DC Rainmaker https://www.dcrainmaker.com Thu, 23 Feb 2017 19:59:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.8 Riddle Me This: Running Efficiency Metrics Showdown https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/02/running-efficiency-metrics-showdown.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/02/running-efficiency-metrics-showdown.html#comments Tue, 21 Feb 2017 15:38:59 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=71304 Read More Here ]]> DSC_7431

As you saw yesterday and over the weekend, sometimes gadget things just don’t make sense.  And one of those things has been the tsunami of data I collected on a single run this weekend, using a wide variety of products designed to measure running efficiency and form.

Of course, some of these products aren’t new.  For example, Garmin’s Running Dynamics has been around since 2013 with the FR620 initially using the HRM-RUN, as has RunScribe since 2013.  Others have popped up onto the scene in the last year or so, with more even in the last few months.  Yet what’s new is really having the ability to start evaluating what is theoretically the same data from different companies.  It’s one thing to have two different companies and compare data (i.e. Garmin vs RunScribe), but it’s another to really dig even further and compare a lot more at once…like…six of them concurrently.  All of which ultimately get to the question of: Which one is correct?  Or…are any of them correct?

For reference, here are the devices I was using:

1) RunScribe running pods (dual left/right pod setup)
2) Stryd running pod power meter
3) Kinematix Tune insole based running metrics (dual left/right setup)
4) SHFT running metrics/power meter (dual pod setup)
5) Milestone footpod with advanced running metrics
6) Garmin HRM-TRI Running Dynamics (HR strap)

Note that there are other advanced running metrics devices on the market that I didn’t use/have for this run.  They include: Wahoo TICKR, RunTeq Zoi, FeetMe, Lumo, and more I’m likely forgetting or have never heard of.  I also touched on a few others at ISPO a couple of weeks ago like DigitSole.

Most times in reviews/posts I collect vast sums of data and rarely post on something until I have those piles of both mainstream and edge cases to evaluate.  But in this case, I’m going to simplify things a bit more and just look at this single run.  After all – most consumers aren’t looking at half a dozen devices to decide which one is correct.  They’re expecting that the data they use is both accurate and precise, as well as repeatable and actionable.

‘Riddle Me This’ Background:

During one of the IT projects I worked at back over a decade ago now, I spent many long nights in a corporate apartment with two co-workers.  Both these colleagues can now be counted among my best friends (including my groomsmen).  Much pizza and Mountain Dew was consumed.  At the time our job was partly to understand why things were the way they were.  It often started with one of us staying aloud: Riddle me this  – Do you actually know how ‘X’ works?  In theory, you did.  At the surface, the questions were always simple sounding.  Of course you knew how DHCP leases (and renewal) worked.  Of course you knew how Active Directory rejection and escalation of incorrect passwords worked.  Or, of course you knew how some other staple of IT computing worked.

But that wasn’t actually the question.  The question was did you really know how it worked.  Could you tear it apart packet by packet and explain precisely what was going on?  Could you explain the exact moment something was triggered and the various domino effects from it?  For example – does the computer request a new DHCP lease if it reboots mid-lease duration?  And if it does, did that extend the lease time if it was prior to the half-life of the lease?  What did the client do if the server removed the address from the lease pool?  No doubt these concepts all sound foreign if you’re not in IT.  And that’s OK.

The point of the question was in effect a dare: Could you produce the mother of all in-depth e-mails and explanation on what sounded trivial, but in reality was not.  Could you leave that knowing that you now know all there is to know about some inconsequential little topic that virtually everyone takes for granted?

All of which is a long-winded precursor to my ‘Riddle me this’ in this post.  A riddle that perhaps it might be up to you to solve.

What’s being measured:


Before we get too far along, let’s me define what we’re going to focus on today.  These devices all measure various running efficiency and form metrics.  The theory behind them is that you can focus on one specific element (or a group of elements) and modify your running form.  By modifying your running form you may run more efficiently, which means that you can expend less energy to go the same pace (or spend the same energy and go faster).  Ultimately this is mostly all about either going faster, or spending less energy.  There are however elements around injury reduction too though, which some companies focus on more than others.

Each company generally measures between 6 and 12 different metrics.  Some of those metrics are the same across devices.  For example, cadence is cadence (whether displayed as single leg or double/total), and pace is pace.  Those two are the foundation of running metrics, and companies shouldn’t be getting those wrong. Then you move into areas like Ground Contact Time or Vertical Oscillation – all of which should, in theory, be the same across devices if supported.  Finally, you move further into more detailed areas like footstrike type or g-forces, which can get very nuanced depending on how you measure it or where you measure it.

To start, here’s what each of the units I was using is capable of recording.  Note that I’m specifically covering items which are exposed in their apps.  If a user can’t access it – it doesn’t count.  Meaning, just because they may have that data somewhere behind the scenes, if it’s not exposed to an end user it doesn’t matter to me.  I’m also not covering in this table some of the coaching elements that you see in some apps like SHFT.

Function/FeatureGarmin HRM-RUN/TRIRunScribe (Gen2)Stryd (Gen2)Milestone PodKinematix TuneSHFT Run
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated February 22nd, 2017 @ 7:29 amNew Window Expand table for more results
Price$89 (+ watch)$162 (Dual Config)$199$24$199$199
PlacementChest strapFootpodFootpodFootpodInsolesFootpod & Chestpod
Support dual pods?NoYesNoNoYesYes (Chest/Foot)
Is phone required during run?NoNoNoNoYesYes
Battery typeCR2032 Coin CellRechargeableRechargeableCR2032 Coin CellRechargeableRechargeable
Total StepsYesYesNoYesYesNo
Running PowerNoNoYesNoNoYes
Vertical OscillationYesNoYesNoNoYes
Ground Contact Time BalanceYesYesNoNoYesNo
Stride LengthYesYesNoYesYesYes

Phew…holy data moly!

Of course – all of this ignores whether or not there’s any actual use for much of this data in terms of making you a better/faster/safer runner.  It’s incredibly easy for companies to point to studies that prove that you should run one way or another because it somehow might be faster/better one way or another.  But more on that in a moment, first let’s look at the numbers.

A Runny Pile of Data:

So with half a dozen running metric devices charged up, and four GPS watches, I set out on my roughly hour long run.  The run was almost entirely without stoppage, and on mostly flat terrain.  There were a few minor inclines up/down ramps to the river, and the ground was primarily pavement, with a portion compact dirt and finally an even smaller portion cobblestones.  In general when I run I don’t stand for lights and such, but rather simply run up/down the street until I can safely cross.  You can see the route here, as well as the pacing.


Now the first piece of the puzzle is getting a way to compare the data.  Sure, I could show you screenshots from each piece, but that’s hard to actually compare like data side by side.  Still, I’m going to do it anyway.  Here’s a gallery of the different pieces from all of the apps.  For the phone-only apps, I’m including a few screenshots of each:

Kinematix Tune Kinematix Tune Kinematix Tune Milestone Pod Milestone Pod Milestone Pod Milestone Pod RunScribe SHFT Run Stryd Power Garmin Connect

In general, I found that SHFT had the clearest and easiest to understand metrics panel, combining both GPS and pod data in a simple manner.  While RunScribe’s data is close behind (albeit sans-GPS).  Here are the direct links to each workout, if available:

Garmin Connect
Stryd Power Center
RunScribe Dashboard
SHFT Portal
Kinematix Tune (no shareable link option)
Milestone Pod (no shareable link option)

Ok, with that prettiness out of the way, I decided to try and compare just one single metric: Ground Contact Time.  Aside from cadence, it was the lone metric that all the devices had.  So next I had to figure out how to export that data.



That’s not actually possible.  Here’s whether each platform supports some sort of CSV/TXT data file for that advanced data portion of the file:

A) Garmin Connect: Sorta, you’d have to manually parse the .FIT file for Running Dynamics data.
B) RunScribe: Sorta. It’s complicated.
C) SHFT: Exports only GPS track and cadence data, not running metrics.
D) Stryd: Sorta, you have to parse the .FIT file – same as Garmin
E) Kinematix: No export available (on phone only)
F) Milestone Pod: No per-second detailed export available (only summary/total data at the 1-minute level)

So then…well…crap.  Nobody above provides a simple ‘Export CSV’ option for this data.  Now I realize the irony of this, because I routinely talk about the fact that in fitness data, publishing CSV/TXT files isn’t useful.  Instead you want .FIT or .TCX files for integration purposes – which is exactly what these companies did.  Unfortunately, in this case, all those advanced metrics aren’t easily consumed into any 3rd party application as-is.  They would require additional coding.  So while it seems year after year of pounding I won the war on getting companies to adopt standards, I appear to have lost this specific battle on making this advanced data comparable.

Nonetheless, let’s back up and compare that average data per run, and see how it differs between the units.  I went ahead and manually pulled together the most common metrics for each device into the ‘top-line’ stats.


(Side note: I have no idea why the Milestone pod is so far off on distance, up until this run I’ve seen it no more than 1-2% of GPS distance.  Also, for Kinematix and SHFT they use the phone’s GPS for distance.)

Now some platforms make it easier than others to compare the data more visually.  For example, with Garmin Connect, I was capturing both the Garmin Running Dynamics (HRM-TRI) data side by side with the Stryd data on the same exact Fenix watch (using Connect IQ). And these days Garmin Connect plots that nicely on the same charts.  Even better is that I can drag across the entire timeline and see like data points.  So here’s the vertical oscillation at one totally random point:


So above we see that with the HRM-TRI it shows 10.4cm, whereas the Stryd shows 7.50cm.  Let’s pick another random point:


Here you see it 9.2cm for Garmin, and 7.00cm for Stryd.  Roughly a 2-3cm difference across the board when I drag to most places on the plot (you can drag around here too).

Let’s pick Ground Contact Time now:


You’ll see above it differs by about 22ms.  So then I purposefully picked the biggest ‘spike’ I could find on the chart, to see if it would spike on both.  And sure enough, it did:


Well that’s positive – at least it’s spiking in the same place.  So let’s look at the zoomed in chart on RunScribe and see if I can find the exact same point (48:56) and if there’s a spike there:


Sorta?  It’s a bit trickier with RunScribe because there is no start button on the device, so it’s automatically based on a trigger of me starting to run.  So in the above case, at exactly 58:56, it starts to climb, but it doesn’t really spike for another 15 seconds.  Prior to that, it spikes significantly, but that was some 30 seconds earlier. So it’s possible, but it’s hard to know for certain because there’s no time alignment possible here without a start button.

Let’s look at SHFT then (zoomed in).  For that, I start the app on the phone, and then stash it.  So we’re looking at a couple of seconds difference likely with lag.


We do see a spike there in that region – but not unlike any of the other umpteen million spikes along the same run.  Nothing like we saw with Garmin and Stryd as the biggest spike in the entire run.  Further, all of SHFT’s values were well above even the highest of Garmin/Stryd’s values.  In fact, for SHFT, it was more or less like any other minute except a spike at 37 minutes:


And looking back across the run, the same was true with RunScribe – it was just the norm with its highest spike at the 20-minute marker:


Now the above points show more than just differences with absolute numbers, but they show distinct differences with comparative data.  Is it because they were measured in different spots (though the pods weren’t)?   Or are companies averaging differently?  Or are they smoothing differently?  Perhaps all of the above.

But if we used that same fuzzy-logic when evaluating accuracy of heart rate (BPM) or power meters (watts), or even running pace itself – we’d be laughed out of the room.  Results should be accurate, precise, and transferable between platforms without regard for the originating device.

Some will say:

“As long as it’s consistent, that’s all that matters.”




It’s not all that matters.

First, it’s not consistent between the devices.  Some see events that others don’t.  And some exaggerate those moments (rightly or wrongly) more than others.  For example, in the case of GCT above, a ‘spike’ for Garmin was approximately 47ms off run average (299ms vs 252ms).  Yet for SHFT, it was 76ms above it’s baseline of 350ms (to 416ms).  In the case of Stryd, it was 231ms (avg) vs 284ms (max).  At first you’d say that’s numerically consistent (about 16% jump for Garmin and SHFT, and a 21% jump for Stryd).

Except one problem…they happened at different points of the run.  They didn’t occur at the same point.  So where one unit thought I was running along steady, the other thought it was a spike.

But let’s pretend they were consistent.

I still argue…no…no…no.

Because eventually you’re going to move on to another device. The lifespan of these devices here is realistically 2-3 years.  For some folks, they might last a year or two, and for others 3-4.  But sooner rather than later, they’ll die.

And then what?  Do you throw out all your trending data?  That’d be like throwing away all your running race PR’s because you found out every course you ever ran was mis-measured.

So what is it good for?


So at this point you may be saying “Well then, let’s just toss this stuff in the river and move on!”.

And perhaps that’s true.  A large part of what I’ve argued for over the past few years is for companies like Garmin, Stryd, and others to actually partner with universities for longer term studies to prove that both trying to change running form with this data and actually changing it works.  There are hundreds of studies that show how efficient elite runners are compared to us ‘normals’.  But what virtually every study lacks is how to get from point A to point B.  Causation vs correlation.

And to Stryd’s credit, as well as RunScribe, they have done a lot of work in publishing data on the peripheral of that.  Not necessarily how to get from point A to point B or proving one can change their biomechanics, but at least sharing the data with the scientific community and having some of the fruit of that sharing being published.  Which is somewhat ironic given that Garmin has likely hundreds of thousands times more data/runs than either of these two companies combined, but to my knowledge hasn’t published anything to prove how to use the metrics.

To that extent – there’s nothing wrong with gathering data for the assumption that some day we’ll see a scientifically backed book published on running metrics.  Nor is there anything wrong with gathering data for the greater good.  And finally, there’s nothing wrong with trying to figure our yourself what those trends are exactly.  But from a coaching standpoint, today, it’d be extremely difficult for any coach to use data from different athletes on different devices and have much trust in it.  As shown above, it’s just a crapshoot.

But – if you’ve got some insights into your running efficiency data experiences – feel free to drop them below.  Perhaps collectively we’ll solve this riddle.

5 Random Things I Did This Weekend https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/02/5-random-things-i-did-this-weekend-39.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/02/5-random-things-i-did-this-weekend-39.html#comments Mon, 20 Feb 2017 22:28:25 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=71268 Read More Here ]]> A gadget packed weekend is in the books!  Here’s what I was up to.

1) Putting in trainer time

2017-02-17 17.22.36

I kicked off the weekend with a bit under an hour on the trainer.  Nothing fancy, no apps or other complexity.  Just an ERG workout.  I was using the Edge 1000 to control the Tacx NEO via FE-C, simply setting the resistance levels manually.  It’s nice that Garmin fixed this back a few months ago (after months of being broken).  But I can’t help but continue to think that the way Wahoo does the trainer control mode is just so much better in terms of easily being able to increase/decrease wattage without going through a bunch of menus. Unfortunately, Wahoo still doesn’t support FE-C trainer (despite saying they would by last fall).  So that’s a non-starter here.

2017-02-17 17.22.47

From a power meter standpoint, I was testing the Quarq DZero unit, which also had a pair of PowerTap P1’s attached to them.  And of course, the Tacx Neo too.  So really only three power meters on this setup.  I might add in a left-only unit like a Stages or 4iiii, but honestly it wouldn’t really add a whole lot because being left-only the data would be slightly skewed.

