I’ve long recommended the TomTom MultiSport GPS smartwatch as a great watch for triathletes or any one who does more than just running and wants to use it in any situation. Last year it received an upgrade by adding a heart rate sensor but this year it has been given a serious upgrade and a change of name with it now being called the TomTom Spark Cardio + Music. The last part gives you a hint at one of the cool new features but there are even more.The range itself is rather confusing with numerous packages and cheaper models that don’t have the music functionality. You’ll be able to find them all on TomTom’s website but here I’m going to focus on the top of the range model as this is the model that I think fitness folks or those wanting to get more fit should look at.
A change of name and looks
It’s a shame that TomTom have dropped the Multisport part of the name as I wonder if some will overlook this watch as another running watch. There is a ton of running watches and trackers but the number that can do multiple sports and swimming is much more limited. The name change does draw your attention to two of its key features though.
This model looks a little more low-key if you go for the black version but I really like the teal and black coloured band two. If you pre-order now directly with TomTom you’ll get a voucher to select a second band for free. This is a pretty nice deal saying as it’s also a little cheaper than it is listed on Amazon at the time of writing.TomTom 143 – 206 mm Spark Cardio GPS Watch with Large Strap – Black
It appears about the size as my current model which I find absolutely fine for sports and have left it on sometimes during the day. The strap looks slimmer and it is made from a different material that those who had a hands on at IFA 2015 found softer and more comfortable than the previous band. Personally I have no issue with the current one but improvements are always good.
The display is said to be improved as well with better contrasts and the display looking nearer the surface which might be better for reduced reflections.
Music everywhere without a phone
I can’t tell you how happy this feature makes me. Now when you go running or cycling there is no need to drag along your phone. If like me the size of your phone is gradually swelling, it is becoming increasing onerous to take one out when exercising. Also it’s a risk to your safety having an expensive phone strapped to your arm. Swimming and listen to music really wasn’t an option but now you can if you have the right earphones!
I have no doubt the software to get it on the watch will be pretty horrible if previous TomTom software is anything to go by but it will be worth it once I get my workout and running tunes all uploaded to it. It’s said to be done via a simple drag and drop interface. I have read that there is a new dedicated TomTom software team based in Edinburgh so I’m going to stay optimistic that they have created some good dedicated software! You should be able to have more than enough space for your tunes as it is said to store nearly 500 songs in its 3 gigabytes of memory. It will work with both iTunes and Windows Media Player. Out of the box there is no streaming service support for Spotify and the like and honestly I’m not expecting it but perhaps that’s something that will come future models as more and more people are moving away from buying music.
TomTom are going to be selling their own pair of bluetooth headphones but you can use any type you please. This sounds like bliss to me.
New cardio sensor
I’ve never had a cardio sensor in any watch I’ve owned so this is something that will be a serious upgrade for me but even if you have one in your current sport watch TomToms plans for this could be interesting to you.
Right now you can track your heart rate with it whenever you start your exercise off but TomTom are working on optimising the sensor and software to allow all day heart rate tracking. Looking at the sensor it also has more too it than just tracking your heart rate and a firmware update down the line might give you pulse oximetry as well. TomTom may choose to create a more expensive line with this in however. They are have confirmed they are working on being able to measure respiratory rate with it and VO2 max.
There is a detailed look at the sensor and it’s initial accuracy on DC Rainmakers site if you want a deep dive.
As you exercise a voice coach will be giving you real-time feedback if you are hitting the goals you set out at the start such as your heart rate or distance. If this is piped via your bluetooth headphones this will be a great addition as although my current model will vibrate you do have to look at the watch to see what it is alerting you about which isn’t as safe.You tend to slow down to glance at it as it feels unsafe running flat-out not looking where you are going!
Activity and sleep tracking
Now TomTom are offering a complete health package with this watch by allowing you to plan daily and weekly goals, monitor calories, steps and more in ways we’ve come used to seeing in the likes of Fitbit, Jawbone etc. It may not be particularly useful to a serious athlete but I bet some will still be interested in these stats! For those on the road to a healthier life it is a very useful addition. It also has sleep tracking too but comfort is key here. I have hated wearing any type of band in bed at night so far.
As a triathlete my needs for a fitness watch are particular. I must be able to confidently use it whilst swimming with no fear it will be damaged yet also be good for running and bike tracking. I must have GPS and a good battery life. The TomTom Spark gives me all of these and many more useful features. Yes you may be able to get some of them on many Android Wear and Apple Watches but to date you cannot swim with any of them. The build of my current TomTom is rugged and is so durable feeling I have no worries about chucking it in a gym bag or falling on it whilst running. I doubt the new version will be any different. It also comes in at roughly 2/3rds the price of many of these other smart watches.
On the downside you can’t receive or action on any notifications from your phone but for me that is a feature not a drawback! In the longer term I’ve heard TomTom are working on adding phone and text notifications to the watch but you will not be able to respond to them. Personally exercise is a way of getting away from it all so I won’t miss these features if they don’t materialise.
For now I doubt one watch will be able to do everything for me. Something like the LG Watch Urbane 2 LTE is getting very close but it will be too expensive and not waterproof enough to use for me.
I’m putting my money where my mouth is and have pre-ordered mine so watch ( no pun intended ) this space for my upcoming hands on and initial impressions. When I get it and I’ll be putting something on my YouTube channel as well. Here is the promo video to wrap things up. Bye!