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Hammerhead Refreshes Karoo User Interface ahead of Karoo 2

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Hammerhead has begun rolling out a refreshed user interface to existing Karoo users, ahead of the Karoo 2 unveiling. Hammerhead has previously announced their intention to announce the Karoo 2, but hasn’t actually made the announcement yet. Or, something like that. However, in their user interface post on their site, they do give some hints as to the screen aspect ratio of the new Karoo 2. More on that in a minute.

There’s probably no device on the market that’s seen as many major updates since launch as the Hammerhead Karoo (actually, I should back-up a second, you can’t buy the Karoo 1 anymore, you haven’t been able to since last year. The ran out of stock, then COVID-19 hit, and then they just decided to wait till Karoo 2 instead). In any case, since the OG Karoo started shipping two years ago it’s had more updates than you can shake a stick at. Now of course, that’s largely because as a first-time entrant to the GPS bike computer category, they had to. They started out behind, and needed to innovate to become competitive.

Ironically, I think it’s really only since late last year that software-wise they’ve unlocked that achievement. Unfortunately, about the same time, they ran out of hardware. As noted previously, I think the lack of beeper/audible alerts on the Karoo 1 meant it was a deal-breaker for me and many others that use it for navigation. Hopefully, the Karoo 2 fixes that.

What’s changed:

Given it’s Friday and it’s sunny out, we’re gonna roll through these changes efficiently. When the Karoo 2 comes out, I’ll dive into them in more depth. To begin, the home page has been updated to remove the dark black/yellow theme, and go with a much more modern look. This part isn’t on my unit yet (coming next week), so here’s a screenshot:

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It’s here that you can swipe between the different ride profiles, such as Indoors or Outdoors. On indoors it’ll shut-off GPS.

At the bottom, you can choose a route or structured workouts. Structured workouts pull from TrainingPeaks. Here’s what happens when I tap that, pulling in a workout I built on TrainingPeaks:

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This is an area I’d love to see them expand more. For example, it’d be great to have other partnerships with TrainerRoad, Today’s Plan, and more. And I feel like with TrainerRoad especially the screen and underlying interface is at the point where they could probably really make the TrainerRoad experience sing more than others could (such as with the explainer text that Garmin and Wahoo don’t show).

Oh, wait, check that out on their screenshot…it’s a nice little TrainerRoad logo:

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(TrainerRoad started beta testing TrainingPeaks and Final Surge integration earlier this week, so perhaps Hammerhead is also tied in somewhere, or perhaps Hammerhead is just being optimistic here.)

In any event, looking at my TrainingPeaks workout, here’s the details:

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It would however be nice if, as I dragged my finger over the top of the workout above, that it would show me the power targets, similar to how it works on certain apps. In other words, I want to see how much the upcoming workout is gonna suck.

Once in a workout, you’ll get a mix of interface screens showing your structured workout as you iterate through it. You start/stop the structured workout piece independently of your actual ride. So basically you can get to where you want to do your workout, and then start the structured workout. You can go forward/back through the steps too.

However, I’d really like to see a display option that’s not atop a black background. Meaning, I love the clean white/grey look used elsewhere in the user interface. But I’ve never been a fan of white text on black for bike computers or wearables during daylight. Nighttime sure, but daylight it isn’t my thing. For example, while riding today with bright sun, it’s really hard to see the grey text descriptors atop the black background. And by hard, I mean entirely impossible.

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Stepping back, if we crack open the routes builder you’ve got a similar refreshed layout, pulling in your routes from various platforms including Strava, Komoot, and others:

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And if you tap it, it’ll open up a more detailed look at the route:

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Heck, I can even attempt to edit a route to add or remove points on it. To me, that’s playing with fire. But you do you:

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Anyway, cracking things open to start a ride, you’ll see the screens are tweaked a bit from the past. Here’s some generic data fields from my ride:

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However, where you really see things clean-up is the navigation bits. Super nice overlays here, it looks really sharp above with the inset of directional arrow atop instructional bit.

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But the pièce de résistance on the Karoo is honestly the Strava Live Segments integration they introduced back last month. Seriously, it’s so clean and so sharp. When you have overlapping segments, you can simply swipe left and right to see them (hence the three dots in the screenshot at right below, I’m on three segments at once), and it’ll clearly indicate which one you’re on, plus you can easily see the orange overlay on the map

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In fact, even if you’re not on a segment you’ll see the orange highlight in a lighter orange on the map for Segments you’ve favorited. You can see this on the street ahead of me, which isn’t on my route.

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Not only that they’ve introduced new concepts atop it to better the Live Segment experience. For example, you’re all familiar with chasing the KOM, or your PR’s. And probably those you follow. But Hammerhead has tweaked that concept a bit. They’ve introduced the Carrot & Wolf, which basically takes those people you follow and makes it clear when you’re trying to topple them (the carrot), or if they’re close behind you (the wolf):

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As I said with my Strava Local Legends post, I’d love to see Strava roll out API support for the Local Legends, because the Karoo interface would be able to easily show that in a clean way without becoming cluttered. Simply display it as you approach the segment showing your current count and the local legend count (I’d recommend hiding that below a certain threshold though).

