ‘does he have an emergency’. Also from a separation of function perspective, such a device can be more focused and skip the complexity associate with ANT capture, etc.

    Still, nice to see a device at least claim some endurance scale battery life.

    • As an anecdote, we used SPOT to determine a friend was in trouble (had died, in fact) and to locate him.

      It’s really good for anyone who tends to go solo off the beaten path.

  7. Nick

    Hi Ray,

    What the chance of Quarq being able to add proximity measurement to Quarq Race Intelligence for a more intelligent way of monitoring drafting? (dynamic proximity measurement used my submarines with radio frequencies, and studies are showing bluetooth to be an option in dynamic settings)

    If the sensor could distinguish between other sensors location fore/aft and direction in relation to your direction of movement, only sensors ahead of you and moving in your direction could be ‘checked’ to see if within 10m (or more if rules change) for longer than, say, 5 seconds, and after that time period, a screen on a Garmin could display a timer showing how long you are within 10m of someone ahead of you and moving in your direction. This could be live-streamed so that penalties and DQ’s could be automated. If Quarq is going to put this stuff in races, might as well cut down on cost for RD’s and create a demand among (honest) athletes who want to see true non-drafting races.

  8. I see here people commenting about Garmin’s solution (using Connect mobile and the phone) is not good enough. I had ~6 hours rides where the Fenix 3 is connected via BT to the phone and uploading via LiveTrack, and the phone battery was ~20-25% down, so that sounded pretty good to me.

    What issues do people have with LiveTrack?

    • SeanU

      I have a Samsung Galaxy A5 2016 and a FR920XT. My phones battery is draining less than 2% per hour, because all it does in Live Track is having a BT low energy connection (emphasis on low energy) and send my position. So no battery issues here at all. As you can not place a call with the Qollector you have to have your phone with you anyways (at least at training rides) so I don’t see any additional value here. For the price: way too expensive.The amount of mobile data needed is very small and even here in (phonewise expensive) Germany you can get a prepaid data-sim for a fraction of Quarq’s price. If they would allow you to place your own sim in it, who knows, but this way it is just to expensive for the few occasions I would prefer it over the Garmin solution.
      p.s. The roaming fees in Europe(an Union) will be abolished next year, so there are no additional costs, even if you travel in the EU.
      Just my 2 cents.

    • Ray

      The important thing to note is that the Quarq product is going to be best for situations where you CAN’T bring your cellphone. At least here in the states you’re not supposed to be racing with your mobile phone. The Qollector circumvents that so you could let people track you in your Ironman event or some other race.

      That said, I haven’t had any issues with Garmin Livetracking when I have used it. I have a Galaxy S3 and my battery capacity is pretty horrid these days (I decided I want to wait it out for the Galaxy S8 instead of upgrading to the S7 now). Live-tracking really doesn’t take too much extra battery out of my S3. I’m not really the target market for the Qollector since my races are typically shorter. For someone who does a lot of Ironman events though I can definitely see this getting traction.

    • Steven

      The issue I have with livetrack is that your 6 hour example isn’t long enough. I go on long rides where I may ride 18-20 hours straight, crash for a nap, and repeat. Problems
      1) I have wires going from an external battery pack to my phone and the GPS to keep live tracking and a good bread crumb of where I’ve been.
      2) I have to start a new live track every day of the adventure.
      3) The livetrack doesn’t show my route, so my friends and family have an idea of where I am going.

      So I’ve switched to the Delorme Inreach for live tracking, at 5 minute intervals its “good enough” and it allows route overlay. Downside is it’s not good enough for strava and doesn’t capture any sensor data. I use a phone to check directions occasionally with cached maps on it. I’ve stopped tracking rides because I got so infuriated with Garmin crashes and track dumps.

      This device would probably be a good delorme replacement/supplement and get me tracks back. The delorme would be suspended until I go off the unbeaten path and need sat connectivity. I’d be interested to see how much longer the battery can be milked and how fast it charges. If I can charge this while I nap, it’d probably need no external power. I’d be interested to see how spotty cell service would impact battery life on this.

