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A Fall 2016 Update from WatTeam and their $499 PowerBeat

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Before we move onto my next upcoming post (The Annual DCR Power Meter Recommendations Guide), I wanted to briefly touch on where WatTeam and their PowerBeat power meter stands.  To recap things a bit, they jumped onto the scene a touch over 2 years ago with a $499 dual left/right power meter offering.  The unit functioned by placing tiny pods with an attached sensor alongside each crank arm.  This made it virtually universal in compatibility with different pedal types, while also being flexible with different crank arms.

They had initially planned to start shipping last summer (2015), but that soon slipped to December (2015) then to spring (2016), when they did indeed start shipping.  However, it didn’t take long for myself and others to start seeing oddities in data with the final units.  Sometimes it’d be great, and then other times it was lost in space.  All of which led to them issuing a recall back in the spring (2016).  They noted at the time they’d need to pause things and figure out the cause of the issues.

Fast forward now to today, and a bit of an update on the future and getting products shipping again.

Where they sit today:

While WatTeam wasn’t officially on the exhibitor list of Interbike, I did get a chance to catch-up with the CEO Ofir Gal-On while in Vegas to get a briefing on where things stand.  This following about 4-5 months of mostly silence while they re-worked through the accuracy issues of the first generation units they recalled.  During that time they managed to not lay off any of their staff, including a customer service team they had brought on-board for the launch.  I could tell that Ofir was both more humble after their shipping setback, but also proud that they were able to keep all the employees on the ship during this period.

He had on hand a new box that contained the updated product.  From the outside the components may look virtually identical, but under the covers things are totally different.  The sensor pieces for example have been totally revamped internally and slightly externally.  The glue is different now.  As is the app, made simpler and easier.  About the only thing that’s still the same is the pod that hangs aside the crank arm, which contains the communications pieces.

Of course, it’s not about looks – but rather accuracy.

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Many of the changes focused on the temperature shifts of the crank arms, causing underlying challenges as the materials changed properties – both impacting the glue as well as the measurement of power.  These problems are hardly new to power meter companies, and in many ways it’s the bit of magic that separates any startup from being a Stages or 4iiii.  Finding that magic can take years of R&D.  It’s why many of these companies (Stages, Quarq, and others) don’t show exactly how they apply/bake strain gauges onto other materials, since it could give away years of research to new market entrants.

In any case, with respect to WatTeam at present, they’re just starting a 6-8 week test cycle with an expanded beta group.  During this cycle they’ll be validating all of the testing they’ve done over the summer with a smaller group.  They believe they’ve got it figured out. But at the same time, they also expressed disbelief that all of their previous testing never caught the issues that I and others saw.

If that 6-8 week testing period goes as planned, then they’ll start shipping to consumers in December, which will likely span into January to catch-up with orders.

They did show me some of the new app screens, which are definitely simplified and easier to use.  The app isn’t something the average user would use every day.  Rather, it’s for setup/configuration, as well as checking settings.  Further, the app now supports moving the units quickly between multiple bikes, which the previous app didn’t.

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Further, it allows you to validate individual battery levels (seen above), as well as temperature levels and zero offset values (also seen above).  Seen down below you can check signal strength too.

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Upon (re)-launch of their order system, they’ll also be offering a mountain bike mount/version.  He didn’t have that crank arm on-hand, but did have a photo of it.  It uses the exact same sensor and pods, but instead has a small ‘sleeve’-like system that protects the pods and pulls them in under the pedal hole/bolt on the crank arm.  In fact, I think it actually looks a heck of a lot cleaner/nicer than the pods.

The good news is that even if you have the road version, you can order this instead, as it fits just fine on road bikes.  You’ll specify the exact size of the ‘sleeve’ when you order (based on crank width/height).

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Oh, and as previously promised, any of the 100-200 folks who got the initial non-recalled units will get this new version free of charge.

Finally, when they re-launch ordering, it’ll be available in the US, Canada, and Europe.  I don’t have a precise list of which countries Europe includes at this time (a definition that often varies based on many factors for many retailers).

The future:

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Like any company that intends to stay in business longer term, they’re also working longer term projects.  In fact, some of these they showed to me two years ago, but have now gotten to the point where they’re willing to put them out there in a public setting.

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What you see above is an option they’re offering to OEM’s (i.e. crankset manufacturers or bicycle manufacturers) to get power directly on the bike/crankset without having external pods.  You can see in the above image that the pod is directly attached to the crank arm.  They’ll do this at the factory and sand off a portion of the crank arm for a cleaner bond, effectively identical to what Stages and others would do.  This has the appeal of likely increasing accuracy/stability of the system (versus Joe or Jane Consumer doing the install), but more importantly it makes it a lot cleaner with no external cables.

So where does battery power come from you ask? Wireless charging.  You can see below the simple wireless charging cable that you can use to charge up the pods when you’re back home.  Their current pods use a headphone style jack to charge (which was definitely not courageous according to Apple).  Thus, their new system has courage.

