In Time for the Masters: Garmin’s S3 Golf Watch

OK, so you are not playing the course but Garmin International has timed the release of its latest golf watch, the Approach S3 a touchscreen golf watch, to capitalize on the desire to golf that the Masters Tournament seems to inspire in players year after year.

The sleek looking entrant comes at a time when golf watches are increasingly adding a host of features that just a few years ago golfers would have given their pitching wedge for and this offering shines with the best of the them from the looks of it.

The Approach S3 touchscreen GPS golf watch comes with 27,000 courses from around the globe preloaded so that walking onto a new course a golfer always has information at their fingertips. There is no fee or subscription for this feature and it includes course updates as they are available.

One of the overriding uses for the watch is as a virtual caddie and it has a host of features that help a golfer from a downloadable scorecard to a round timer for slower players to more specialized features. One of these is called Green View that shows the shape and layout of the greens, with the ability for the user to drag the pin to match that day’s location.

Other key capabilities include Layup Distances that include distances needed for doglegs and hazards; Precise Yardage for front, middle and back of green distances; and it has the ability to measure shot distances.

The watch is waterproof, which s good if your game resembles mine, and it supports an 8 hour charge for game play but four days as an everyday watch. A small charging cradle is included. The Approach S3 is expected to be available in April 2012 and will have a suggested retail price of $349.99.

The release is two weeks or so after Motorola Mobility released the next generation of its MotoActv family with a golf edition watch, the MotoActv Golf Edition. However Garmin has been in this game for a while and has a well respected track record so Motorola and others that are entering the field will need to show that they are not just as good as Garmin but have features that will differentiate their offerings.

I expect that with the increasing ability to cram a huge about of data into a small form factor such as a watch the features in this space will likely continue to grow, something that will put pressure on developers but will likely make the chance of breaking par a bit easier- if only you can get that hitch out of your swing.

Looking for More Than a Heartbeat? Pyle’s GPS Sports Watch Could Help

There a number of sports watches that tell you how fast you are going, and even where you are and estimate how many calories that you have burned off so far in your workout. Now Pyle wants to take that one better by adding in a heart monitor

The Pyle GPS Sports Watch features a 2.4 GHz digitally coded wireless Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) chest strap that is designed to allow athletes to track information regarding workouts including maintain heart rate in specific zones.
The $138 watch is designed to serve for more than simply a device to track a heartbeat or show you where you are on the map, although those are nice features.

It is designed to be more than simply a joggers accessory- it has four main functions. Compass, Time Mode, Navigation and Workout Mode, depending on the preferred usage.

The compass mode is slightly different in navigation in that it tells users the direction of an object or location from a certain point, and it also provide directions in azimuth as well.

Workout Mode is designed to work with Navigation Mode and together they record and display the user’s current performance, including speed, distance traveled, coordinates, workout duration, heart rate, calories burned and other information.

The watch has the flexibility to have four settings for target heart beat rates preset- Health, Fat Burn, Aerobics and User and a user can have the watch sound alerts when they are above, in or below their preferred zone.

In addition to the modes listed here, the GPS Sports Watch can monitor four target heart rate zones, including Health, Fat Burn, Aerobics and User, and even offers audio alerts to inform users when they are above, in or below their preferred zone.

The GPS Sports Watch is water resistant up to 30 meters under water and comes with a built-in rechargeable lithium polymer battery. The software that ships with the watch has the ability to help users with their workout analysis, route planning and training summary reports and can provide a post-workout breakdown.

The HRM chest strap features a special conductive contact pad to retrieve heart rate stats and the adjustable elastic band keeps the monitor in place while remaining comfortable and breathable during sweaty workout routines. Once the strap and the watch are successfully paired, the heart rate data will automatically be transmitted to the watch display for quick and easy viewing.

The GPS Sports Watch is water resistant up to 30 meters under water and comes with a built-in rechargeable lithium polymer battery. The software that ships with the watch has the ability to help users with their workout analysis, route planning and training summary reports and can provide a post-workout breakdown. Users can even monitor the battery life and memory to ensure efficient use.

Of course this is a very competitive field and one that looks to get even more so as Nike and Ant +continues to push Nike + technology. Sports watches with GPS are available from a range of companies including Garmin, Motorola and Timex.

Garmin Connects Athletes with Ant +

Looking at the growing number of fitness devices available there is a thread that is increasingly running through all of them, they feature a low powered wireless technology called Ant + from Ant Wireless, that enables the athletes and others to get real time feedback from sensors such as heart rate monitors.

It is no real surprise that the technology has caught on in the market; it was designed specifically for this use by Dynastream Innovations to provide feedback from its power meters. When Garmin purchased the company in 2006 it took Ant + to a much wider market.

A look at Garmin products shows a strong presence of the technology, but it has also become firmly entrenched as a standard technology in a wide range of products from other developers in the sports market with support from an estimated 25 million devices.

The growing importance of the technology can be seen in one of its most recent partners, Sony Ericsson, which has a family of Ant + enabled phones including two that were announced earlier this month. Both the Xperia S and the Xperia ion will have native support for the wireless technology when they are released later in the first half of 2012.

Using one of these phones, which include a feature that enables the user to be always connected to the Internet a serious athlete can not only check their vital signs but have a remote trainer also get the data and so be in a position to provide important feedback. You can use Ant + with other phones but need a dongle.

At the recent CES show there was a range of fitness developers showing technology in the Ant + booth aside from Garmin. 4iiii, a developer of audio and display feedback systems incorporates it, no real surprise since 4iiii CEO Kip Fyfe was CEO of Dynastream when it developed the technology and sold it to Garmin.

Others in the fitness space that use the technology include Wahoo Fitness, Pioneer, Garmin, Nordic,CardioSport, and Fatigue Science to name a few partners.

Not just for sports
ANT+ has gained widespread adoption as the interoperable standard in ultra low power wireless communication in sports but also as a technology that is gaining ground in medical applications. It was recently adopted by Qualcomm Life’s 2net hub technology that is designed to provide wireless communications between medical devices.

There are other medical users such as Dexcom, a company that develops glucose monitoring systems and A&D Medical which develops wireless blood pressure monitors and other equipment. There are also companies developing games, bridges and hubs and other mobile applications that use the technology.

The technology is a 2.4GHz wireless network protocol and is used in wireless sensor networks that require low cost, low power, small form factor and flexibility such as being able to form ad hoc mesh networks. The devices that feature the technology have a small battery that can provide years of operational life.

It is interesting how well this, a privately developed technology has found acceptance while rival technologies such as ZigBee seemed to have struggle to find a niche, while offering much the same features.