      Steven

  9. Tom

    Sounds like an ideal product – I have been using a Spot Trace for a while now, but it’s kludgy to use for this sort of thing. It costs me nearly as much as this would per year, but this has a *lot* more functionality (albeit at the cost of only working where there is cell coverage).

    As far as the international availability, is that just a supply chain thing or will there be other considerations? That is if I were to get one delivered to a friend in the U.S. and then forwarded on to Canada, are there any snags that I’d run into? It roams internationally so technically it shouldn’t be an issue, but I know sometimes carriers have fine print about 50% of use having to be domestic. My spot subscription comes up in December, so I’d love to grab one of these things before then so I don’t need to renew that.

    • Hi Tom. We are currently finalizing international roaming, which includes changes to Qollector’s firmware. If you bought a Qollector on October 11 and took it to Canada it will not work until November when international roaming is finalized. Note also that firmware updates happen over the air — over the cellular service — so please do not buy one until we announce that international roaming is up and running. Otherwise you’ll have a brick you need to drive across the border to connect to AT&T to get the firmware update. The limit on where Qollector can be used is AT&T’s international roaming partners. Canada is obviously okay. There is no penalty for using foreign carriers X% of time.

  10. Corresponsal

    I wonder if Garmin might add an eSIM to an eventual 920xt successor? Wouldn’t suck up that mich battery life, would it? And one could omit a seperate BT connection to the phone.

    Your guess, Ray?

    • I doubt it. I think we’d need to see the technology become more mainstream first.

    • Corresponsal

      Thanks for your judgement, Ray! How about nano SIM then, at least for the Edge?
      In races I´d love to leave my mobile at home – and carrying one is expressedly not admitted in some races. Stops family and friends from tracking me…

    • It’s hard to say. I suspect that companies will look at what Pebble does in this area, to see how it handles.

      In general larger companies like Garmin are going to shy away from solutions that require someone to insert their own SIM (regardless of size), as it makes it less of a ‘buy it and be done’ type of purchase.

  11. Tim Grose

    This reminds me a bit of my Tanita ANT+ scales where you hop onto a seemingly nice bit of kit to check your weight but you can’t of course see anything there and then! So I rarely use it now. As such this is not going to replace your normal bike head unit and/or GPS watch. Further, you will probably bring along your phone too as it can’t make calls and then this too. Seems then more of a step in the direction of putting a SIM card into your Edge (or whatever) and be done with no more gadgets to take along. And with the BIA (just rereading that article) it had stellar GPS accuracy and this tracking functionality but nobody bought one. What’s changed?

  12. Adam Bussey

    Awesome!
    Now to figure a way to link this up with some live streaming video feeds as well…

  13. Brent

    Is there a “Help!” button or something so that you can tell people tracking you that you need help and haven’t just stopped to pee?

    Also, can you make a temporary short list to send the link to? Or is the send to yourself then email/tweet/FB option really it if you want people who would be annoyed to see every time you start it up that a race is starting?

    Interesting product for sure.

    • There isn’t a help or similar button. Just one button, for power (and a double-tap for pairing).

      From the site you can make a 24hr link that you can send to anyway. Or you can just copy/paste the link it texts you if you add yourself to the text list.

  14. There should be an emergency button – e.g. you are trail running and you break a leg.

    Also the device could detect data abnormalities. e.g. heart rate spike or sudden stop with the GPS. If you don’t press acknowledge with a button, then an alert is send.

  15. ChrisG

    I’d really like an ’emergency’ button, so you can let the people who are tracking know something bad has happened. Perhaps that could be added in software (hold down 2 buttons for 10 seconds or the like). I guess it doesn’t have accelerometers or it could be automated… Chris

    • Brent, heri, ChrisG,

      We thought long and hard about an SOS button. But Qollector uses a cellular network and endurance athletes occasionally go where no cellular service is available. We decided the best solution was 1-minute updates, the tracking map and its “last seen” feature.