The only downside to the ride?  On an outdoor ride a few days prior I managed to somehow rip a portion of my cleat while filming something (standing, not riding), which was making me constantly pop-out of the right pedal.  Of course, I had totally forgotten about this by the time I got on the trainer.  High cadence drills were a bit of a mess.

Oh well.

2) Tunnel Testing

2017-02-17 18.24.50

Friday after my trainer ride I headed outside for a short run to validate how a handful of units performed in a tunnel.  For many marathons and other longer distance running races, tunnels are a fact of life.  It’s therefore important that any GPS device you use can handle going through a tunnel without totally screwing up.  My goal for success here is multi-part:

A) It should correctly ‘drop’ satellite at the entrance of the tunnel (not some point 100m away)
B) It should then fail over to accelerometer/footpod based data while GPS is unavailable
C) It should correctly ‘regain’ satellite at the exit of the tunnel (again, without misplacing the locale)
D) It shouldn’t double-down on any distance (i.e. add accelerometer/footpod distance to GPS distance)

Note that I fully recognize that anytime you lose GPS signal and failover to an accelerometer based situation, that accuracy will be slightly variable.  And that’s OK to a degree.  But it should still be within a few percent for the duration of the tunnel, which would then be barely a fraction of a percent once considered for the entire length of the run.  I also don’t expect the unit to handle any large curves in a tunnel from a data track standpoint.  Just connecting the two dots is reasonable.

Luckily I’m able to easily run to two solid tunnels not far from the DCR Cave.  One is shorter, about 200-300m long.  And the other is longer – about 1,000m long.  I like the 200-300m long one for testing though because I repeat it many times easily, and because it’s perfectly straight.  The other one is curved.

2017-02-17 18.42.07

I should probably point out this tunnel is closed to traffic these days, again making it even better.

2017-02-17 18.43.20

In my case, I ran the tunnel six times, with me going about 125-150m beyond the end of the tunnel each time – thus ensuring the unit had a chance to regain satellite signal. Ideally, of course, it does this in far less time, but it’s hard to know that mid-run.

While I will get to various results down the road for the numerous devices I was testing, I will note that the Suunto Spartan Ultra with its latest GPS-focused firmware update did actually perform the best of all units I was testing.  It beautifully executed the entrance and exit of the tunnel every single time…almost perfectly:


Exactly where I ran.


3) So much unboxing and cleanup

There was a lot of unboxing over the past few days.  And honestly, still a crapton more to do.  Some things I can show now, yet most you’ll have to wait for later.  On the ‘show now’ front though, I’ve got SHFT Run:


It’s a running metrics device, that also transmits running power too.  I’ll talk about that in two sections from now.

On the cleanup front, I spent about 2 hours down at the Cave on Saturday afternoon to try and get a bunch of stuff all cleaned up.  That included my god-awful cycling shoe cleat situation:

2017-02-18 19.00.57

The powder was also on the cleanup list.  That came from the ceiling after drilling holes in it to attach a secondary DSLR camera for higher quality unboxing videos.  I hadn’t gotten around to cleaning that up yet.

2017-02-18 19.03.37

Thankfully, the cleats came off far easier than I expected, and was soon good to go!

2017-02-18 19.13.53

After that, it was back to mundane things like deconstructing the giant piles of gadgets that amassed going into CES in early January, and carried through to Australia for the rest of January.  I think I need an unboxing intern. Hmm…

4) Friends in town


While there was plenty of sports tech happening this weekend, there was also some non-sports tech happenings.  Our friends David and Lillian were back in town for the weekend (after being relocated this past summer).  We’ve been on countless trips and events with them, such as a bunch of ski trips, Rome, the masked Versailles Ball, and many more I’m forgetting.

So Friday night we all got together at Zia (that’s the restaurant of another of our close friends).  That’s one of the great things about owning a restaurant/space/etc – it makes for a great locale for private events that don’t quite fit in your house.  We’ve done that a bunch of times at the DCR/Bertie’s Cake Studio.


For the most part, it was enjoying the evening for a number of hours in potluck style, so nothing too extravagant.  Though, The Girl did break out a test dessert for folks to try.  It was a dark chocolate tart with a Speculoos crust and salted caramel topping.  Nom!



Suffice to say, the dessert passed the test for sure!  Albeit there was about 35 minutes of discussion on exact portion sizing and weighing and calculators broke out to figure out pricing per slice. Though by the time all that was done…the tart was gone.

5) Running the Eiffel Tower Metrics

2017-02-18 14.58.24

Last but not least, we’ve got a Saturday run around town.  It was beautifully sunny out, so I strapped a crapton of stuff on my running shoes and headed on out.

2017-02-18 14.58.13

By ‘stuff’, I mean, a lot of things, specifically:

1) RunScribe running pods (dual left/right)
2) Stryd running pod power meter
3) Kinematix Tune insole based running metrics
4) SHFT running metrics/power meter (dual pod setup)
5) Milestone footpod with advanced running metrics
6) Garmin HRM-TRI running metrics
7) Four GPS watches
8) One GoPro Hero5 Black action camera
9) One iPhone

So…check.  I was well monitored.


As is often the case, I was testing out numerous things, but of particular interest to me on this run was how the different running metrics compared.  After all – many of them measured the exact same metrics.  Things like: Vertical Oscillation, Ground Contact Time, and even cadence.  Plus a few of them also measured running power too.

My run was rather simplistic – mostly steady state with virtually no stopping across the entire thing – perfect for validating how they compared.  As many of you saw in my tweet though… I was less than impressed:

I think the above tweet mostly says it all.

Still, tomorrow I’m going to expand out the metric and dive into all of the data sets a bit more.  Part technical dive, part rant, part mystery theater.  Or something like that.

In the meantime – thanks for reading – and have a great week ahead!

Week in Review–Feb 19th, 2017 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/02/week-in-reviewfeb-19th-2017.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/02/week-in-reviewfeb-19th-2017.html#comments Sun, 19 Feb 2017 22:35:48 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=71227 Read More Here ]]> WeekInReview_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]

The Week in Review is a collection of both all the goodness I’ve written during the past week around the internet, as well as a small pile of links I found interesting – generally endurance sports related. I’ve often wondered what to do with all of the coolness that people write, and while I share a lot of it on Twitter and Facebook, this is a better forum for sending it on to y’all. Most times these different streams don’t overlap, so be on the lookout at all these places for good stuff!

So with that, let’s get into the action!

DCRainmaker.com posts in the past week:

Here’s all the goodness that ended up on the main page of DCRainmaker.com this past week:

Sunday: Week in Review–February 12th, 2017
Tuesday: Apple Watch Series 2 and Nike+ Edition: Sport & Fitness In-Depth Review
Friday: 4iiii Precision Pro Dual Left/Right Power Meter In-Depth Review

DCR Podcast!

Here’s a handful of the topics discussed in this past week’s podcast:

– It’s a 43-minute long episode!
– Posting schedules and posting regularity
– Upcoming products I’m unboxing and how I do photos/videos of them
– Fashion models mid-podcast
– The whole (business) world of unboxing videos online
– The Apple Watch Review
– Getting back someone’s stolen HR strap
– Power meters for single chainrings
– The DCR Analyzer is out!
– We end with about 10 minutes of hilarity from a conversation of ours recorded pre-podcast

Listen to the full podcast here on the Podcast player, or just download the audio file from the same spot.

February Sports Tech Sale Continue:

In case ya missed it a week or so ago (details here), here’s the list of active sports tech deals going on over the next week or so.  One new one found this week is the Polar M450 GPS cycling unit for $129.  That’s a sweet deal!  Apparently, it had flirted sub-$110 a bit over the last few days too.  Just some random Amazon.com thing.

Current DealsRegular PriceSale PriceStartEndAmazonClever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programOther siteSale Notes
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated February 20th, 2017 @ 11:47 am
Garmin Forerunner 235$329$269Feb 16 2017Feb 28 2017LinkLinkAmazon only deal - unknown end date, could end any moment.
Garmin Vivoactive HR$249$219Feb 13 2017Feb 25 2017LinkLink
Garmin Vivofit3$99$79Feb 05 2017Feb 25 2017LinkLink
Garmin Vivosmart HR+$199$169Feb 05 2017Feb 25 2017LinkLink
Polar M450$169$129Feb 19 2017Feb 28 2017LinkLinkAmazon only - unknown end date!

And of course, using any of the links above helps support the site.  Enjoy!

YouTube Videos I Published:

Here’s some YouTube goodness that I published this past week:

Stuff that I found interesting around the interwebs:

Here’s a not-so-small smattering of all the random things that I stumbled on while doing my civic duty to find the end of the Internet.

1) How Science Works – Techniques and Challenges of Doping Control: An interesting look behind the data and science of how dopers get caught, and how labs go about testing.

2) Outdoor Retailer set to leave Salt Lake City: While OR has historically flirted with such temptations in order to get better deals, this seems like a much more permanent thing – in large part because it’s more the key exhibitors rather than the organizer itself.

3) Bike computer meets action cam meets lights: Basically, everything but the kitchen sink.  DCR reader Gunnar asks ‘What do you think?’: So…while their main site is a dearth of information, I did find one YouTube video they shot which actually shows some promise in terms of being more functional than their site lets on.  So that’s good.  It’s an interesting concept for city bikes, though would be too beastly for most race/road bikes.  However, their use of Indiegogo instead of Kickstarter is a huge red flag.

4) The SHEcret Pro: On Australia’s Summer of Cycling. For those not familiar, this is the women’s version of the famed ‘The Secret Pro’ series. Always interesting.

5) Sports Tech Jobs: Notable this week is Saris (of PowerTap/CycleOps) is looking for a few different folks.

6) Garmin Connect ‘Import’ Option Missing? At first, you might think so. But in reality it was just moved to the big “+” icon in the upper right corner.  Hard to know if it was UI cleanup, or designed to break 3rd party apps leveraging it for various uploads.  Either way…at least it’s still there thankfully.  Almost had to pull out my ‘Watch what happens when DCR gets really pissed off!’ card late last week over it.  It’s a feature I often use, because I don’t necessarily link all of my Garmin devices to Garmin Connect automatically (mostly because I hit the max allowable), so this allows me to manually upload files to share on occasion.

7) I’ve got no more items. My ‘Notepad’ list of items for the week was wiped out last night when my computer decided to restart.  And no, I didn’t press save.  Sorry!

Sports Technology Software/Firmware Updates This Week:

Each week I quickly highlight some of the new firmware, app, software and website service updates that I see go out. If you’re a sports technology company and release an update – shoot me a quick note (just one liners are perfect, or Tweet it at me is even better) and I’ll make mention of it here. If I don’t know about it, I won’t be able to post about it. Sound good?  Oh – and if you want to get a head start on things, this page is a great resource for watching Garmin firmware updates.

CycleOps Magnus Trainer Firmware: This came out a week or two ago, but I forgot about it.

CycleOps Hammer Trainer Firmware: Same as Magnus – definitely worthwhile if you’ve got either

CycleOps/PowerTap Virtual Training App: While I don’t normally include apps here, this is specifically notable because of the changes to displaying PowerTap P1 advanced metrics.

Garmin Fenix Chronos BETA firmware update: This continues to include updates for the Fenix5 series into the Garmin Chronos series.  Again, this is a BETA firmware.

Polar Loop 2 Firmware Update: Minor bug fixes and phone compatibility fixes.

Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT Firmware Update: Increase in data fields per page, change in fonts, few other items.

Thanks for reading!

4iiii Precision Pro Dual Left/Right Power Meter In-Depth Review https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/02/4iiii-precision-pro-leftright-review.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/02/4iiii-precision-pro-leftright-review.html#comments Fri, 17 Feb 2017 15:00:29 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=71217 Read More Here ]]> DSC_3231

While there are many power meter options being touted these days, it’s a different matter to actually get something shipped to consumers.  And to do something that’s accurate and trusted (as well as reliable).  It’s been a couple of years now since 4iiii started shipping power meters, and as of two summers ago when they shipped their left-only unit they’ve been quite a reliable as well as an inexpensive option.  Within that product, things have been accurate and I see very few complaints (almost none actually).

But that was on their single-leg system.  What would happen when they started shipping their dual left/right system?  Well, I set out to find out.  This past fall the company started shipping that to consumers, including a media loaner unit to myself.  Since then I’ve been testing and comparing it to a slew of other power meters on the market on daily rides.

With a system priced at $749 for a complete dual left/right offering installed on your existing crank arms, it’s one of the lower cost options on the market – so would it be accurate?  And is it reliable through the water-logged winter conditions? Let’s dig in.

Clarifying the options:


Before we get too far along, it’s probably worthwhile to back up a bit (or a lot) and talk about how we got here, and exactly what this review is covering.  There are some nuances that are important to consider in this solution.

If we turn on the ‘way-back’ machine to September 2014, 4iiii launched at Interbike that year with what was planned to be a self-installable power meter.  You’d use some glue they provided, a bit of craftiness, and boom – inexpensive power meter on your existing crank arms.  While that may eventually be in the cards, the company switched directions after they said they had issues shipping said glue to consumers, due to shipping regulations around the glue itself (i.e. hazmat type stuff).

That led them to the scenario where you could send them your crank arm (left-only at the time), and they’d return it a short bit later with the power meter installed for you.  A few months later, they started offering the ability to buy pre-configured crank arms with the power meter already installed on it.  That not only got you a new Precision power meter, but also a new crank arm.  But this was all still left-arm only, and it was that product that I reviewed just over a year ago.

There’s nothing specifically wrong with left only, but it’s just restrictive in its ability to be accurate.  It’s only measuring one leg and doubling it (just like Stages does).  But as has been well demonstrated since then, your left/right balance varies not just day by day, but also often by intensity.  For example, I’m reasonably balanced up until my FTP, above which I become quite imbalanced.  Same goes for when I fatigue – which could be 1 hour or 4 hours into a ride, depending on intensity.

Of course, they were still working away on a right-only solution, that I previewed in the fall of 2015.  But it wasn’t until last spring at Sea Otter (2016), that they announced their specific dual plans.  This included details on their complete dual left/right setup, as well as upgrade options for those with left-only units that wanted to become left/right.

And that’s what this review is all about: The dual setup, with sensors on both the left and right arms.

So, just to recap what the basic 4iiii power meter product options/prices are:

Precision Pro Dual Sided installed on your crank arms: $749USD
Precision Pro Single Sided installed on your left crank arm: $399USD
Precision Pro Single Sided installed on your right crank arm: $599USD

Precision Single Sided (Left) including a new crank arm: $399USD to $599USD
Precision Dual Sided (Left/Right) including full new Dura Ace crankset: $1,499USD

Note that 4iiii lists all of their crank compatibilities on their site, though at this point their dual left/right compatibility list is a single line item: Shimano DuraAce FC-9000.

Got all that? Good.  Let’s get cookin’.



Of course, what’s in your box will vary based on what you bought.  In my case, it’s got the full Shimano Dura-Ace configuration for dual left/right. If you bought a left-only configuration, then you’ll want to see my previous review on the left-only solution.  Whereas if you buy the right-only version installed on your crank arms, then it’ll simply be lacking the left-arm sensor.