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This new system isn’t offered to consumers, and at present WatTeam is still shopping it around to OEM’s.  I do wonder though if they were to offer something at $599 with the crankset included how that might do, heck, perhaps even $699 (again, for dual).  That might hold water in pricing for quite a while in the current market.  This is similar to what Stages and even now SRM do: make ‘in-house’ crank arms.  They could still offer the option to install on your own for cheaper, but I suspect there’s quite the market for people to just buy a house-branded $599 or $699 dual left/right system that’s accurate.

But moving back to their focus for now (shipping their existing self-install pod system), I’ll be watching it closely.  It sounds like they’ll have units for me to self-install sometime in November, for testing.  While they did offer a pre-installed crankset much sooner, I really want to see the exact experience the end user gets.  That’s such a critical part of this product, and so it’s what I’m most interested in testing.

And of course – it’s what the entire power meter industry is waiting for as well.  If WatTeam can pull this off (an accurate self-install system dual-leg system for $499) and get a few months of shipping under their belt, it’ll undoubtedly cause shifts to the power meter pricing landscape next spring.  But until then, I don’t expect much (if any) further shifts to near term power meter pricing.  Remember: Companies will only decrease pricing if something disturbs that pond, and right now, nothing new over the past few weeks has caused that disturbance.

With that – thanks for reading!

For all my other Interbike posts, simply whack this link.  It’ll keep you busy for a bit.  Plus, there’s still more to come as I continue to unclog things!

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41 Comments

  1. Ray Wright

    They still have my money from the initial offering. This is great news, but I am still holding my breath.

    • Drew

      If it’s any consolation, while I have seen my fair share of issues, I have been absolutely amazed at the level of support and their commitment to getting the product out and getting it right. I know it sucks waiting, but hopefully, you won’t have to deal with some of the issues others have. I for one am happy to hear that they are changing the glue as that has been a huge source of problems for me.

  2. TigerRoad

    I agree 100% about the aesthetic of the “sleeves.” I don’t mountain bike, but would much prefer the look of the “sleeved” version on my road bike versus the exposed sensors. If that becomes a slick interface then the stigma of the pods goes away. If they are actually able to keep the offering at $599 for dual sided power that would be huge. If they manage to offer the spare pods for $80 as the previous releases suggested so you can essentially have a portable dual sided power meter between multiple bikes…I can only imagine that would do more than just shake up the current landscape!

  3. Ryan Hales

    Any word on carbon crank compatibility?

  4. Eli

    Any disadvantage to the mountain bike version? Seems like it protects it better

  5. Hopefully they sort out their issues and start a healthy track record. Great price now but might not be so in a year or so.

  6. David Sowden

    Its good that they have kept their staff and hopefully fixed the problem.

    The new OEM pods look stunning and would be GREAT send in you crank for an extra $150

  7. William B.

    Not to be too picky but how is it wireless charging if you have to attach a cable to charge it? I get that its Inductive Charging but the only difference to this and a normal charging port is a lack of a hole for the socket to go into.

    Price looks very interesting though, very much looking forward to seeing if some of these lower priced units force the overall market prices down.

    • Hi William,

      You’re correct, there are cables that will run from the charger to the pod, but the connection between the charger to the pod will be inductive as you’ve mentioned.

  8. Eric

    Any chance they’ll offer a single leg version? Seems like a $250-300 strain gauge based system may have more market appeal. I appreciate them taking a slightly different route to the customer, but I’d prefer to fork my money over to an established vendor further down the development path like Pioneer/4iiii/Stages for a similarly priced single leg model.

  9. Chris

    I saw this “Before we move onto my next upcoming post (The Annual DCR Power Meter Recommendations Guide),” and fist-pumped.

    Any hints on how soon?

    • Random23535

      Agreed, I’m just in the process of acquiring P1 pedals, will be curious to hear Ray’s updated take on them in light of other market competition and the sporadic reports of issues with power spiking and bearings.

    • My guess is 2-3 hours tops. Just editing typos from writing it on the redeye last night. Plus, I keep on thinking of thoughts to add to it.

    • Chris

      Fantastic. Thanks! Very curious on your thoughts about single sided pedals given the P1S is imminent. And if a Vector 3 is coming soon… and if the 2 will be upgradeable… and many other things.

    • Random23535

      Such a tease…:) Will look for this tomorrow!

  10. Michael Caputo

    I’m curious if the dual left/right data can be shown on a Garmin unit like the Vector pedals can?

    • Drew

      Yes. I haven’t dug too deep into the data that gets stored in the .fit file, but at the very least, it will give you left/right balance.

      One of the issues that stoped shipping was a drift in numbers due to changes in temperature while on a ride. I’ve seen this first hand and the power will start to change balance to one side or the other.

    • Michael Caputo

      Yeah, i think that’s common with any power meter, they’re effected easily by temperature. I’m curious more about the live measurements on my garmin unit vs analyzing the file afterwards.

    • Correct, it will. That’s standard ANT+ spec stuff, so all good there.