  16. Craig Ruaux

    I’m definitely ready for a hard training day with 6-8 hrs of dessert ;).

    On a more serious note, do you see this as a replacement/enhancement over the WASP product you were using in the past? I like the idea of a data aggregator for redundancy, and the GPS tracking is a nice addition.

  17. Bryce

    In my opinion, the only market this has an upper hand on is the Endurance Racing market. When out for a long training ride/run, the only person I could foresee wanting to see the additional data of an athlete would be a coach. Most other people just want to know if the athlete is still moving/safe. For a race however, all the other data would be interesting to determine whether or not the athlete you are tracking is “hitting a wall”, or “in the zone”, etc. Having recently tracked two friends on ultra cycling races (spottracker), I would have enjoyed the extra data to know more about why they were only moving at 15 mph on a downhill. However, I don’t think I would have cared were it not a race for each of them. Of course this novelty is driven by the “on demand” lifestyle we have created, because my questions were answered about each of those guys I tracked after they had posted on Strava and GC. So personally, satiating this desire to know the data right now is not worth the 350. Nor is it worth the service fee when I might only use it for 10 to 20 different activities (6+ hours) each year. The higher definition data collection has no allure to me yet because I don’t have a desire for the sensors to output more frequently than what they currently do. 124 datapoints in one second of my HR beating at 145 BPM does not excite me much. All in all, though this is a good product, it just has a very niche market.

    • I think there’s a big market for any sort of passive tracking. It’s amazing how many cyclists are “strava only” or “strava + HRM only”. Not saying this is the answer, just.. it exists. There’s some sort of happy middle ground of sufficient battery life + doesn’t drain phone + slips in pocket.

      Really, the new apple watch is partway on this path, except for battery life and a little too much phone dependence. So not really even close :)

  18. MacroPhotoFly

    Does it have the barometer built into it, or does it have to get that data from another ANT+ device such as a Garmin Edge? I saw you wrote “it also captures barometric altimeter data” and wasn’t clear.

    Seems a good device but I am left wondering if a waterproof phone case that includes a battery extender would be a better option for long distance runners and all day bikers? I know my iPhone already has the ability to allow me to Transmit my position via the Find my Friends App and obviously if I use a Bluetooth’ed Garmin device I can use LiveTrack.

  19. Steve

    So if I use this during a race (70.3) and say I don’t wear it during the swim…. I power it up in the morning before the swim so I have it ready on the bike when I get into T1. Will the elapsed time start as soon as I power it on in the morning or once I start moving on the bike? Will my averages be completely off if I power it up in the morning before the race? Is the time only elapsed time? Is there anyway to see bike time and run time separately?

    • It’ll be from the moment you powered it up, and will simply show a total elapsed time over the course of the entire day until powering it off, as one big activity.

      Whereas with Quarq Race Intelligence, it’s more linked to the event itself, and the different segments there. But that’s not offered at this time for just the Qollector.

    • Steve

      Thanks. So would my avg power be low since it would be sitting there in T1 collecting 0 watts while I’m swimming? Just curious what it would display to those tracking me.

    • Hi Steve. Quarq Race Intelligence excludes the swim from its metrics. Averages and totals for the bike and run, from both GPS and ANT+ data, will be correct. We are taking Ray’s suggestion for athletes to opt into Quarq Race Intelligence for selected races very seriously. We hope to share something next week.

  20. Laurens Bloem

    “when you’ve got a 6-8 hour long training day out in the mountains or dessert or other less populated area”
    I know you love your desserts, but 6-8 hours is overdoing it ;-)

  21. Ernesto

    Nowadays for a normal bike training I simply use GC with my Edge520 and the wife knows at all times where I’m at and why I’m taking longer than planned to get back etc.

    For longer events such as Ultra mountain races I have been using a device called SPOT (link to findmespot.eu). It is very reliable, position is broadcasted every 2.5 minutes (shortest interval) and battery lasts over 2 weeks, however it requires a service plan which costs arounds 150 USD / YR.