In any event, here’s the box opened up:


And then once I remove the parts from their cardboard friends, you’ve got this:


All of which boils down to:

A) The drive side (right side) crank/arm
B) The non-drive side (left side) crank/arm
C) A plastic phone protector (consider it a gift)
D) A quick start guide
E) A small wrench for opening battery compartment
D) An extra two batteries (CR2032)

And the photographic version of that:


On each side of the crankset you’ll see a 4iiii Precision sensor.  On the non-drive (left) side, it’s in the middle of the crank arm:


Whereas on the drive (right) side, it’s located close towards the spindle.  The battery pod sticks through the spider, making it more easily accessible – but the sensor itself is actually on the right crank arm.


Oh, and lastly – here’s a closer look at the extra battery, as well as phone inside the phone protector.  The protector is great if you ride in the rain with your phone in your jersey pocket.  Note that there is *NO* requirement for using the phone during a ride.  It’s purely for checking settings and such.



With that all set, let’s move forward into getting it on the bike.



Installation and configuration of any crank region power meter will vary heavily on which type of crankset you’re installing.  It’ll also vary on whether you bought the correct version for your bottom bracket and/or bike configuration.  If nothing else, spend your time doing your homework here.  Generally speaking, if you already have Shimano, then installation will be a breeze, since you’re replacing like with like. Whereas if you change brands/bottom bracket standards – then things get messy quick.

In my case, I was keeping like with like, so it was pretty straightforward.  I had an existing crankset on there from before, with the new one waiting below:


To remove things, you’ll only need a simple hex wrench to loosen up the non-drive side bolt (on the left crank arm), which then allows you to then pull out the drive side crank arm – no tools required.


Note that if your left crank arm has a small plastic cover over it (see this video), you’ll remove that by rotating it counter-clockwise.  Since you may not have the true ‘proper’ tool to do it, you can fake it with either a pair of pliers or scissors and then rotate using the slightly opened pliers/scissors to act as a tool.  Note: Not for cutting, just for grip.

Once that’s all done, simply screw in the left arm screws to the correct torque.  In general it’s best to alternate tightening each screw until snug.


After that, simply attach your pedals like normal.


And with that – you’re done.  Now, we will want to do a zero offset (aka calibration), but we’ll get to that in a second.

Finally, if the instructions above weren’t detailed enough for swappage of your specific crankset, I highly recommend YouTube to find instructions on being a bike mechanic.  If I’m not sure, I usually start there and go with more trusted bike focused sources like GCN, BikeRadar, Park Tools, and so on.

General Use Overview:


In many ways, the 4iiii Precision power meter is like most other units on the market.  So if you’re an old hand at power meters, then honestly you’ll likely find very little new stuff in this section (though, the smartphone pieces is notable).  Still, I’ll run through them for the sake of completeness.  Plus, I just had mini-pizzas for lunch and have a spark of energy.

To begin, the 4iiii Precision transmits on both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart concurrently.  This means that you can use any ANT+ capable or Bluetooth Smart capable device that supports power meters.  So on the ANT+ side that’s basically any Garmin cycling or triathlon focused device, as well as options from Stages (upcoming Dash head unit), Wahoo (ELEMNT), and even SRM’s latest head units like the PC8 (or trainer apps like Zwift and TrainerRoad).  Meanwhile, on the Bluetooth Smart you can connect via units from Polar and Suunto, but also smartphone apps like Strava and others .

I will note that Bluetooth Smart compatibility of dual left/right units does tend to be a bit more…fussy.  Companies continue to have a never-ending pissing match over standards here, and so things shift slightly from firmware to firmware and device to device.  But in general, people are reporting good compatibility results for the 4iiii dual units from what I’ve seen.  It’s the dual-piece that’s causing company’s issues since there are two connection points.

4iiii has a compatibility list linked off of this page, which lists the exact status of various head units.  For example, you’ll notice on their latest list that the Polar M450 is compatible, whereas the V650 isn’t.

In any event, starting off with the basics on the ANT+ side you can pair to it from any head unit by searching for a power meter:


In the case of some head units, you can rename the sensor from the ANT+ ID to something more friendly, like ‘4iiii Precision’.  You can also check battery status this way.

DSC_8015 DSC_8017

One of the most important things to do is regularly check your zero offset, which is a form of calibration.  Technically there are more detailed calibration levels, but for 98% of consumers out there, the zero offset is as close as they’ll get.  This allows you to monitor a given value and see if there are major changes to it.  Generally speaking, that number will shift with temperature, but in rare cases it can also change dramatically if something has gone wrong with the unit.  But, that’s not exactly how 4iiii works.


Note that calibration should be done with the cranks in the 12/6 o’clock position.


Now in earlier firmware versions, 4iiii with Precision would display the exact zero offset of both crank arms, alternating back and forth.  But now instead on the latest firmware, they display the status of each side, with a simple set of six possible values:

10 – Good, ready to ride

20 – Unstable data (bike not stationary)

30 – Low battery (less than 10%)

50 – Calibration error – contact support

99 – Power meter side not found

0 – Power meter not found

So basically: 1010 as seen above is ‘Good’ on both crank arms.

The positive side to this is that it’s far easier for most people to understand.  The downside is that it can make tracking calibration/drift variances harder.

Next, we can crack open the 4iiii app and look at Precision from there.  It’s here that you can start by creating a pairing between the left and right side.  This effectively allows either side to operate independently.  The option at the bottom allows you to unlink them.


You’ll see that you’ve got battery level listed as well, here in slightly more detail than via the Garmin head unit.  You’ve also got a 3rd party apps compatibility option.  This goes back to my point of challenges with some apps over Bluetooth Smart. For example, Strava needs this setting configured when pairing with their smartphone app.  This is because some apps can’t handle the dual data streams from both units, and instead need a consolidated data stream.


Like with your head unit you can also do a zero offset of the power meter from the app.  This is useful if your app (i.e. Zwift) doesn’t support sending a calibration value.  That way you can ensure your power meter is correct before starting.

DSC_8033 DSC_8035

Shifting slightly to the hardware itself, we’ve covered that the pods are located on both the left and right crank arms.  You can see them more clearly on the left side when looking straight down on the unit, it’s the small pod:


Whereas the right side, it’s hidden behind the crank spider a bit, but you’ll notice that vertical ‘bar’ (if you will) that connects to the crank arm.  That’s the right drive-side sensor.


To change the battery on the left side, you’d simply open the little battery compartment up without any tools – quick and simple:


Whereas on the right side you’ll need to use the included tiny hex wrench, to crack open that battery compartment.  Both sides use CR2032 coin cell batteries, which 4iiii states should get about 100 hours of riding time.


Now one super-interesting and unique feature of the 4iiii Precision Pro dual system is that it can actually gracefully fail over from the battery dying on one side.  The unit is smart enough to detect a transmission failure on one side and automatically takeover doubling the remaining power side to continue giving you total power.  Basically at this point it acts like a one-legged power meter and doubles it, just as those do today.


While hopefully you’ll have heeded the low-battery messages prior to that point, it’s a pretty cool feature that I’m not aware of being on any other dual power meters in the market today (some can keep transmitting if the secondary/slave side fails, but none that I know of can dynamically switch between *either* crank arm if *either* crank arm fails).

Finally, when out on the road the unit will be broadcasting the following specs:

ANT+ Power (total)
ANT+ Power Balance (left/right)
ANT+ Cadence
ANT+ Pedal Smoothness
ANT+ Torque Effectiveness
Bluetooth Smart Power
Bluetooth Smart Power Balance
Bluetooth Smart Cadence

You can see this detail on the head unit itself of course, or afterwards on various platforms depending on the capabilities of the platform.  For example using the baseline of Garmin Connect, here’s what you’ve got for a ride.  Whereas if you pair to Suunto’s platform you won’t get some of the additional power meter metrics beyond baseline power, since Suunto doesn’t support those.  Meanwhile, Polar sits somewhere in the middle on support of advanced metrics.


With all of the operational use things out of the way, let’s dive into the accuracy pieces.

Power Meter Accuracy Results:


I’ve long said that if your power meter isn’t accurate, then there’s no point in spending money on one.  Strava can give you estimated power that’s ‘close enough’ for free, so if you’re gonna spend money on something it shouldn’t be a random number generator.  Yet there are certain scenarios/products where a power meter may be less accurate than others, or perhaps it’s got known edge cases that don’t work.  Neither product type is bad – but you just need to know what those use/edge cases are and whether it fits your budget or requirements.

But this isn’t that type of product.  4iiii Precision is designed to compete with the best power meters on the market, and designed to be used by the best athletes in the world.  After all, 4iiii sponsors not just one – but two UCI World Tour Pro Teams this year; these are teams that will ultimately compete for the podium in the Tour de France.  So the question is: Is it actually accurate?

Well as always I set out to find that out.  In power meters today one of the biggest challenges is outdoor conditions.  Generally speaking, indoor conditions are pretty easy to handle, but I still start there nonetheless.  It allows me to dig into areas like low and high cadence, as well as just how clean numbers are at steady-state power outputs.  Whereas outdoors allows me to look into water ingest concerns, temperature and humidity variations, and the all important road surface aspects (i.e. vibrations).

In my testing, I generally use between 2-4 other power meters on the bike at once.  I find this is the best way to validate power meters in real-world conditions.  In the case of most of these tests I was using the following other units:

PowerTap G3 hub based power meter
WatTeam Gen2 power meter
Tacx NEO Trainer
CycleOps Hammer Trainer

In general, my use of other products is most often tied to other things I’m testing.  In this case I was testing both the WatTeam and 4iiii’s units more or less concurrently.  The 4iiii started off earlier in the season (mid-fall), and then the WatTeam was added in December.  Also, when it comes to data collection I use a blend of the NPE WASP data collection devices, and a fleet of Garmin head units (mostly Edge 520/820/1000 units).

Note all of the data can be found in the links next to each review.  Also, at the end is a short table with the data used in this review.  I’ll likely add in other data not in this review as well once I finish consolidating that data.  I’m a bit behind on getting data off some of my head units into folders.

With that, let’s get started with an indoor test (data here).  This one was on the CycleOps Hammer with TrainerRoad controlling it.  Note that this was done prior to a Hammer firmware update that addressed some of the spikiness, so don’t mind that too much on the Hammer.  Here’s the overall ride, which was 30×30’s (30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy).


Now at this level things look good, but let’s add a bit of smoothing (10 seconds) to it and zoom in on some of the intervals.


In this case, things look really damn nice.  All units are within a max spread of 10w of each other at 420w at the peaks.  Slight variations are of course totally normal given placement and data collection differences.  10w on 420w is a max difference of 2.3% between the three units, well within the limits when you talk overlapping accuracy rates of 2% (thus a total of 4%).  So all good.

Now total power is great (and super important), but since we are actually buying a left/right power meter, what about the left/right pieces?  My analysis tool can actually split those apart and show them individually. In this case, only two of the units on this ride were capable of doing left/right splits (my PowerTap P1 pedals weren’t on this bike unfortunately).

What you can see here is the upper portion of each work interval shows the right side, while the lower portion shows the left sides.  And nicely, they align within 3w of each other.  Sweet!  You notice a slight dip in difference though on the rest portion below on one interval on the left pedal.  It’s not clear to me why there’s a difference when at about 50w between the WatTeam and 4iiii Precision units though.


So, all seems generally good though on that ERG mode structured workout.  Let’s shift to another indoor workout though, this time over on Zwift.  This workout was just in normal Zwift wandering mode, where I had the freedom to throw down power as I saw fit.  For the most part I rode relatively steady-state, but you’ll see some sprints in here.  Here’s the high-level overview, smoothed at 5-seconds:


Overall things look pretty good. You see a few drops towards the end that appear to be ANT+ drops (tell-tale sign being complete drop-out of data), mostly impacting the trainer, which was furthest from the ANT+ stick on the laptop.  Focusing on the power here, I’m interested in looking at some of the sprints, so let’s do that and zoom in on the one in the middle around the 35-minute marker.  First, let’s remove smoothing altogether:


What you see here is the recording interval of once per second, and the changes happening within that.  What you see above (as blocky as it is), is 100% normal.  Due to differences in update rates (sub-1-second) and recording rates, you’ll see slight variations like this.  Still – two of the units actually hit the same max wattage of ~700w (+/-3w) within 1 second of each other.  Depending on where I drag my mouse over the line, it’ll show that.  The WatTeam never quite gets that close, coming in about 30w lower on this particular sprint.  On other sprints it was closer.  Here’s the smoothed view at 3s smoothing:


As you can see, the Hammer and 4iiii match near perfectly (there is a slight offset of one second, which could be just due to one unit being one second faster on time of day, or could be due to simply recording delay – hard to know exactly).  There’s also the element that in theory, the Hammer should be maybe 1-3% lower in wattage than the 4iiii unit, due to placement and drive-train loses – but again, that’d fall into the +/- 2% tolerances overlapping giving a total range of 4% between then.

Let’s shift outdoors a bit and on a longer/colder/wetter ride out into the countryside.  Here’s the overview at 15s smoothing:


Overall things look pretty close between the units, minus a few oddities later on with the WatTeam unit on a section of larger cobblestones at high speeds (other portions of the ride on smaller cobblestones were fine).  But otherwise, all is mostly well.

Let’s again look at the sprint there around the 46-minute marker, zooming in at a smoothing of 3s:


We can see all three units react pretty quickly to the sprint event, which they show topping out at 818w (PowerTap G3), 800w (4iiii Precision), and 751w (WatTeam).  However, if I reduce smoothing to 0 seconds, then you see slightly different results – again mostly owing to variances in recording/transmission rates.

Here (if I move my mouse over the three-second period) we see the 4iiii Precision top out at 841w, 828w for the PowerTap G3, and 768w for the WatTeam G3.  It’s virtually impossible to say which one is most right (though I’d argue that the WatTeam is likely least right in this sprint).


Finally, for this ride, we’ll take a roll down the famed Champs-Élysées– filled with cobbles that cause plenty of power meters issues.


Mid-day it’s a bit stop and go on that route, but that’s interesting anyway because it shows how quickly things react.


Above you can see that the G3 and 4iiii generally match pretty well across the board, though the WatTeam was often a little bit lower on this type of stop and go on cobbles aspect.

The stop and go is also interesting because it allows me to take a look at the cadence data.  Below you can see the WatTeam and 4iiii units match nearly spot-on, whereas the G3 with it’s estimated cadence struggles a bit on the stop and go aspects, which is common for it.image

Okey doke – so overall I’m just not seeing any issues with the 4iiii Precision unit from an accuracy standpoint.  It’s matching other power meters on a wide variety of conditions and environmental scenarios.  And numerous other tests I’ve done match these results as well as being very stable and clean from a data standpoint, both for power and accuracy data.

Here’s a small table of data covering the 4iiii Precision Dual unit. As noted, I’ve gotta dig up a smattering more data files off some head units and add them into the charts.  But in the meantime, feel free to dig through this data.