Now, it’s not to say the implementation is perfect. For example, on some of my Strava Segments the elevation graph makes a mountain out of a molehill. These segments are pancake flat, but they appear like they’re gigantic hills because it doesn’t flatten out the scale. There’s at most a meter of elevation change here across this entire Segment running next to a (flat) lake on a flat road.

There’s other minor things I’d love to see while they’re tweaking UI bits. For example, in the sensors menu they show this gigantic Scarlet Letter A+, which is supposed to mean ANT+. For Bluetooth devices they show a Bluetooth logo. I’d recommend switching to the ANT+ logo here, since…that’s better than a Scarlet Letter.

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Similarly, getting to the power meter calibration menu requires way more steps than necessary. I’d like to see that be an easy swipe down from the top and tap calibrate if a power meter is paired.

In any case, finishing up here, the post-activity data is cleaned up as well, and is super clear. Elevation graph is displayed along the bottom, and then the map up top. Though, like the first portion of the unit firmware, this piece isn’t live on mine yet. So here’s a screenshot from them.

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Though again, I’d love to see this tweaked to a brighter interface version akin to that of the rest of the dashboard pages.

Of course, the fact that existing Karoo 1 users are getting a major user interface update at all is notable, it’s pretty rare for that to happen in the bike computer world. In fact, I don’t think it’s ever happened.

Peeks at Karoo 2:

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Now, above is a comparison of the Karoo 1 to the Karoo 2, except, I had to censor the Karoo 2. However, Hammerhead was more revealing than I’ll be with the unit sitting on the desk next to me. While to date they haven’t shown any imagery of the unit to indicate size or such, their post yesterday does give some hints. Namely on-screen aspect ratio.

Throughout their post they included samples of all the user interface imagery for both the Karoo 1 and the Karoo 2. And one specific thing sticks out:

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It’s clear that the Karoo 2 is taller than the chubbier Karoo 1. I mean, realistically it couldn’t have been any chubbier than the Karoo 1. That thing takes the cake on…well…all the cake. Of course, looking at their screenshots it could be that the unit’s screen isn’t any taller, but just that the screen is now less wide. I don’t know. You decide.

Here’s to hoping there’s a beeper in there.

More down the road of course. DHL just arrived.

Wrap-Up:

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Ok, there ya go, a quick look at the refreshed user interface. Again, I think the biggest takeaway here is that Hammerhead is looking to adopt a practice of updating the existing Karoo 1 units from a software refresh standpoint, despite the fact they aren’t even making or selling the original Karoo units anymore. Heck, technically speaking the company isn’t selling anything right now. One could argue they’re kinda like a non-profit in that sense.

Of course, it’s ‘easy’ to do what Karoo is doing when they’ve got the carrot of revamped hardware for their 2nd generation unit. Meaning that assuming the Karoo 2 is a much better piece of hardware visually and internally, then erring on the side of making existing customers happy such that they want to support the company further and pick up newer/better hardware makes sense. We saw Wahoo do the same when they went from the original ELEMENT to BOLT to ELEMENT ROAM. The challenge for Wahoo, and eventually Hammerhead, will be down the road figuring out a way to get users to upgrade.

The quantity of users Hammerhead has with Karoo 1 is relatively small compared to their potential user base for Karoo 2, now that they’re a more established company than they were 3-4 years ago when they first started the Karoo 1 journey on Kickstarter. Upsetting that original user base would be a PR fail, versus making those users happy is effectively cheap marketing.

Now, some (including Hammerhead) would argue that by having that Android base it means they’ll be able to more easily update the device going forward. And to some degree that’s true, but the challenges are also significant as well. For example, the Karoo 1 still doesn’t support any smartphone integration. There’s no way to get alerts on it, and unless you’re near WiFi, there’s no way to upload rides. Oh, sure, there’s the SIM card slot. But I’d question how many people are actually paying to put a SIM card in that. I’d struggle with the value of that as presented right now.

In any case – looking forward to seeing where Hammerhead takes things with Karoo 2, whenever that bird decides to make its more public appearance.

With that – thanks for reading!

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30 Comments

  1. Kevin

    “I had to sensor the Karoo 2”

    Could almost be deliberate 😉

  2. Eli

    Going by the screenshots the relative resolution is:
    1-275×460
    2-275×365
    But the numbers are larger on the 2

  3. Dan W

    I seem to recall one of the recent promo videos been a black screen with a beep to end things. So we can assume that’s in I’d say although even without the video, we could assume it after the feedback they got last time.