  22. fiatlux

    A compact smartphone might actually be a practical alternative.

    I still have an old but tiny Sony X10 mini that I sometimes bring on long solo runs. Battery life is not great but plenty for the runs I do.

    I remember running my first marathon (in NYC) with it 5 years ago. It had the official marathon app broadcasting my progress live to their web site, allowing family and friend to follow me in real time from Europe!

    Not sure it would still run a recent version of any running app, though. And I can’t see many alternatives: today, “pocket smartphone” means anything below 5″ screen. The X10 mini had a 2.55″ inch screen, was 88g and just 8cm tall!

  23. Benoit Faivre

    Hi Ray,
    I would be interested to see at this would work with the Stryd Heart Rate Strap (which track would show in the fit file afterwards)?

    I find it interesting as I plan to go on multi days hikes later in 2017 (with phone coverage every now and then), and that would be very interesting for my wife to follow me, with a battery to charge it every night (with solar panels on top of the bag during the day).

    Thanks for your time.

    Cheers,

    • Hi Benoit. We have not tested Stryd; we are going to do that soon. We believe its data will be captured, displayed and synced through QuarqNet successfully — as a power meter — because it identifies itself as a power meter and follows the ANT+ bike power profile.

    • Benoit Faivre

      Thanks Troy for the reply,
      I’m looking forward to hear about your tests with the Pioneer Stryd and new Stryd,

      Cheers,
      Benoit

    • Hi Benoit. We did a quick test today with Stryd and everything looks good. We can even broadcast the data on Quarq Race Intelligence. (I posted a pic on Quarq’s Facebook page.) We’ll do in-depth testing soon.

    • Benoit Faivre

      Thanks for the test Troy :)

      I’m looking forward to the Qollector being available in Australia then :)

  24. Steve

    I have been wanting to develop a device like this for myself for two years now.

    So what this needs: the ability for me to pop my cell phone’s SIM card into the device. Let it come with free 6 months service, and provide me the option to pay for more air time, but let me use my cell phone that I already pay for!

  25. Jake G.

    This looks cool and promising. Does it have a an automatic-notification feature if you’ve stopped? I’m thinking about it in terms of something like the Road ID app, which can notify my wife if I’ve been in an accident or something an am stopped for a given period of time. The Road ID app notifies me that she’s going to be contacted, so I can either stop her from being contacted or she’s contacted with the app assuming I’m in an emergent situation, telling her exactly where I’m at. It seems that would be an easy feature for Quarq to build in (unless I missed that in your review).

    • Hi Jake. There is no automatic notification feature. We saw during field testing and stage-race tracking that riders stop for many, many reasons, including getting a coffee! We also believe that an SOS feature should not rely on cellular networks. I wrote this above: Since Qollector uses a cellular network and endurance athletes occasionally go where no cellular service is available we decided the best solution was 1-minute updates, the tracking map and its “last seen” feature.

  26. Qollector is a very cool device.. Several years ago, I wrote something very similar, which, to be honest, came from a very early version of the Qollector. It’s called Golden Embed link to shampoo.ca The non GPS version’s hardware is still available.. A very fun project to write at the time and I have to say, it’s fantastic that Jim pushed the Qollector forward. I personally would love one.

  27. David Horn

    Great review, but now distracted by the fact that I use the same bottle cages as you and have the vague feeling that I’ve been mounting them upside-down for years.

  28. Jeff

    Thanks for the tip about Kona! Picked mine up on Tuesday so my wife can track my progress.

    • Przemek

      Troy,

      when will Collector be available in Europe ? Przemek

    • Hi Przemek. We’re working through that now. We will make any announcement on Facebook, Twitter and the Quarq email list.