4iiii Precision Data Sets

Workout TypeDCR Analyzer LinkProducts Used In Test
IndoorsAnalyze4iiii Precision Dual, WatTeam Gen2, CycleOps Hammer, TrainerRoad Control
IndoorsAnalyze4iiii Precision Dual, WatTeam Gen2, CycleOps Hammer, Zwift
IndoorsAnalyze4iiii Precision Dual, WatTeam Gen2, CycleOps Hammer, Zwift
OutdoorsAnalyze4iiii Precision Dual, WatTeam Gen2, PowerTap G3 Hub
OutdoorsAnalyze4iiii Precision Dual, WatTeam Gen2, PowerTap G3 Hub

Note that the above data is charted/plotted using the DCR Analyzer tool, which is designed specifically for comparison of sensor data such as power meters.  You can read more about it here, as well as leverage it for your own tests.

Power Meter Recommendations:

With so many power meters on the market, your choices have expanded greatly in the last few years.  So great in fact that I’ve written up an entire post dedicated to power meter selection: The Annual Power Meters Guide.

The guide covers every model of power meter on the market (and upcoming) and gives you recommendations for whether a given unit is appropriate for you.  There is no ‘best’ power meter.  There’s simply the most appropriate power meter for your situation.  If you have only one type of bike I’d recommend one power meter versus another.  Or if you have different needs for swapping bikes I’d recommend one unit versus another.  Or if you have a specific budget or crankset compatibility, it’d influence the answers.

Now since the guide came out this past fall, there really hasn’t been any major entrants in the market that weren’t already covered in that post.  However, there have been two noteworthy changes:

A) 4iiii Precision Dual Review (this post, obviously): The post in my annual power meter guide didn’t cover the accuracy aspects of the left/right setup, so I didn’t dive into general recommendations.  But given the data I’m seeing here – I think it’s safe to say I have no issues with recommending this as a dual left/right setup.

B) WatTeam Gen2 Dual: This unit’s review is coming up in the next few days.  Though it was on the same bike as the 4iiii Precision unit, so if you simply look at the data above, you can get a feel for at least the accuracy portion of things.  That’s a cheaper self-install solution at $499USD (dual).

Oh, and technically, there has been a third entrant – a company called Arofly – introduced a small accessory ‘power meter’.  I’ve got one that arrived today in the US at my forwarding box (finally!), and I’ll be shipping it over in the next week or so.  It’s priced very cheap, but I’m extremely hesitant to say it’ll be accurate until I’ve tested it.  There’s a lot of questionable claims made on their site, starting with fabrications about their pro athletes and coaches and credentials (they aren’t pro, and they don’t exist).  As such, where there’s smoke…there’s fire. Still, perhaps the tech will be better than their truth-telling skills.



It appears that 4iiii has managed to make good on their long-promised plan to get a dual left/right power meter into people’s hands on their own hardware in the $750 range.  And they’ve done so with a dependable and accurate product that I’d be happy to use day in and day out.  It’s sleek and barely noticeable once installed on your bike, compared to other lower priced dual options like WatTeam or BePro.  Of course, both of those companies have other benefits around portability between bikes not seen in the 4iiii solution.

Of course, there are some downsides to the 4iiii Precision Pro dual solution, most namely crankset compatibility.  Right now it’s only offered on a single crankset, in large part due to the challenges of fitting a sensor in/behind the drive side.  Which to be fair, is pretty common for dual systems that aren’t pedal based.  Meaning that if you look at other dual (ROTOR & Verve) solutions they’re extremely limited as well in compatibility.  As each needs to be ‘fit’ to the unique requirements of a given drive-side crankset.  Whereas with pedal based solutions (i.e. Garmin Vector, PowerTap P1, BePro, Look, etc…), they have far more flexibility since they don’t have to ‘deal with’ anything near the spider of the crank.

Hopefully, in time 4iiii will be able to get more dual model offerings out there for their dual setup.  Though given that Shimano dominates the crankset market, they’ve clearly focused on the widest possible market penetration point.  And from a business standpoint that certainly makes sense.  In the meantime though, if you’re on a Shimano crankset, then this is without question one of the least expensive ways to get accurate power for dual legs.

Found this review useful?  Or just wanna save 10%?  Read on!

Hopefully you found this review useful.  At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device.  The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love).  As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers an exclusive 10% discount across the board on all products (except clearance items).  You can pick up the 4iiii Precision from Clever Training. Then receive 10% off of everything in your cart by adding code DCR10BTF at checkout.  By doing so, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get a sweet discount. And, since this item is more than $49, you get free US shipping as well.

4iiii Precision Power Meter

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

Apple Watch Series 2 and Nike+ Edition: Sport & Fitness In-Depth Review https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/02/apple-watch-series2-nike-edition-review.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/02/apple-watch-series2-nike-edition-review.html#comments Sun, 12 Feb 2017 23:01:00 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=70588 Read More Here ]]> Apple-Watch-Nike-Edition-WhatTimeRunning-Pretty

It’s now been a few months since Apple released their second generation watches, both the Apple Watch Series 2 and the Nike+ Edition.  These watches built upon the initial Apple Watch first generation units by adding GPS capabilities and improved waterproofing.  Further, they made internal updates to a faster GPU (graphics) chip and processor, as well as a brighter display.  Beyond that, virtually all other updates have been software driven and are also available on the first generation Apple Watch.

I’ve been using both an Apple Watch Series 2 unit I bought, as well as a Nike+ Edition that Apple sent over as a loaner to test.  I’ve done so since earlier last fall, switching back and forth between the units over that time frame.  I’ve now got a crapton of miles on both watches, across a wide array of activities: Running, Hiking, Cycling, Openwater Swimming, Pool Swimming, etc…  Like always, I’ll send that loaner unit back once this review is done.  The one I bought I’ll keep, till death do us part.

This review focuses heavily on the fitness and sports side, like most of the reviews here.  There are plenty of other reviews out there talking about generic Apple Watch usage.  Though, I do cover some of the Apple Watch non-fitness pieces later on just to provide some context.  With that, let’s dive into it!

Making Sense of The Models:


As with the initial Apple Watch, there are numerous models. Last time the differences in those models were largely focused on styling and external materials.  Once you look at software, everything was identical. Meaning there was the gold model for those that apparently had too much money, and there was the sport model for the rest of us.  Plus 238 different bands to ensure fashionistas were happy.  All was simple in some ways.

Moving forward to the Series 2, they’ve reduced the number of models.  Apparently, people were smart enough not to buy the gold edition, so that’s gone, and the list has been distilled a bit to a handful of core models.  Bands continue to be vibrant, which is good because on a watch your band becomes like a smartphone case – a way to make it unique.  There are two sizes  – a 38mm and a 42mm, as seen above (left is 38mm, right is 42mm).


Except there’s one specific difference which throws a monkey wrench into everything: The Apple Watch Series 2 Nike+ Edition.  That unit booth looks different from the outside, but also notably has different software on the inside.  From a hardware standpoint though (excluding the band), it’s identical to other Apple Watch Series 2 units.  Here, let me make it super-duper clear:

A) Nike+ Edition has a yellowy-green and black band (other editions have other bands)
B) Nike+ Edition has the *exact same internal watch hardware* as other editions
C) Nike+ Edition has the Nike+ Run Club app pre-loaded on it
D) Nike+ Edition is exactly the same price as the non-Nike+ edition: $369USD

And that’s it.  Well, except two very minor software tweaks:

– The Nike+ edition includes two unique Nike+ watch faces you can select
– The Nike+ edition allows you to ask Siri to start a run, which will launch the NRC app on the watch (but only if the phone is next to you)

So basically, you pay exactly the same amount and get a different band and a software app on the watch.  An app I’ll dive into more detail on in a few sections from now.  Note that you *can* install the NRC app on a non-Apple Watch Nike+ edition just fine.  You just won’t get the Nike+ watch faces.  Insert sad panda face here.


Finally, what’s this about the Series 1 watches?  And how do those differ?  Well, Apple has taken the existing non-GPS enabled original Apple Watch units and rebranded them ‘Series 1’.  With that rebranding though they did get a very minor hardware update, specifically they received two changes:

– Dual core processor added (Series 1 add)
– Display brightness increased (Series 1 add)

The above two changes were also rolled into the Series 2 watches, which additionally received two further changes:

– GPS was added (Series 2 add)
– Full waterproofing (Series 2 add)

Here’s a quick recap of how they differ:

Apple Watch (Original): Released in April 2015 (shipping date), no GPS/no waterproofing
Apple Watch Series 1: Released in Sept 2016, no GPS/no waterproofing, brighter display, doubled processor
Apple Watch Series 2: Released in Sept 2016, has GPS and waterproofing, brighter display, doubled processor
Nike+ Edition: Released in Sept 2016, has GPS and waterproofing, brighter display, doubled processor

Got all that?  Good.

As for this review, it’s been completed on both an Apple Watch Series 2 and an Apple Watch Series 2 Nike+ Edition.  With that, let’s get into the unboxing.



Like the previous generation Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Series 2 comes in a long box, one that feels absurdly heavy for what you expect is inside it.


If we crack open the box you’ll find the watch lying there looking up at you. I’ll then separate out the multiple layers of the box, which allows you to find the charging cable and manuals.


If we lay everything out, you’ll find the three components: The watch, the extra watch strap length, and the charging cable.


To take a quick look at things, first up is the charging cable.  It’s identical to the original Apple Watch charging cable.  It uses a small magnet on one side that attaches to the back of the watch.  The wall adapter will vary based on where you purchased it.  For example, in this generic Apple Watch one I purchased in France (in Paris at the Apple Store under the Louvre!), so it came with a European adapter.  Whereas one purchased in the US will come with a US adapter.  It doesn’t much matter, you can use any standard USB port on earth to charge it.  Except a new MacBook.


Next we’ve got the additional watch strap, which is inside the box.  This one is longer than the one on the watch by default.


And finally, a closer look at the watch from all sides.  A mini-gallery of sorts.

DSC_1344 DSC_1350 DSC_1351 DSC_1353 DSC_1355 DSC_1356 DSC_1362 DSC_1381

Once that’s done, we’ll want to get it paired up to the phone.  This is probably the coolest aspect of things, since it uses this crazy little QR code embedded into the moving image shown on the watch.


It only takes a second, and then you’re ready to roll!

Daily Activity Tracking:


While most activity trackers focus on meeting a daily step goal, the Apple Watch takes a slightly different tack.  Instead, the platform focuses on ‘filling’ three different circles each day.  These circles are visible through the activity tracking app on the watch, or just by using a dedicated watch face that you can set.


These three circles are color coded, and will complete their entire rotation (hopefully) each day:

Move: Red
Exercise: Yellow/Greenish color
Standing: Blue

The first one, Move, is akin to steps and movement (though measured and goaled in calories).  While the second one, Exercise, is for cases where the Apple Watch believes you’re doing some form of workout.  Even if that workout is a brisk walk.  It doesn’t have to be an official workout started without the workouts app.  I find that even a quick walk to the subway station will trigger it into me earning exercise.

Lastly, we’ve got the Standing metric.  This aims to get you standing at least once each hour.  The hope there is that by getting you to stand that you’ll in turn go off and run a marathon.  Or something like that.  And to be fair, it does work.  In general since it’s trying to get me to stand, I’ll usually go and wander somewhere – even if only for 30-45 seconds.  But sometimes I’ll get further distracted and walk even more – thus Apple achieving its goal of getting you to stop working at your desk or sitting on the couch.

It’ll remind you each hour at 10 minutes to the hour (i.e. 10:50AM, 11:50AM, and so on), to stand – if you haven’t already done so that hour.


Throughout the day you’ll also get occasional fitness status updates on your day – summarizing your activity awesomeness (or enshrining your laziness).  You can also dive into the Activity app on your watch and see the same information at any time.

AppleWatch-Series2-ActivityTracking1 AppleWatch-Series2-ActivityTracking2 AppleWatch-Series2-ActivityTracking3

All of this data is rolled into the Apple Watch ‘Activity’ app on your phone.  This app details each day and allows you to look at each of the different components:

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Further, you can then look back at months worth of data as well as earn small achievement medals for hitting various goals:

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It’s worthwhile noting that Apple is actually feeding data into two different apps.  First is the Activity app that I talked about above.  But technically behind the scenes they’re also sending data to the Health app (in fact, it’s likely that the Activity app actually pulls from the Health app).  That Health app is more commonly known as Apple Health, famed for its “Health Kit” interface for developers.

You can see virtually all the same data in Apple Health, it’s just in a less pretty manner:

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So what are the differences?  Here’s a more clear explanation I put together a while back:

Activity App: This is basically the Apple equivalent of what you’d see with the Fitbit App, Garmin App, or Polar apps.  It shows your day to day progress around activity tracking (steps/etc…) and workouts.  However, think of it like a super-simplified version.  For example, if I complete a run with GPS tracking,  I’ll see my track on Apple Maps (but no satellite views).  I can connect to friends here, allowing me to challenge them or mock them.  However, the overall app is fairly simplistic and there isn’t anything when it comes to getting data to other apps or platforms.

Health App: This is also often interchangeably called Health Kit by folks, though there is a small technical difference.  Health Kit is the set of services & API’s that apps can use, whereas Apple Health is the app that you as a consumer use.  Nonetheless, this is basically a massive database for all sorts of health and wellness information.  While it does feature some basic dashboards, the average person probably isn’t going to set these up beyond the defaults.  The potential here is vast though, and this is where 3rd parties can add data.  So for example, Garmin pumps some data into this, as does Withings.  Fitbit does not however, due to their general pissing match with Apple.

If we look more deeply into the Health App, you’ll see it supports many more data types than the Apple Watch can or ever could measure.  For example: weight scale data.  Some other metrics are things that we’ll likely see Apple add over time of course with new hardware.

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Now, it’s really important to understand one key thing about Apple Health: It lives on your phone. End of story.  There is no Apple Health ‘Cloud’, or online platform (such as with Google Fit, Garmin Connect, Fitbit, Withings, and everyone else in the world).  The idea behind this is to increase security of your personal health (and potentially medical) data.  But there are pros and cons to everything.  By doing so it requires that when 3rd parties want to add data, they must do so through an app on your phone.  So for example, lets say you had the Withings WiFi Scale.  That can’t directly talk to Apple Health.  Instead, you have to stand on the scale, let it do its WiFi sync thing, and then open up the Withings App on your phone.  Then from there the Withings App will sync to Apple Health using Health Kit API’s.

It’s worth noting that unlike every other mainstream fitness tracker company – there is no desktop app for the Apple Watch sport/fitness activities.  There’s no website you can check.  That’s because everything sits on your phone.  So there’s no way a 3rd party website can reach into your phone unless you sync that data via a 3rd party app installed on your phone.  In any case, there’s no equivalent to Garmin Connect website, or the Polar Flow website, or the Fitbit website.

Lastly, it’s important to mention that the Apple Watch does not track sleep in any way, shape, or form. At least not natively.  This is likely because the limited battery life means that Apple is basically edging you towards charging at night, versus wearing it to track sleep.  Of course, virtually every other wearable on the market – even the $29 Misfit tracker – has sleep tracking.

Still, if you want your sleep fix, there are some solutions from 3rd party apps.  One that I’ve tried previously, and again here, is the 3rd party app called ‘HeartWatch’.  This app allows you to start a sleep session from your Apple Watch, which will then record sleep metrics from the watch overnight.  Below you can see the details from a few nights ago:

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And the app actually does far cooler resting heart rate analysis than Apple does.  Mostly because Apple does none (except storing the data, which HeartWatch leverages).