    Really excited for this – provided its stable, I’ll be buying (Garmin 520 user at present).

  4. Pantster

    Come on Ray you know it’s got a beep! They’ve even teased it (did I see somewhere you might even have a HH2 to test, just like Lance!)

  5. Djurre

    Replying to the last sentence: I’d struggle with the value of that as presented right now.

    I have a duplicate sim in the Karoo and love it! I can search online on the Karoo for a street and upload when no wifi available. Also with no extra costs because my provider supports duo sim👍

  6. Brandon

    Been debating back and forth over the past couple of months on which bike computer to get. I had settled on the Roam, then I came across their updated/soon-to-be announced Karoo 2. Sounds like its worth waiting to see what this new unit can do! Hopefully they don’t wait months to release, though.

  7. Brandon

    Update.. here are some pics from GCN that Hammerhead just retweeted.

    link to twitter.com

    I think we have a winner.

  8. Pantster

    Recent GCN tech show had images of HH2

    • Seth S.

      Is HH playing favorites with GCN or did Ollie, et al, violate the embargo on K2? Not kosher either way.

      Still, nice for us to know more of what’s coming.

    • usr

      Actively leaking to steal some of the (modest) 1030+ thunder. And I have to admit that it’s working, my resolve to pull the trigger on the Plus has noticeably diminished. I need to actively remind myself that the Plus will undoubtedly remain the king of battery endurance.

      People like Ray will stick to the embargo nonetheless not because it would anger Hammerhead but to not appear unreliable to everybody else who they have NDA with. Hammerhead would probably love it, because it’s still to early for an official release, it would be too much of a paper launch, but rumors can only have upside for them now that Karoo1 is out of stock.

      *If* the reason the new Karoo software is doing so much white-on-black is that the K2 drops transflective (which I think the K1 has run in an almost-transmissive more anyways) in favor of always-on OLED, like the Venu, then it must be really frustrating for Ray to hold that back. Or perhaps he takes pleasure in it, the craftsman’s joy of playing by the book and being good at it, combined with the author’s joy of already knowing the next chapter’s plot twist.

      But hey, it looks like hammerhead really made it past the initial bump of missing beepers, breaking bracket feet, a SIM slot that nobody asked for and being far behind promised software features. This is great news, congratulations HH!

    • Michal

      SIM Card was great. No need to bring your phone. As it got Android 5+ I was able to load BT profiles, play sound via BLT headset (used it with AirPods and Sony), use FB, YouTube, Messenger, Google Maps – and all with LTE connection. For me it was greatest feature

    • In talking to Karoo about it…they (Hammerhead) effed up. It was a miscommunication on what was being disclosed by GCN. I knew they were going live with a video about it, but using the same imagery as Lance showed (which, basically shows nothing).

      The Hammerhead folks apologized for the mix-up on imagery (which wasn’t GCN’s fault).

      As with more, I’ll disclose more later from the actual unit. Until then, I’m disappointed that apparently nobody decided to click on my censored photo above.

    • Akiva Wasser

      I didn’t realize that the Karoo 2 is small enough to fit in a blueberry, or that they sent you more than one.

    • Akiva Wasser

      Or is out a state-of-the-art blueberry display?

    • Until then, I’m disappointed that apparently nobody decided to click on my censored photo above.
      Great, now I’m hungry and it’s a while until lunchtime.

  9. Justin

    It only beeps if your hematocrit goes over 49.999%…

  10. Justin

    Also I thought I was setting up a profile here and adding a photo, not posting my photo in the comments. Sorry for the gratuitous selfie gents. #facepalm

  11. Carl

    Off topic I guess, but since you brought it up, what’s the Trainingpeaks integration in Trainerroad beta?

  12. FrankJ

    Some pictures…

  13. FranKJ

    Another one

  14. Sascha

    Well without contourlines On maps Karoo lost it totally now ghat Garmin offers them with topomaps for free in the plus!

  15. chup

    Does it show Chinese / Japanese characters on map?

  16. Dan G

    Read that thinking “hmmm maybe I should’ve got a Karoo instead of a 530” then I read no smartphone notifications.

    Wow, just wow.

  17. rgurney

    I am a Karoo 1 user. Have not seen any recent updates of this ‘refreshed user interface’ as mentioned above. Am I missing something?

  18. Pete

    “I’d love to see Strava roll out API support for the Local Legends, because the Karoo interface would be able to easily show that in a clean way without becoming cluttered. Simply display it as you approach the segment showing your current count and the local legend count (I’d recommend hiding that below a certain threshold though)”

    Wasn’t most peoples’ reaction to your local legends article that it (local legends, not your article) was a waste of time and pointless?

    • There’s lots of features people find useless, I’m not sure this is honestly one of them. I think once people actually get access to it, they’ll start competing for it. Right now, it’s just far too limited of a rollout (which I think was actually a bigger mistake than the feature itself).