    • Przemek

      Hi Troy,

      sorry for persistence, is there any chance that you could indicate timing for Europe launch ? I am looking for tracking options for months now and Collector seems to be a great, albeit expensive, option. Any chance that there are two maintenance plans, say global one, and Europe only for maybe USD 50 per year ? Or , maybe, one could just use own SIM card for local use only ? Just a thought, it would help sales, I think.

      regards,
      Przemek

    • Luca

      It was now more than 4 months since this message and I haven’t seen any announcement yet on european release date.
      New race season is close to start… is it any possibility to buy a qollector in Europe shortly?

    • Hi Luca. I am sorry, but there is no update about availability outside the USA. We continue to work on it, but do not have enough certainty to announce an availability date. I will share it as soon as we have a firm date.

  29. Yancey Arrington

    At this point in my life I don’t need the live tracking and reporting features. I’d be interested in a black box version that records all Ant/BT data.

  30. Just as a quick heads up in case folks haven’t seen it, Quarq did add a massive list of races for 2017 that they’ll be allowing Quarq Qollector folks to ‘opt-in’ as a Quarq Race Intelligence athlete. So basically, doing what I hoped they’d do. :)

    This matters because it means that on the day of race, people tracking you can see the course and sport specific information (and other competitors), versus just you wandering about the terrain aimlessly.

    List here: link to quarq.com

  31. Thad

    Will it accept international phone numbers for sending the text alerts?

    • Yes, though, at the moment (or, at least when I last checked a few weeks ago), it wasn’t properly processing the confirmation back from that intl number (or French at least).

      Quarq said it was on the short-list of bugs to fix. But I don’t know if that’s happened quite yet.

  32. Steve

    I used the qollector at miami 70.3 over the weekend. The automatic link via text did not work my friends/family. It just linked to a USA map but if you logged into my account, you could see my location and then hit the share button which worked.

    I had my SRM paired to qollector but the qollector reported i averaged over 500 watts for the ride which is incorrect. My edge 520 was paired to my SRM and reported I averaged 238 watts which is much more realistic.

    I’ve contacted quarq but I’m still waiting to here back.

    • Martin Williams

      I’ve recently received a unit and I’m having the same issue with the link not working. I’ve got an email thread open with support, and apparently they’ve been able to reproduce the issue themselves. Hoping for an update soon.

    • Martin Williams

      … and I have an update – it’s fixed. I went for a run yesterday with the unit, and the link it sent out worked OK.

  33. Sam

    I purchased a unit and used it while on vacation in Aruba. Perfect — family could track me if they wanted to, which they didn’t. Interestingly, the quarq and the garmin were off on pace by a few seconds.

  34. Dan

    There are a load of more affordable options out there, personally I’ve took my cats pod2 tracker out with me in the past and it did a great job at a fraction of the price of one of these!

    link to tuxedo-cat.co.uk

  35. DrDover

    Quarq provided these for a 200 mile gravel race I was in. Pretty much useless since there was limited/no cell service on the majority of the course. My wife texted me at the finish: “Please tell me you are not still at the 40 mile mark?” Without it using Satellite service to communicate it has is a very limited market. Lots of places I ride have limited to no service. Expensive for a limited coverage device.

    • Hi DrDover. I am sorry your experience was disappointing. I am glad you connected with your wife and alleviated any concerns. The Mother Lode in Spearfish and Wyoming is a challenging event for everything cellular — phones and Qollector. Quarq’s race tracking system uploads the oldest data first, which was not effective here. The connectivity windows were simply not big enough to get every racer’s data and bring the map up to date. We have changes in mind that should improve performance in mass start events with limited connectivity.

    • DrDover

      Thanks for the follow up. No worries on my location out there. I figured that the unit was probably not going to work well based on the availability of cellular service in the area. I heard a lot of comments about it on social media and in person.

      Cool idea! Thanks again for supporting the race and giving it a shot with your device. I hope you guys can come up with a solution for a quick transmit in a limited window of cell service. It was nice to not have to worry about the unit turning on at 5 am. One less thing to think about at the starting line. I wish I could program my bike computer to do that.

      Good luck with this project and hopefully I’ll get a chance to try out a Qollector again in a future event.