Finally, as you probably noticed in the screenshots above, the app apparently has a new ‘AutoSleep’ option that you can download/buy that will automatically capture sleep data as opposed to manually starting it.  Though, I haven’t tried that yet.

General Workout/Sport Use:


The Apple Watch includes a workout app that allows you to track workouts.  The Nike+ edition also includes a separate running-focused app – Nike+ Run Club – as well.  I cover that app in the next section.  For this section though it’s all about the default app, which is an important way of noting that with a device like the Apple Watch, 3rd party apps will fill in many of the gaps that the default app has.

Of course – one of the most notable improvements to the Apple Watch Series 2 lineup was the inclusion of GPS.  Previously the watch would depend on you having your phone with you.  Whereas now it can go untethered.  Still, the starting procedure is identical.  To begin a workout you’ll tap the Workout icon on the home screen, which will bring you to the photo above.

At this point you can select any of the workout types.  Your most recently used sports will bubble to the top and offer a quick start mode, which begins the count-down immediately.  Else, for other sports, you can select the sport name and configure settings.


These settings include goals – distance, time, or calories.

AppleWatch-Series2-RunMode-Open AppleWatch-Series2-RunMode-Settings

Note that overall settings are pretty limited here.  You can change a handful of data page options within the Apple Watch App on your phone, but only those seen below:

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With that set, you can go ahead and begin your workout.  We’ll use a run for this basic example – all workouts offer effectively the same page and structure.  Said differently: Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, aside from configuring which data fields you want on your workout page.  It’s here that 3rd party apps can greatly expand your choice.


The data will update automatically.  To give a look at pacing stability, here’s the current pace as shown on the screen while running.  Note that many companies these days will utilize the accelerometer to provide more stability than GPS data alone.  So by holding up the watch to take video of it, I am slightly impacting that.  Still, I found that the pacing stability levels shown in the video I made below is virtually identical to that of what I’d experience when not holding a camera above it.  It doesn’t matter. It sucks either way.

As you can see – it’s dismal.  Like, horribly bad.  I think the video basically says all I can possibly say about it.

Upon completing your workout, you’ll get a summary page that shows you overall metrics from the run.


Further, if you dive into the ‘Workouts’ app on your phone, you’ll get additional workout-specific data, including a basic map of where you ran.  Note that unlike every other GPS fitness tracker on the planet, you *cannot* export out your GPS track to 3rd party apps.  Even apps like Strava can’t receive workout data from the native Apple Workouts app.  Strava can however use its own app to record data.  So keep that in mind when starting your workout, as to which app/platform you want.  The three screenshots below capture 100% of what you can display within the Workouts portion of the Apple Watch app.  There’s no other data pages to show.

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Now of course, like most products these days, the Apple Watch does have an optical HR sensor in it (the exact same sensor as the original Apple Watch). Optical HR sensors are becoming commodity in the activity tracker and fitness realm.  What isn’t commodity however is the quality of the sensor, which varies heavily from company to company.  But more on that in a moment.

The way optical HR sensors work is that they shine an LED light down through your skin to your blood capillaries.  From there, the optical sensors (photodiodes) then pickup that light and measure the blood flow, and thus your heart rate.  Apple employs two green LED’s, and two photodiodes on the back.  The technology has been around for many years in a number of different forms.  But it’s really only been the last 3-4 years that we’ve seen it migrate into the sport world (well before Apple got there).


However, the Apple Watch also has a secondary method for capturing HR, which is using infrared.  It does this when it’s capturing your 24×7 HR, whereas the green LED’s are used for sport activity.  In the 24×7 mode, Apple Watch measures your heart rate at random intervals – seemingly based on movement.  It could be 15 seconds apart, or 10 minutes apart.  All of these data points can be seen in the Apple Health app, deep in the menus under sources.

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Meanwhile, in workout mode, it’ll leverage the green LED’s to provide continuous HR throughout the workout.  Like all optical HR sensor units on the market, you need to take some care when it comes to positioning on the wrist.  For example, the further away from the wrist bone the better. Being right on the wrist bone just won’t work well, no matter the brand. Below is an example of good placement and snugness.  Note my wristbone about 2-3cm to the right of the watch (you can click to expand).

AppleWatch-Series2-WristPlacement-Top AppleWatch-Series2-WristPlacement-Side

You can also pair a heart rate strap directly to the Apple Watch to provide more accurate data.  I talk about the optical HR sensor’s accuracy a few sections down from here.


Now one final quirk that’s worth mentioning.  In mMy testing I found a bizarre oddity that can prevent the Apple Watch Series 2’s GPS from functioning at all.  In my case, I was using a Garmin Edge device with Live Track enabled while out riding.  Yet, if I use that device with Live Track enabled, it somehow blocks the Apple Watch Series 2 GPS from functioning (it’ll give zero distance and speed readouts).  Bizarre, given the whole point is to have a GPS chipset within the watch – which should have no dependence on the phone.  It’s hard to know ‘who’ to blame here.  Apple’s mum on the issue, only to confirm that they can confirm it.  Obviously it’s an edge case, but it shows what might be an odd dependency/bug within Apple’s logic that any 3rd party app can apparently break GPS on the watch itself.  Note that I can reproduce this issue at will, and other readers have confirmed it.

Nike+ Run Club:


Unique to the Nike+ Edition (but still available to install on other Apple Watch units) is the Nike+ Run Club app.  This app comprises two pieces.  First is the Nike+ Run Club (aka NRC) app that runs on the watch itself. And second is the NRC app that runs on your phone.  And not to be forgotten, there’s technically a third component to this – the Nike+ Training Center app that can also be installed your favorite fruity phone device.  Though, that’s not required.

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(Nike Run Club app left, Nike Training Center app right)

The NRC app on your watch is designed to be that slightly nagging coach that’s tapping on your shoulder each day asking if you plan to get in your workout.


Once launched, the app has a few basic pages to begin with.  First is the main page which lets you start a run.  We’ll come back to that in a second.

Then if we swipe right we can schedule a run, which shows the weather for the remainder of the day.


And finally, we see a summary of the mileage we’ve put into the NRC app thus far this month in runs.  Note – it’s only this app, and not other apps.  So if you use the baseline Workouts App (as I often do instead), that doesn’t count. In any case, back to the start button.  It’s here you can swipe down to get to different types of runs, based on distance, duration, or speed.


Also, you can configure some super basic settings – including whether you’re inside (i.e. a treadmill), or if you want auto-pause enabled, voiceover enabled (speaks metrics), or if you want additional metrics shown during the run (All Metrics).  Finally, you can set a playlist for music.


Back up top, we can hit the start button to start the run, or the ‘Match It’ button, which gives you the goal of your last run’s distance.  You can tweak that distance as you see fit by adding or removing.  So the slogan should really be: ‘Match it, unless you’re lazy.’ Finally, after whacking the start button, you’ll get a 3-second countdown.


At which point it’ll show your total distance, current pace, and current time.  Your heart rate and the time of day are displayed along the upper edge.  Along the bottom, it’ll show progress towards a goal, like the installation bar on an app.


And that’s it when it comes to metrics.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Well, actually, if you deselect ‘All Metrics’, then you will get less.

Lastly, once done with your run (and really, it’s only runs, not other sports), you’ll get a summary screen of the workout, including even a nifty breadcrumb style map.

These workouts can then be opened up using the NRC app on your phone to dig into more detail.  Like much of the Apple Watch workout experience, the app is somewhat basic when it comes to the data displayed.  For example, you can’t change to satellite or terrain view in the maps.

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Though, you can share out your run as a picture, using a photo you took along with the route/metrics overlaid onto it:

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It’s funny and somewhat astounding to me that Nike has had this forever, and yet majors like Garmin, Suunto, and others lack it.  I have a number of friends on my Facebook/Instagram feeds that share these out – complete with the Nike logo each time.  It’s perfect advertising for the platform.

Lastly, while there are other sections of the NRC app – such as the leaderboard and events pages, the timeline page instead seems to be filled with ads for Nike branded gear.

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There ya have it – the Nike+ specific features.  Note that the only unique features of the Nike+ edition of the Apple Watch compared to the regular Apple Watch Series 2 units, is the dedicated watch-face (below), and then the ability to tell Siri you’re going for a run and have it launch the Nike Run Club app.


Thus ultimately, I’d let your style/fashion choices drive which Apple Watch unit you want – more than a specific Nike branding or not.  If you like the Nike+ straps – then go forth (you can always swap straps later).



One of the biggest changes (aside from GPS) implemented in the Series 2 was enablement of swimming functionality.  While the previous edition was largely waterproofed just fine (as I showed in my videos), Apple played it safe and declared it not waterproof.  In fact, they even went as far as blocking swimming apps from the App Store, in fear that folks might use their non-aquatic first generation watches in the pool.

But Series 2 dispenses away with all of that.  Not only is the unit fully waterproofed to 50m, but it’s also got tracking modes for both indoor and outdoor swimming.  Further, the unit actually has a water ejection mechanism, which spits out water like a drowning cat.  Albeit, a cat with a backup alarm sound to it.

The way it works is by using the speaker to vibrate the water out.  Apple showed some pretty cool pics during their opening announcement presentation on how it works mechanically:

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 7.37.38 PM

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 7.37.43 PM

So with that in mind, we’ll start with an openwater swim or two.  Like other sports, you’ll select the ‘Open Water Swim’ option from the sport menu list in the ‘Workout’ app.


From there you can specify a goal, such as elapsed time, calories, or distance (yards/meters). Or simply leave it open to specify no goal.


Next, you’ll get your count-down as usual, and it’s off to the races…or water.  What’s notable here though is that the screen is now locked by default.  Because the Apple Watch has a touch screen which won’t work underwater, it doesn’t want it to be going all crazy on you, so it locks the screen:


So you’ll only get one data screen to work with, which shows time, calories, distance, and swim pace.


In order to access the other screens you’ll need to turn the digital crown to unlock the unit.  At which point it’ll do its water spitting routine shown above.

When unlocked the unit is still tracking/recording, until you slide over to the control page to pause/end/lock your workout.  After you’ve completed the swim you’ll get a summary screen showing total distance, total time, dominant stroke, active calories, total calories, average pace, average heart rate, and the weather.

Meanwhile, let’s head over to the Apple Watch Workouts app on the phone to look at nearly the same information, yet this time with a map:

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Now what’s missing here is any satellite view.  This is a huge bummer since for many people the satellite view is more useful for openwater swims because it provides more context around terrain.  Oftentimes generic map displays are inaccurate when it comes to coastlines.  Or, they’re useless.  For example – this swim I did on the Great Barrier Reef.  Here’s what Apple displays:

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And here’s the increda-bam that I actually swam using satellite imagery from Google:


Every other GPS watch allows you to overlay data onto satellite view, except Apple.  What’s that you say?  Why not just export it as a GPX file?

Ahh…that’s right.  You can’t.

For real.

You can’t export out any GPS tracks from any of Apple Watch’s native apps.  So no uploading this to Google Maps, or Strava, or Training Peaks, or MapMyFitness, or anything.  It’s just a fart in the blue wind.

What about swim distance accuracy though?  Well, it’s a bit hard to compare exact tracks because I can’t actually export these out.  So instead, I’ll have to go by total distance.  So in this case, here are a handful of swims compared to other GPS watches worn at the same time.  In this case, I included a ‘reference GPS’, which is a GPS that floated on a swim buoy about one foot behind my butt.  It’s a great way to test swimming GPS.

Openwater Swim – Jan 24th:
Apple Watch Series 2: 1,028m
Reference Swim Buoy: 1,046m

Now, to Apple’s credit, their GPS track accuracy is among the best I’ve seen when it comes to openwater swims (other sports, less so).  I mean, in my swim cases, they truly nailed exactly where I went – even if it’s difficult for me to demonstrate that because I can’t overlay tracks in any scientific manner (again, because I can’t export).

Shifting gears – what about indoor swimming?  Well, it pretty much works very similar to outdoor swimming, except without the GPS.  For indoor use it’ll use the internal accelerometer.  To begin, you’ll start by selecting ‘Pool Swim’ in the Workouts menu.


Next, you’ll need to select your pool length.  You’ll do this by pressing up/down on the +/- arrows.  The minimum pool size is somehow 1 yard, and the maximum pool length is somewhere north of 1,054 yards.  I got tired of holding the button down.  What’s odd though is that you can’t simply select presets like 25y or 25m, or 50m.  In fact, even odder because in reality many people in the US for example will rotate between a 25y and a 50m pool. You can toggle between yards and meters by holding down the center of the screen for a second.

Still though, you can’t select some common pool sizes.  For example, I happen to have an odd-duck 33 1/3rd meter pool.  Which…I can’t select (though virtually every other swim watch on the market has this size supported).


In any case, that annoyance aside – you’ll tap next and be given the usual goal selection: Calories, Time, Distance, Open.  In my case, I just went with Open.

From there the unit will lock the display just as with the openwater swim, and it’ll start tracking your swim.  It’ll show you: Time, Active Calories, Laps, and Yards (Total). And just like before there are no further screens to change to, except to unlock the screen using the digital crown and then pause/end the swim.


Once that’s done you’ll get the same summary metrics as above, as well as the summary metrics offered in the Apple Workout app:

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From an accuracy standpoint, I didn’t see any issues with accuracy during indoor swims, which matched that of both my actual distance/laps swam, as well as that of other watches I was using.

Optical HR & GPS Accuracy:


So what about both optical HR and GPS accuracy?  Since I’ve covered swim accuracy already, so I’m not going to re-hash that.  I’ll put swimming that in the camp of ‘Good’.

But what about that optical heart rate sensor?  Well, nothing has changed there since the first version of the Apple Watch.  Apple themselves has noted it’s identical hardware to the original watch.  Of course, over time Apple has made improvements in software for both editions – so you will naturally see some tweaks between the two.

Of course there’s certainly been lots of commotion in the mainstream media about how well the Apple Watch works on various skin tones and things like tattoos or hairier arms.  The reality is that this is no different than other optical HR sensors. Some companies will add in secondary LED colors to add more breadth to their optical HR measurements.  Yet others with just green-alone are able to do just as good.  But ultimately, the non-click-bait headline is actually that Apple isn’t really any different than anyone else.  For some people it’s just not going to work – no matter if their skin is white or black, or tattooed or not.  There are plenty of reports of perfectly functioning Apple Watches with optical HR across a wide variety of skin tones (just as there are on other sensor companies).

What is FAR more important than skin tone, is really just how you wear it: Snug, and away from the wrist bone.  If you do that, you’re rather likely to at least have a starting point for good results.

With that in mind – how does it handle?  Let’s start off with a simple run to check things out.  In this case, a run I did a nice 5-7 minute easy warm-up, before getting into the groove for about 3K at a relatively even pace.  From there I then kicked it up a notch or two for another 3K, doing a loop around a park.

What’s notable to start with is that it took almost 2 minutes after pressing the start button for the Apple Watch to decide on a heart rate.  At which point that heart rate was incorrect by 40 beats.  It wasn’t until 7 minutes into the run that it agreed with everyone else.


Once that 7-minute marker hit, it was generally pretty good across the remainder of the run, minus a small blip at the 12-minute marker.  But still, what you see early on in the run is quite normal for the Apple Watch.