      The shifting balance is technically just the shifting accuracy of one side vs the other. Balance shifting was merely a byproduct of one sensor shifting.

    • Michael Caputo

      Left/right live display is supported? I was under the impression that Garmin Vector had a specific data stream to Garmin units.

    • Drew

      Left/Right balance is live, at least on my 810. Vector may have additional functionality. IE: I’ve never seen ‘pedaling efficency’ throw any data.

  11. Russ Starke

    So for those of us in the early group: Is there any action we will need to take or is it on auto-pilot from their end? If it is the new sleeved version, do we send old stuff back first? I assume they will check to see what crank we are using.

    • Hi Russ,

      First batch customers just need to sit back and wait, the first shipment will be delivered to them, and only after that the pre-order list will start. There is no need to return back any item, just remove the old sensors and glue on the new ones. We’ll send out detailed instructions when things start moving.

  12. Brendan Moore

    Any update on the Brim Bothers power meter? Last I read was your first hands on with a pre prod unit that was good but still had some inconsistencies in the data.

  13. MartinF

    Very impressive that they continue to do the right thing when it’s so easy not to.

    1. Small delays in the original shipment with a battery issue. So, all hands on deck to repackage.
    2. Stop production when an issue was discovered.
    3. Work on fix but also continue to improve the product line.
    4. Push out new sensors and take care of it’s existing customers first and at no cost.
    5. Keep existing staff during this difficult time.

    This is one of the few power meters at the right price point. Power meters are not some black magic, extensive research required product. No way they should cost $1K. I wish Watteam the best and hope they get rolling soon. At this price, the industry will have to react or be left behind. I have a couple of Christmas presents to buy. Based what I have seen, Watteam will be getting my order.

    • Jeff Y

      They will be getting my order as well unless there are other unexpected set-backs, then the P1’s will find their way on my bike. The price-point and their customer service are going to set this company apart from the Industry.

  14. Laurens Bloem

    Ray, small tip/request: please tag this with PowerBeat also, I was searching all over for this article and began to doubt myself when it wasn’t even listed there.
    Thanks ;-)

  15. Laurens Bloem

    Also, has someone pointed out to them the typo in the app? ‘POWEBEAT’ in the third picture?
    Not trying to be clever, I just don’t want them to cop criticism if that’s missed in the final release.

    • Hi Laurens,

      Thanks for pointing that out. The app is still at a BETA stage and hasn’t gone through final spell checking yet. Don’t worry, our product is still called POWERBEAT :) and we will definitely fix the typo.

  16. Gil OnCarbs

    Hi DC Rainmaker,
    We are in December 04. No news about Watteam? Still waiting your update

    • In talking with them a bunch over the past few days, things seem to be on-schedule for a final production unit arriving in my hands in a little over a week. I don’t know how closely that’d be aligned to consumer units shipping.

  17. F.B. ten Kate

    Strongly considering this for my power meter needs, as I find all systems rather expensive.

    Very curious if they ironed out the problems before considering to order somewhere in the spring.

    • Drew

      Ray’s analysis is going to be better than mine on accuracy of the unit as this is the only power meter that I currently, or have ever had.

      That being said, I’ve been on the new v2 sensors for about a month now and have been very happy with what they’ve done. I was one of the few that got theirs with the original shipment and I had huge problems with getting the glue to hold on my Ultegra 6800 cranks. They were sending me replacement sensors every 3-5 weeks. After the first or second firmware revision I started seeing the temperature related drift as well. Due to the numerous issues I had, they went ahead and got me a set of the new v2 sensors, with the new glue to test.

      For me, the new sensors have been rock solid. The new sensors are smaller and I have seen no issues with the sensors failing to stay adhered to the crank arms with the new glue (which also looks much cleaner). I have not seen any apparent issues with inaccurate readings due to temperature change either, so that appears to be fixed. I have been extremely happy with what they have assuming this will be what they go to market with.

      I’d also like to add that the level of customer support I’ve seen from them over the last year or so has been phenomenal. With as much time as they’ve spent with me between emails, Skype calls, and getting me replacement sensors/pods, it’s obvious to me that they have a very high level of dedication to their customers and their product. I did consider asking for a refund at first, but seeing how eager they were to work with me on getting it right changed my mind very quickly.

  18. Graham

    Any news on when we might be able to order these…?

  19. Russell S.

    FYI – I received my updated sensors January 31. Hope to have them installed and running in the next couple of days. Fingers crossed.

  20. Barz77

    Also me I received my updated sensors but negative results…. Compared with my powertap there is a power gap (10W at 130, 15W at 190, 30W at 230,….). Increasing the power, increase the gap (powerbeat read less..).

  21. max

    I like the wireless charging cable! ;-)

  22. Daniel

    Hi Ray, do you know if this power meter is compatible with the Praxis Turn Zayante cranks?? Or if anybody who reads this knows?

  23. Scott E. Griffith

    Any update? Are the problems resolved?