Apple seems to be hesitant to simply tell users to wait until they have a HR lock – so they pretend like all is well, when in reality it doesn’t have a lock at all.  The cascading effect of this is that it takes far longer to establish a lock while running.  Had the Apple Watch simply told you to wait another short bit – even 10 seconds – it’d have a drastically different result.  Clearly a case of software form over function.  Note that every other watch on the market tells you to wait a few extra seconds while it finds a lock.  Every one.

Next, let’s look at an outdoor ride.  This was about 3 hours long, and over varied terrain.  Intensity level was generally easy towards the beginning, a few solid hills in the middle, and then a bit harder intensity towards the end.


The above is smoothed at 20-seconds, meaning that in order to see gaps more easily in such a large plot of data, the smoothing helps.  It’s clear that by and large it does pretty good matching the HR strap.  You can see that it completely misses the start of that section in the middle where the HR spikes up (due to the hills).  It also misses some earlier intensity shifts (briefly).  It catches up, but let me show you how long that takes if I remove the smoothing in the graph above, and focus just on that hill section:


What you see here is that the Apple Watch basically gives up.  It takes about 4 minutes after my first increase in intensity until it gets anywhere near, at which point it immediately loses the plot again for another 2-3 minutes.  After which, it seems like it’s good to go again.

But what you see above is common – when it loses the plot, it just gives up entirely for many minutes at a time.  On the flipside, when something like a Garmin or Fitbit’s optical HR sensor loses the plot, it kinda keeps on trying (albeit, for better or worse).  Generally though, with Fitbit or Garmin, their optical sensors will re-lock faster.

And finally, let’s look at another run – this one a much tougher trail run.  This is tough and notable for a few reasons.  First is that with the quick increase in incline, my heart rate increases rapidly.  This can often be trickier for optical HR sensors.  Second though is that with trail running my cadence is going to vary more with the terrain.  Steeper terrain causes slow-downs, while descending speeds it up.  When optical HR sensors fail to track, they often do so by matching your run cadence.  So here’s how that performed:


In this case, you see that overall it actually did pretty darn well (above smoothed 10 seconds).  All of them tracked rather nicely for the most part.  You see three blips where things dropped out of nowhere on the Apple Watch unit, for no particular reason.  It wasn’t at a tough part or an easy part, it was just…out of nowhere.  It took about 60 seconds for it to re-find itself in that first blip – as you can see below.


Now you may be wondering about GPS accuracy.  And that’s where things get a bit trickier.  See, the Apple Watch platform (either the Activity App or the Apple Health app) doesn’t allow export of GPS data.  The only export you can do is of a small picture of your run:

2017-02-10 20.53.25 2017-02-13 18.22.49 2017-02-13 18.22.32

That’s it.

As such, I can’t export out the GPS data and overlay it against other GPS devices at the same time.  This is of course pretty disappointing.  At best I can compare total distance, but that’s easily skewed.  A device could cut one corner while going wide on another – resulting in the same end-distance, but being otherwise incorrect.  That said, here’s what I’ve got for a handful of runs and rides I’ve picked out at random:

Outdoor Run – Jan 20th:
Apple Watch: 7.08mi
Garmin Fenix Series: 7.09mi
Garmin Fenix3: 7.41mi

Hike – Jan 23rd:
Apple Watch: 4.17mi
Garmin Fenix Series: 4.06mi
Garmin Fenix 3: 4.06mi

Outdoor Run – Jan 24th:
Apple Watch: 5.04mi
Garmin Fenix Series: 4.97mi
Suunto Spartan Ultra: 5.05mi

Outdoor Run – Melbourne – Jan 30th:
Apple Watch: 6.73mi
Garmin Fenix Series: 6.82mi
Suunto Spartan Ultra: 6.91mi

Outdoor Run – Melbourne – Jan 31st:
Apple Watch: 3.25mi
Garmin Fenix3: 3.29mi
Suunto Spartan Ultra: 3.22mi

Treadmill (indoor) – Feb 7th:
Apple Watch: 4.83mi
Garmin Fenix Series: 5.00mi
Actual Treadmill: 5.07mi

In general, I find that it seems to short the actual distance of the run in almost every scenario (these are all GPS-on runs).  And even on treadmill runs, it’s also a few percent shorter than I’d expect otherwise.  Of course, treadmill runs are tough, but still, it’s short more than other devices I’ve tested.

Now in the sport device world – being short is far better than being long. Measuring long is the cardinal sin, because it means you’ve likely run both slower and less than you thought you did.  Both of which give you a skewed assumption of your actual fitness.  In this case with the watch often measuring short, you’ve likely run both faster and longer than you actually did.

Which isn’t to say that’s good.  It’s not.  But it’s the lesser of two evils.

Ultimately, neither the Apple Watch’s GPS or optical HR performance is anything to write home about.  It’s below average at best.  Not horrible for optical.  But not great either.

Fitness Apps (3rd Party):


Now the good news is that where Apple’s own apps lack functionality, 3rd party apps will be able to fill those gaps.  For example, apps like RunMeter (or CycleMeter) – ones like HeartWatch (as I talked about earlier), Swim.com, and even mainstays like MapMyFitness are all solid options that give you far more flexibility than the default apps provide.

Then we’ve got long-awaited apps like Strava for the Apple Watch Series 2, that’ll be able to take advantage of the standalone GPS.  Strava says that you’ll start seeing that available in just a few weeks.

Of course – one of the challenges these apps have though is that they still depend on the underlying data from Apple to be correct.  That means that it’s garbage-in, garbage-out when it comes to stuff like heart rate or GPS.  Certainly apps can try and smooth some of that data themselves, but if they’re left with sub-par data, there’s little they can do to make the situation better – at least from an accuracy standpoint.

Also – many apps are still very much dependent on your phone, negating the benefit of the Series 2 devices.  Of course, a lot of apps have updated to become phone independent, but it’s still a mixed bag. Heck, even Apple’s own Nike Run Club app bundled with the Apple Watch Series 2 Nike+ Edition requires the phone to use the ‘Speed’ workout option, asking you to crack open the app on the phone.

Some apps split the difference on utility. For example, the GoPro app (for use with their action cams), allows some basic control of the GoPro.  You can change modes between video and photo for example.  But they miss the mark on allowing me to actually change settings (i.e. from 4K to 1080P, or from 30FPS to 120FPS).  Though you can mark highlights, which is handy.


But the app has to be in range of your phone, because all communication routes through the phone.  Further, the app allows you to preview what the camera sees.  Unfortunately the delay is so significant and the update rate so low – that it’s truly only to be used for framing a shot (which, the top of the Apple Watch does somewhat make clear).  In this case we’re not talking frames per second (FPS) but rather seconds per frame (about 2-3 seconds between each update).


Which isn’t to say I don’t appreciate GoPro’s attempt here.  I just wish it could be more.  For example, I’d much prefer to be able to connect the Apple Watch straight to the GoPro instead – cutting out the middleman and giving me a bit more flexibility.

Of course – the main focus of my review is the built-in features of the Apple Watch.  I’ll be circling back later this spring to talk in more detail about my top fitness apps and seeing whether they can be true replacements for the advanced athlete.

Non-Fitness Usage:


Of course, while much of the press around the Apple Watch Series 2 is about the GPS and waterproofing, the reality is that a big behind the scenes update was the processing power.  That processing power is largely about making 3rd party apps run seamlessly – and making the watch act more fluidly.  And the primary audience there tends to be folks who are using the watch as a smartwatch, more than a fitness watch.

And that’s really where the Apple Watch is best – as a day to day smart watch.  As I said in my original Apple Watch review – there’s no smartwatch out there that’s as good as the Apple Watch.  Period.

There’s no watch out there that has either the app selection or the nuances of the Apple Watch.  And most of it’s silly stuff.  It’s things like the vibration alerts (or ‘haptic feedback’ in fancy Apple language) are so nuanced that they don’t feel overpowering like most smart watches.  Or it’s that when you receive text messages during a meeting while your hands are on the table, it won’t display those notifications on the watch until you finally twist your wrist towards you.

It’s smart enough to not show that incoming sext to all your coworkers at the table, but rather wait until only you want to look at it.  At which point you can respond with various pre-canned responses (some of them seemingly smart), a bit of functionality lacking on almost all fitness smart watches.  Not to mention that conversations are far cleaner on the Apple Watch than they are on other watches.  They’re neatly organized by contact, rather than a flood of random notifications.


It’s funny, I talked with a few different senior people at five-letter fitness giant over the past few months about the Apple Watch, and it’s clear nobody has tried it for more than a few minutes.  They lack a basic understanding of why these nuances have made people love the Apple Watch. Seriously, someone needs to force a whole bunch of employees to wear an Apple Watch for a week and understand the attention to detail beyond fitness.  Which isn’t to say Apple is good at everything – hardly (as noted above, fitness leaves a lot to be desired).

Shifting to 3rd party apps – when I first reviewed the original Apple Watch, the main concern I had was that most apps were little more than notification pushing things.  They didn’t really do anything more than the standard notification center would.  And in many ways, that’s still mostly true for non-fitness apps.

Still, there are specific examples where a given app is driving more functionality than before.  For example, the GoPro app I talked about before.  Or the Drip (for Dropcam) app allowing me to check in on the baby’s room.

Yet there are examples of utter failures of apps.  For example, the official Nest app has a single function: Toggling whether you’re home or not.  That’s it (Update: It can also set the temperature, but I have Nest Cams, not the Nest Thermostat).  Why bother with such limited app?  Well there’s a reason: Apple applies incredible pressure to app developers to submit Apple Watch apps in conjunction with their iOS app.  If they don’t, then they’ll generally not be considered for including on the ‘Featured’ app pages of the Apple App store.

So while you’ll get many apps that have Apple Watch apps – a large chunk of them suck.  I suppose that’s like the old saying “Tis better to have sucky apps, than never to have sucked at all?”.  Or something like that.

But all watch platforms suffer from sucky apps.  Garmin and Android Wear (and up till recently, Pebble too) certainly have their share of sucky apps.

And thankfully in this case, the watch itself as a day to day business watch stands on it’s own without need for many apps.  In fact, the vast majority of the time I don’t use any apps.  It’s the entire smart notifications piece on the Apple Watch that sells me on it.  Nuance matters.

Product Comparison Tool:


I’ve added the Apple Watch Series 2/Nike+ Edition into the product comparison tool.  Note that the Apple Watch is a bit unique (kinda like an Android Wear device) in that there’s a base level of sports/fitness functionality that’s usually somewhat primitive compared to companies like Suunto/Garmin/Polar.  However, through 3rd party apps you can extend that functionality quite significantly.

I’ve always struggled a bit here on where to draw the line.  Do I say ‘No’ for intervals, since it doesn’t have that functionality?  Or do I say ‘Yes’, because you can get it through 3rd party apps.  And what if you can through 3rd party apps but only with payment?  And for some more nuanced features (i.e. tides or parachute modes), do I try and track down every single app – and what happens if those apps go out of business?  It’s not really sustainable to try and track every possible feature and find a 3rd party app to fill those gaps.  Ultimately they are just that: Gaps.

So by and large I stick ‘No’ in those boxes – because the watch doesn’t have it out of the box.  In the same way that I stick ‘No’ in boxes for Garmin devices if a feature isn’t inbox, but may be available through 3rd party apps. Make sense?  Good.

Note that you can make your own comparison table from any devices I’ve reviewed, here in the product comparison tool.  In this case, I just picked three other products that are often compared.  The Android Wear based Polar M600 (has music), the TomTom Spark 3 (has music), and the Garmin Vivoactive HR (doesn’t have music).  From a functionality standpoint, these three are closest.

Function/FeatureApple Watch Series 2 & Nike+ EditionGarmin Vivoactive HRPolar M600TomTom Spark 3/Runner 3
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated February 14th, 2017 @ 10:11 amNew Window Expand table for more results
Price$369$249$329$149-$299 (Features Vary)
Product Announcement DateSept 7th, 2016Feb 19th, 2016Aug 3rd, 2016Sept 1st, 2016
Actual Availability/Shipping DateSept 16th, 2016Q2 2016Sept 2016Sept 8th, 2016
Data TransferBluetooth SmartUSB, BLUETOOTH SMARTUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFiUSB/Bluetooth Smart
Waterproofing50m50 metersIPX8 (good for swimming)50m
Battery Life (GPS)5hrs GPS on time (24-48hrs standby)13 hours GPS on10 hoursUp to 11 hours (varies)
Recording IntervalVariesSmart Recording1-second1s
Satellite Pre-Loading via ComputerYesYesYes3 days
Quick Satellite ReceptionGreatYesGreatYes

Remember, you can mix and match any of the watches I’ve reviewed here in the product comparison tool.



There’s no doubt that for a large portion of the population, the Apple Watch Series 2 upgrades (specifically the inclusion of GPS) will hit the spot.  The watch feels slightly faster, and core functionality is just as clean as it’s ever been on the Apple Watch.  In many ways, that’s what’s so much better about this watch than others: Being a really damn good smart watch.

On the fitness front though, it’s a bit mixed.

The accuracy of both the optical HR and even the GPS leaves something to be desired.  Of course, some of that is hard to really dissect given that Apple locks much of your GPS data behind a wall.  They also fail to make it easy (or even possible) for 3rd party apps to gather data like your runs and share it on other platforms like Strava or MapMyFitness.  Albeit, the instant pace is easy to dissect: It sucks.

Of course, you can always use the plethora of 3rd party apps to do that.  And sometimes that’s certainly the answer, be it fitness or day to day apps.  But no matter which watch platform I use, I prefer that Fitness aspects like data openness and data portability be core and foundational to the device.  I don’t want a walled garden.

Still, as a day to day smart watch there’s simply no comparison out there.  It’s the best overall smart watch.  It’s just not the best fitness watch.  Someday it could be – with improved accuracy and data openness, it’s definitely an option.  And if you don’t really care about highly accurate data, then it’s certainly a good all around fitness watch.  Though, there are a lot cheaper fitness watch options that are more accurate.

Either way – having Apple in the fitness realm is good for consumers.  It drives companies like Garmin and Fitbit to produce better products.  At no point in history have we seen the choice, versatility (or market sales) greater in the fitness realm than today.

Thanks for reading!

Week in Review–February 12th, 2017 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/02/week-in-reviewfebruary-12th-2017.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/02/week-in-reviewfebruary-12th-2017.html#comments Sun, 12 Feb 2017 11:55:30 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=70649 Read More Here ]]> WeekInReview_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb

The Week in Review is a collection of both all the goodness I’ve written during the past week around the internet, as well as a small pile of links I found interesting – generally endurance sports related. I’ve often wondered what to do with all of the coolness that people write, and while I share a lot of it on Twitter and Facebook, this is a better forum for sending it on to y’all. Most times these different streams don’t overlap, so be on the lookout at all these places for good stuff!

So with that, let’s get into the action!

DCRainmaker.com posts in the past week:

Here’s all the goodness that ended up on the main page of DCRainmaker.com this past week:

Sunday:Week in Review–February 6th, 2017
Monday:5 Random Things I Did This Weekend
Tuesday:ISPO 2017 Roundup: Kuai Fit, Coros, Garmin, Salming RunLAB, Digitsole, LG, Casio, Kettler, Bonx Grip, Wiralcam
Thursday: Hands-on: Staaker Action Sports Drone

DCR Podcast!

Here’s a handful of the topics discussed in this past week’s podcast:

– Ben’s selling the Airstream
– My Dad and LinkedIn
– Will we see new metrics like blood saturation level on Garmin devices?
– Quantifying left/right leg balance on trainers
– Swappage of cassettes on trainers or not?
– Where the heck is my Garmin Edge 820 review?
– And the Edge 820 touch screen
– A new and cheap Bluetooth Smart footpod
– Where the heck is Recon?
– What about a new Polar V800?

Listen to the full podcast here on the Podcast player, or just download the audio file from the same spot.

February Sports Tech Sale Continue:

In case ya missed it a week or so ago (details here), here’s the list of active sports tech deals going on over the next week or so.

Current DealsRegular PriceSale PriceStartEndAmazonClever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programOther siteSale Notes
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated February 12th, 2017 @ 3:05 pm
Garmin Forerunner 235$329$269Feb 16 2017Feb 28 2017LinkLinkAmazon only deal - unknown end date, could end any moment.
Garmin Vivoactive HR$249$219Feb 13 2017Feb 25 2017LinkLink
Garmin Vivofit3$99$79Feb 05 2017Feb 25 2017LinkLink
Garmin Vivosmart HR+$199$169Feb 05 2017Feb 25 2017LinkLink
Polar M450$169$129Feb 19 2017Feb 28 2017LinkLinkAmazon only - unknown end date!

And of course, using any of the links above helps support the site.  Enjoy!

YouTube Videos I Published:

Here’s some YouTube goodness that I published this past week:

Stuff that I found interesting around the interwebs:

Here’s a not-so-small smattering of all the random things that I stumbled on while doing my civic duty to find the end of the Internet.

1) NBA bans teams from using wearable data in contract negotiations: Seems like a bit of an odd ruling to me, and one that likely won’t stand the test of time.  Plenty of other sports use sports tech data in hiring, such as cycling with power meter data, or even the speed a pitcher throws a ball in baseball.  Not sure why this would be categorized any differently.

2) Verizon announces their own Android Wear watch: Kinda comes out of nowhere…yet not surprising at the same time. The carriers are constantly trying new wearables, and have an entire division of folks dedicated to trying to stock just the right ones.  I’d look at this as a random experiment the company is doing, more than any strategic direction.

3) Suunto opens up Summit 2017 application site: This is the summit I mentioned a week or two ago, designed for ‘passionate’ Suunto users/fans.  Note that this would be a bit different than a media event.

4) Baby Climbing Mockumentary: A short and funny video about competitive infant climbing.  Any new (or probably even old) parents will enjoy and likely relate.

5) AirDog opens up funding round: With SeedInvest you can actually put down your money for a stake in the company.  So it’s like Kickstarter…except you actually have ownership vs just a project reward.  Interesting to see the numbers of units shipped.  I hope that’s early Q3 2016, but would have expected it to be higher by now.

6) Unlockable firmware features: Good or bad? Good write-up on re-using the same hardware with differing software levels. (via Keith Wakeham)

7) Paris offers runners a way to water plants: Or…something like that.  These public urinals will in turn water the flowers.  One probably needs to understand that in Paris it’s completely normal to see folks peeing on the side of buildings/windows. We *see* it happen at least once a week at the DCR/Bertie’s Cake Studio locale.  And that’s only the times we witness it.

8) Jawbone to pivot to medical space: In a move that should surprise no one, Jawbone will likely soon end their consumer focus of activity trackers and instead focus on the medical side of the house

9) TrainingPeaks updates on API, and backtracks a bit on WKO closures: TrainingPeaks has made a bunch of API changes, and then they had previously announced that older WKO+ users would no longer be able to install the software they bought on new computers (i.e. moving to a new computer).  Since that announcement, they’ve come to their senses and will now allow users to install for another year.

Sports Technology Software/Firmware Updates This Week:

Each week I quickly highlight some of the new firmware, app, software and website service updates that I see go out. If you’re a sports technology company and release an update – shoot me a quick note (just one liners are perfect, or Tweet it at me is even better) and I’ll make mention of it here. If I don’t know about it, I won’t be able to post about it. Sound good?  Oh – and if you want to get a head start on things, this page is a great resource for watching Garmin firmware updates.

Polar V800 GoPro Update: You can now control your GoPro. Details in my post here.

Stryd Power Meter Update: Some improvements to the cadence algorithm, as well as other tweaks.  This is good, because I haven’t seen the indoor accuracy previously being all that great.  As an aside, TrainingPeaks now offers running power zones with an update this week.

Tacx Neo Firmware Update: This one isn’t really detailed anywhere yet.  But, it includes what they call ‘Smart’ Cadence, which will calculate the gear ratio and store the values.  They’ll in turn use that data to cross-check speed and then allow more accurate cadence calculations.  Next, there’s been changes within Erg mode, which should both increase the speed of power adjustment but aimed to minimize overshooting the power goal during large shifts, they did this by decreasing the virtual mass (in ERG mode specifically) to minimize the overshoot.  Lastly, for downhill simulation, they increased the limit from 30KPH to 40KPH, including adding this when unpowered.  Also, they made tweaks here that ensure that if you accelerate during downhills, that it’s accelerating from 40KPH and not from 0KPH (in terms of power).

Thanks for reading!

Hands-on: Staaker Action Sports Drone https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/02/staaker-action-sports-drone.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/02/staaker-action-sports-drone.html#comments Thu, 09 Feb 2017 17:00:48 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=70584 Read More Here ]]> DSC_2631

While at ISPO a few days ago, I got the chance to take out the new Staaker drone for a spin.  This drone is much like AirDog that I’ve reviewed previously, in that it focuses exclusively on sports action filming.  More specifically: Autonomous and self-tracking filming, which is quite different than what DJI or GoPro provide.  Ultimately the idea being that you wear a small waterproof transmitter pod on your arm, and it then tracks you automatically and films you accordingly.  Hopefully in an epic sort of way.

However, it also has some notable differences to the AirDog which may make it a compelling option once it starts shipping.  At present, the company is taking pre-orders, with a plan to begin shipping later in May.  But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s talk tech.

Technical Overview:


The Staaker is like most new drones on the market in that it folds up to save space during transport.  The unit comes in a hard-shell case that’s smaller than I expected.  It’s small enough to fit inside my existing generic red backpack, if I wanted to take other things with me (my bag seen in the video a bit further down).


Once opened up, you’ll note that the props can stay on within the case – a feature not possible with AirDog.  With GoPro’s Karma drone, they can stay on within the much larger/bulkier hard-shell case, but not within the softer GoPro Seeker backpack.  If you’ve ever tried filming yourself and preparing a drone for flight on a @#$@’in cold day on the side of a mountain in the Alps, then saving time trying to thread props onto the drone with heavy gloves, then this is something you’ll no doubt appreciate.

The battery also easily pops in and out from the rear of the aircraft.


Next, the unit has a dedicated transmitter/remote.  This remote is fairly similar to the AirDog one, though a bit more bulky.  On the flip side, it has slightly easier to understand functionality.  When I say ‘slightly’, I mean that it still lacks text on the buttons, so you do have to remember which set of which buttons does which things.  Though, given the buttons are big enough I could solve that with a felt tip marker.


The remote allows you to iterate through the various modes, which are largely autonomous in nature.  Meaning each mode positions the drone in a different spot in the sky relative to you.  As you ski/bike/run/whatever, the drone will automatically follow you because you are wearing the remote.


The remote and the drone both have GPS and altimeters within it, ensuring that both devices are able to track position and altitude.


The platform has the following modes:

– Circle: Rotates around you endlessly
– Compass: Stays in a given position relative to you
– Follow: Follows you from behind
– Scenery: Free-flight control
– Land: Lands the aircraft
– Hover: Stays put and camera follows you

These modes are pretty similar to what AirDog has, with the exception of the free-flight mode, which I’ll talk about in a second.

The remote is IP68 water resistant, which means it can be submerged in up to 5 meters of water (ideal for water activities like surfing).  Meanwhile, the drone itself has an IP44 waterproof rating, which means rain and such is no issue.

The remote has buttons which cover these core purposes:

Left Side buttons: Makes drone go closer/further
Top Left buttons: Increases elevation/decrease elevation
Bottom buttons: Makes drone go to left/right

In addition, there are dedicated buttons for take-off/landing, and changing modes.  And like most drones, it’ll automatically return to home if it loses connection to the controller.  And you’ve even got options you can pre-configure there too, such as returning to the point of takeoff, or returning to the last known point of you and the remote.  For example, if surfing, you don’t want it to return to you – but to the beach.  Whereas downhill skiing you don’t want it to return to the top of the mountain, which could be miles away.


As I noted earlier, one distinct difference to AirDog is the inclusion of a free-flight mode.  In the past, my general recommendation has been that if you want a cinematic-focused drone (i.e. to make videos/photos of things/scenery around you), then pick up a DJI product like the Mavic or Phantom 4.  Whereas if you wanted a drone to track yourself while doing a sport, then pick up the AirDog.  But the challenge was that neither drone did the other’s job well.  For example, AirDog doesn’t really have a mode that you can fly it around as you see fit and get various shots.


These non-following shots can be useful in intro/establishing shots, as well as just general positioning that autonomous follow-me flying doesn’t cover.  So this free-flight functionality is a useful feature that Staaker includes.  You can use the remote in this mode allowing you to fly the drone wherever you’d like, pretty much like most other drones.

Note however that you cannot change the position of the gimbal in this free-flight mode, which stays at a 20% down angle (not bad per se), nor can you preview what you’re doing like other drones with a display on the remote.  But still, for most people, it’ll be better than nothing and helps fill some holes.

Speaking of the camera side – the unit has no start/stop control of your GoPro (GoPro won’t give them access), but the Staaker can accommodate most GoPro’s, including the Hero5 Black.  Though, it can’t do any of the smaller square GoPro Session cameras.  The company is using a 3rd party gimbal, as they noted that there was little upside in trying to re-invent the wheel where other companies have already done the work.


That gimbal means you’ll get smooth shots, and is one of the most critical differences between a good drone and a crappy drone.  The gimbal will automatically point up or down at you, based on where you are with the transmitter.  In free-flight mode, it’ll stay at a static 20% down angle.


Still, there are some gaps here.  First is that the Staaker doesn’t have any obstacle avoidance, neither forward facing or downwards.  It also doesn’t have any downwards sensors.  Thus when it lands, you kinda wince in that it comes down pretty hard.  The company seems to understand the ramifications of that (no pun intended), in that it will automatically turn your GoPro to face the sky (upwards), protecting the lens upon landing.


But on the optical sensors, it’s a bit more of a problem.  For example, my biggest issue with AirDog is that I’m constantly having to watch it in the sky to ensure it doesn’t hit trees/cliffs/objects.  It lacks forward obstacle avoidance (though does have downwards avoidance).  Whereas DJI, for example, has obstacle avoidance, though it lacks good sport tracking.  Still, for Staaker to have none is a huge downside.

The company argues that obstacle avoidance systems today in drones can’t handle upwards of 70KPH in speed (from a processing/avoidance standpoint). And that may well be true.  But it’s also true that the vast majority of filming isn’t done at those speeds, unless you’re talking motor sports.  Most of us are going between 30-40KPH in most self-propelled sports, which obstacle avoidance systems can handle just fine.  Even if they were to offer the higher speeds without avoidance, that’d be an ideal compromise.

Still, the company is advertising a 30-minute long battery, which is roughly double what AirDog gets.  It’s also on-par with what companies like DJI are getting in their higher end drone.  The battery comes in at 1.2 pounds each (550g), and the drone itself is 3.5 lbs /1.6kg (including the battery).  That’s fairly light for something tossed into your backpack.

Overview Video:


As I noted earlier, I got to spend some high-quality time in a dreary parking lot with the Staaker.  Which is kinda funny in a sense.  Normally at conferences (this was ISPO), I’m a bit of a master at finding a random bush or tree or set of rocks to take pretty pictures of devices (even as seen above).  But of course with a drone, it’s a wee bit harder to take aerial shots in a dreary place and make them super interesting.

So do keep in mind this is showing the technology, more than making an amazeballs video.  Had I filmed this in the Alps or the desert, it’d look a lot cooler.  But alas, a German convention center parking lot in the winter will have to do.

As I noted earlier, it’s usually easier to make things look a bit more interesting/exciting when it’s not a grey parking lot.  But as Shrek says, ‘That’ll do Donkey, that’ll do’.

Going forward:


Overall, it’s definitely an interesting entrant, and certainly something to watch.  At its current pre-order price of $1,195, it’s in the ballpark of other drones on the market, albeit notably below AirDog.  Though, at their planned retail entrance price of $1,595 (same as AirDog), it’s a much harder sell (just like AirDog is at that price).  Hopefully, they’ll reconsider that before May 15th, 2017 – when they start shipping.

I’m loving the fact that it has a free-flight mode for getting those establishing shots, and the size of the unit is much smaller than I anticipated from their site, especially given the props can stay on in the included hard shell case.  Further, their inclusion of a full extra set of props is a nice touch.

One final note is that the company will be manufacturing these fully within Scandinavia, as opposed to outsourcing to Asia.  That’ll likely contribute to more initial manufacturing success, as most startups have issues early on in the hardware manufacturing process due to being unable to either communicate or oversee the specific changes and quality levels they need.   It should also help them hit their timelines – which is good for consumers and companies alike.

With that – thanks for reading!

ISPO 2017 Roundup: Kuai Fit, Coros, Garmin, Salming RunLAB, Digitsole, LG, Casio, Kettler, Bonx Grip, Wiralcam https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/02/ispo-2017-round-up.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/02/ispo-2017-round-up.html#comments Tue, 07 Feb 2017 20:03:22 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=70543 Read More Here ]]> ISPOOverview

Sunday was a whirlwind day for me.  As I noted previously, the annual pilgrimage to the largest sporting show on earth occurs in early February (this year anyway).  And in my case, I make it a one-day trip.  I leave Paris early in the morning on the roughly 1-hour flight to Munich and then return later that same night.  All of which allows me to pack in a day at ISPO.

This year they’ve continued consolidating the sports tech/wearables vendors into a single hall – making my life much easier.  Many of the other halls are focused on things like clothing or ski equipment.  And while there are the odd ducks in those halls I still visit, I’m mostly able to cruise through them.


As I noted last week, ISPO doesn’t tend to see too many major announcements from this sector (i.e. new Garmin or GoPro devices).  Instead, we see more startup activity, as well as minor updates.  While Garmin, Polar, and TomTom all had major booths – notably absent was Suunto. Neither present as a standalone booth or in the Salomon booth.  Also, Fitbit canceled in the days leading up to it, and GoPro didn’t return either.  Both companies that have had substantial layoffs recently.

KuaiFit Sport Headphones:


We’ll start off with a quickie of an update.  I’ve discussed Kuai previously, last year at ISPO in fact.  The company makes headphones that can measure everything from heart rate to pace, all while storing fitness data as well as music. Here’s the bulleted list of features:

– In-ear heart rate (HR) sensor made by Valencell
– Works in swim/bike/run
– Ability to broadcast your HR over both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart
– Ability to broadcast your running pace/cadence over both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart
– Can connect to ANT+ Power, ANT+ Speed/Cadence sensors during cycling
– 3-meter deep waterproofing (though, it’s also internally nano-coated just in case the outer shell has issues)
– 5-meter deep waterproofing on the internally waterproofed micro-USB charging port
– Saves activity files as standard .FIT (standard format everyone uses, for swim/bike/run)
– 8GB of music storage internally

Effectively, they’re what every athlete wants in a pair of headphones, or close to it anyway.


They transmit out your stats as standard ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, and in fact, I was given a demo of that exact scenario – where I was shown the unit transmitting to both a Garmin watch and an iPhone concurrently.  This means you can use it as a footpod or heart rate strap, as well as recording the data internally.  But again, I covered all those details previously.


So in the interest of keeping the tempo quick on this post, the update is that they’re planning to start manufacturing in a few weeks, with them essentially waiting on the Chinese New Year closures to wrap up so they can move forward.  In turn, that has them shipping in the March timeframe.

Obviously, this is a wee bit behind numerous other past timeframes they’ve listed – so hopefully this one will stick.  If the product is as good as they’ve been talking, it could gain some serious traction with the endurance sports realm.  I’ll likely circle back later this spring once I have a unit to see how it handles.

Coros Smart Helmet:


Many of you may remember my in-depth review of the Coros helmet back this past fall.  It’s what appears to be a regular helmet from the outside, but actually uses jawbone induction to play music from your phone (without blocking the sounds of traffic), and even allow you to take telephone calls.  It works surprisingly well.

Interestingly enough, I noticed they were playing my YouTube video about it in the booth (see pic above).  This video below:

In any event, the update here is that they’re going into retail.  I met them at CES, and they noted the same, but now there’s a bit more clarity on it.  Since the campaign wrapped up this past fall, they’ve shipped out all units to all backers.  They say that the only ones that haven’t received units are those that haven’t completed their shipping surveys (a standard part of the Kickstarter process), or did so late.  That seems to roughly jibe with the comments section of my review.


On the retail side, they’re working to get onboard with both US and European retailers, and have recently launched their own site for purchasing.  Interestingly, I didn’t know previously that Coros is actually a subsidiary/brand of electronics giant YF Tech, which is the largest GPS manufacturer in China.  However, Coros is run entirely out of the US – with its US headquarters now located in Woodbridge, VA (an area most notable to many Washington DC area folks as one of their nearest Ikea store locales).

Finally – some of you have asked recently about my Coros helmet.  Indeed, it’s a project/product I paid for on Kickstarter, and thus it’s become my main helmet.  I don’t actually tend to use the music bit that much, but rather just find it’s a nice enough helmet.  My previous helmet was getting a bit rough looking, so this fit the bill nicely.

Salming RunLAB:


While there’s plenty of products out there lately doing running efficiency analysis – none seem to go as deep or expensive as this booth’s wares.  The Qualisys/Salming platform will set you back about 50,000 EUR (about $53,500 USD), or roughly the cost of three Ironman race entries these days.

The platform is actually a partnership between Qualisys and Salming, and is designed to capture and analyze running form.  The target market here is coaches and pro athlete centers (like Olympic training facilities), more so than the average consumer.  They even see some running stores being a potential customer.

The system works by using 9 cameras to monitor 35 markers that are placed on your body.  These markers are the small silver balls you see.

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In addition to the 9 sensing cameras, there’s also one additional camera for recording regular video.  The platform in turn measures step length, movement of trunk and pelvis, and numerous other metrics around running form.


From there the platform allows a coach to study any of the markers in more depth (or slow-mo), or to simply spit out a full report to the customer/client.  That report then compares the results against elite runners, showing where things differ.



As noted above, the whole kit costs about 50K if purchased, though it can also be bought/rented in three different models.  The first choice is a leasing plan (thus not the full 50K cost), the second being an upfront purchase, and the third being a three-year payment plan for the full cost.  Somehow, I don’t quite think you’ll find one in the DCR Cave anytime soon.  Still, it’s interesting stuff for sure.

Digitsole Run Profiler:


Continuing the running metrics trend, we’ve got Digitsole.  This company makes two different connected insoles.  In Matrix style, there’s the red one…and the blue one.  No really, I’m not kidding.

The blue one (Run Profiler) starts off at 99EUR (for one side) and provides relatively straightforward stats like cadence and pace.  But it also gets into displaying how much pressure is being applied to different parts of the insole.  All of this data is transmitted via Bluetooth Smart to their smartphone app (Android/iOS).


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The unit charges via micro-USB on the side of the insole and gets about 5 hours of active-on battery life.  The company said the goal was to be able to cover a marathon for the majority of runners.


Now as mentioned, they also have the red pill insole, which costs 199EUR and is called the ‘Warm Series.’  That one is super nifty though in that it actually provides heat. Yes, it’ll actually heat your shoe.  It can do so to a temperature range of 30 to 45 °C (86 to 113°F).  Not too shabby!


The heating version lasts about 3-9 hours, depending on whether it’s turned on full blast or not.  Oh, and last but not least – they’re working on a shoe that can actually adjust the density of the insole material in real-time, which they plan to sell for about 249EUR.  Though, that one will lack the heater option.  But it effectively allows you to get a more or less cushioned shoe on the fly.  No timeframe for that yet though.

LG’s Smart Shoe Sensor:


Not to be outdone in this post, LG also had a smart insole on the show floor.  Their unit is targeted more at general fitness, but does capture information like balance, stride length, angle, and balance.


The system works in a pod-like design, which fits into the bottom of a shoe.  All of which is powered by a coin cell battery that apparently gets about 6 months of battery life.  The company also says it’s been tested at 100kg of weight, and through 500,000 repetitions.  Oh, and they’ve got an API available for developers to tap into.



Now unlike the others, this product isn’t actually a product.  Rather, it’s a business-to-business offering that they’re hoping someone else will license and use within their platform.  That’s probably a good thing though – because quite frankly some of the terminology is a bit cringe-worthy.  For example, they’ve included ‘power’ on some running screens that were actually showing running cadence.

And that ignores the use of ‘Athleisure Lady’ and ‘Soccer Mom’ terms.  I’m serious:


Or the headline of ‘Sensation Beyond Generality’.  Which basically sounds like the tag line for a condom brand.


Now my bet here is that the underlying tech is probably pretty interesting.  It’s just that somewhere on the flight between South Korea and Germany, the marketing team got a hold of things and applied a healthy dose of crazy-pants.  Or, crazy shoes.  Either way, we’ll have to wait for another company to pick it up to see how it fares in real life.

Casio’s Smartwatch Action Cam Linkup:


Back at CES last month I showed you the new Casio hiking-focused Android Wear GPS watch, the WSD-F20.  It builds on last year’s model that was focused at a similar hiking/backcountry crowd.  You’ll want to check out all the details from last month’s post for the specs on the watch.


What I was interested in here at ISPO was the action cam integration.  Casio sells an action cam (EX-FR10/FR100CA) that can integrate with the watch.  Sure, companies like Garmin allow you to control your VIRB action cam from a Garmin watch, as does GoPro with the Apple Watch.  But Casio takes it a (ginormous) step further: You can preview the video on the watch.

They talked about this at CES, but only had paper displays to show how it’d work.  And I never trust marketing, especially paper marketing.  But here at ISPO, I managed to con convince one of the folks to demonstrate it for me, and even allow me to film a video on it.

So, here’s that video.  It’s short and sweet, and works mind-bogglingly well.

The connection is actually over legacy Bluetooth (not Bluetooth Smart), which gives a bit more bandwidth than Bluetooth Smart.  It’s not WiFi like most action cam previews would be. I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect it to work nearly as well as it did.  The lag was virtually non-existent, and the clarity was far better than I was expecting.  Heck, the ability to check recorded photos and videos is pretty sweet.

The only downside? The Casio action cam itself has pretty limited specs compared to anything else on the market (and seemingly tough to even find a place to buy it).  Still, the connectivity piece shown above is crazy cool.  And it’s ideal for previewing the position of the camera on a helmet in winter, where a cell phone touchscreen can be messy with heavy gloves in the snow.

Kettler’s Smart Trainer App & VR Demo:

Indoor gym and indoor bike equipment Kettler was there to show off their new training app platform that integrates with their indoor cycling bikes.  Additionally, they demoed a new VR platform as well.  But first up is their new app: Kett Maps.

This platform includes 6,000 outside course videos, and is powered by Kinomap (the popular cycling training app).  It allows you to ride outdoor routes while indoors on the bike, which will change the resistance automatically to match the grade/incline on the recorded video.  Note that a typical indoor bike of theirs will run about 2,000EUR.


The app itself will cost you 5EUR a month, which is pretty reasonable.  However, they’re also offering a free version which has a rotating set of free videos each month.  They’re partnering with pro cyclist Thibaut Pinot who will be riding some Paris-Nice course stages and filming them for their platform, allowing you to effectively ride with him.

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Next, we’ve got their VR platform, which they partnered with Gymcraft on.  This platform drops you into a 3D world, not unlike Zwift.  It’s cycling focused, and you’ll don an Oculus headset to get that 3D VR feelin’.  The app then connects with any of the Kettler indoor bikes (including recumbent ones), along with an XBox controller for changing the direction of where you go and controlling shifting.  It works surprisingly well.


In fact, I’d say it works too well.

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See, it took approximately 35 seconds for me to want to barf on a route that took me flying off jumps and rolling down hills.  I’m not one who easily gets motion sickness (even in rough seas or the most severe mountain roads), but this was over the top.  For example, when I tried Zwift VR with the same headset, I had no issues riding for quite some time with it from a sickness standpoint.  But with the jumps and such in the Kettler system, not only myself but others around me that tried it had the same feeling.


In some ways, it’s good that they aren’t targeting the home user directly here.  Sure, if you want to try it out at home and have the hardware to do so, it’ll only set you back 5-10EUR a month (still finalizing that).  But their real aim is actually the corporate setting.  They want companies to place the setup in break rooms, and then have people jump on the bike for a few minutes rather than a smoke break.  That setup, including the bike and everything you see, will run about 10,000EUR.

While I have no doubt VR will be the future of indoor cycling, I’m not entirely sure this particular software implementation is that future.  Still, it’s great to see companies experimenting with it and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

Bonx Grip Wireless Group Chat System:


Next, we’ve got a pretty cool wireless chat system for group rides, or any sort of group activity, from Bonx.  It looks like a simple Bluetooth wireless headset, and in many ways it is.  However, the real key is the app behind it.  That app acts somewhat like Skype and creates a real-time group audio conversation for your friends – all without hitting your voice plan minutes.  Instead, it’s using your data in an optimized manner (or, so they say anyway).


The unit has two modes: One mode instantly transmits all conversation from you to your group, just like if you had left your phone connected during a call.  And the other mode requires a press on the earpiece to transmit (like a walkie-talkie).  This is perfect in that for some situations you just want hands-free conversation, yet for others you may want to talk behind their back.  Or something less sinister.

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What’s most impressive on the hardware side is the battery life.  It gets 7 hours of talk time, but gets 400 hours of idle time.  The talk time is only when it’s actively transmitting speech.  So that’s pretty damn solid.  That easily lasts a weekend or more of skiing all day for example.  Oh – and the unit also can be used to play back music as well, though that cuts into the battery life.


The unit has wind reduction, which they say can handle up to 40MPH of wind noise (something that IMHO would require a bit of testing to believe).  Still, even if it did half of that speed, that’d cover most scenarios.

Now the only downside is the price. The project initially launched on Kickstarter a long while back, but now they’ve moved into retail and its coming in at $139USD and 139EUR.  For me, that’s a pretty steep price to pay.  I get that some of that cost is likely going to funding the online platform and data costs they incur in running that platform (since there is no service fee).  But if I were looking at convincing friends for a ski trip to buy one, that’d be a near impossible pitch, even more so if each couple needed two of them.  Whereas if it was priced in the $50-$70 range, with a low monthly fee, that’d be a much easier pitch for a week-long ski trip.  Just my two cents.

Garmin Fenix 5 Charging Cable:


There’s been a bunch of chatter and questions about the Garmin Fenix 5 and the charging cable.  Specifically around charging while recording, and notably about doing so while attached to your wrist (or not).  So I grabbed a Fenix 5 unit from the booth along with a charger and slapped together this quick video explaining it all and even using the darn thing as a lasso to demonstrate how well (or not) the charging cable might hold.

As I said, just a super quick demo – nothing fancy.  But a demo I’ve been wanting to film for quite some time.

Wiral Action Cable Cam System:


Last but not least for this post I’ve got this new cable cam system from a startup called Wiral.  For those unfamiliar, a cable cam means that you’ve got a camera on a cable.  That camera is usually controlled by you remotely, and usually costs a crap-ton.  This, however, doesn’t cost a crap-ton.  At least compared to professional rigs.

The system includes a piece of rope (currently 100m long, but they may go for a longer piece), a motorized moving tripod, and a controller.  The controller tells the moving portion the speed to go, as well as which direction to travel along the rope.  The idea being that you’d set it up between two trees in the woods, filming jumps or mountain bike runs through the woods.  These would typically be used where drone shots couldn’t go, either for safety or maneuverability reasons.


In fact, many shots you’ll see in winter sports along shorter-course ski/snowboard events are done via cable cam setups to minimize risk to spectators and athletes.

The action camera is then connected to the bottom of the rolling unit.  The unit can hold a weight of between 1-2kg (still being finalized), which is more than enough for a GoPro.  It actually gets into the range of small cameras, like a Sony mirrorless camera.  And that’s where the potential gets even cooler.


The mount includes both a 1/4” standard tripod adapter, as well as a GoPro adapter.  The battery life will run about 1-4 hours of active use, depending on whether it’s on flat terrain or steeper inclines. Also, it’s fully collapsible, and folds up, for easy transports (in total it weighs less than 500g).


What’s interesting on the remote though is that you can record the speed/control of the movement of the camera mount.  So let’s say you were filming skiers going off a jump in the woods, you could control the camera on the first go, and then repeat that automatically for every subsequent attempt.  Further, with the weight limit being 1-2KG, that’s more than enough to add in a gimbal for most action cameras.

The unit will launch on Kickstarter in April, with availability in August.  The launch price on Kickstarter is planned to be about $200, whereas the retail price afterwards will be $400.  I think $200 is quite fair, but I think they’ll find very few buyers at $400 unless the weight limit is enough for both a gimbal and a mirrorless DSLR with lens (so it’d appeal to the prosumer crowd).  There’s a big difference there between 1KG and 2KG.

In any case – super cool.



Finally, tomorrow I’ve got a separate post coming up on the Staaker action sports drone that I got a hands-on demo of.  That’s requiring a bit more video editing to pull together the multiple cameras and mics I was using for the demo.  Even more so since my GoPro Hero5 Black had an SD card error about 2/3rds the way through the flight (first time ever), resulting in the remainder of that footage being lost.  That sucks not only for lost footage, but because when we went to re-shoot those segments, the drone then stopped working.  Basically, I was killing everything.  All of which means even more editing to make the video semi-functional.  So hang tight for that tomorrow!

Thanks for reading!