You like running, or cycling, or just generally doing things that burn off those 4 pints you had last Friday after work – it was a leaving do after all. But its hard to stay motivated. Trust me, as an Olympic gold medallist in procrastination I know.
Fortunately, one well known secret that is proven to motivate is keeping track of your progress. Then you can proudly announce “I ran 8 miles on Saturday” as all your friends feign interest. With GPS technology having crept into all modern Android phones, a lot of people have woken up to find their phone makes a pretty damn good training companion. Taking that a step further is the Sony Ericsson Fitness Pack.
Inside you get a arm band carrying case, the LiveView and a wrist band for attaching your LiveView somewhere you can see it. Looks cool you are probably thinking. So did I, so I put it to the test.
Here’s how my first test of the Sony Ericsson Fitness Experience Pack went:
- Right so all I have to do is Sync the Bluetooth device and off we go. Yea.. oh.. that didn’t work.
- Check the manual.
- Okay, I need LiveWare manager which I can download from Android store. That’s strange. I can’t find it.
- Email the friendly chaps who sent the unit over for testing. They inform me I need a new version of the Android software. How on earth do you do that?
- I attempt to do it on the phone – gets about 50% of the way through and quits.
- I now notice that it does actually say in the manual how to do this. Proceed to load software onto computer and try again. Didn’t work again.
- I need to update the computer software – doing that now.
- With the new version of Android I have to re-login which isn’t easy for someone with weird characters in their password.
- Logged in I search for LiveWare Manager. Found, installed.
- Install SportyPal Pro. Right, that’s surely everything – let’s go. Oh, it didn’t work.
- Apparently I need to now install Android Text To Speech. Better go do that.
- Okay, what now? Apparently I need to enter a voucher code. Where do you enter the code?
- Thank god I studied a degree in Business and IT because I’d never find that option in the phone normally. I type it in to the hidden box and it’s off to the races.
I’m fairly technically competent but the above section of the setup process took me hours rather than minutes. It was somewhat infuriating. Fortunately, once the painful setup is out the way things work much more smoothly.
Using Sportypal Pro
The Sportypal software, which is free, looks good and works well. You can easily switch between different activities and getting started is as simple as it should be.
The settings screen gives you plenty of options as you would expect. You can choose whether to post to Twitter and Facebook at the end as well as tweak the measurement system you use.
The voice notifications stood out as a great feature. It reads out stats such as your average speed and distance. You can also tweak it to your liking. It’s great to see the developers took the time to include these options.
Another nice addition was the weather. The only other thing I could perhaps offer as a good extra feature in Sportypal Pro would be to show at what time the sun goes down so you can plan your training.
The LiveView, which I’ve reviewed previously, operates via a Bluetooth connection with the Sony Ericsson (or for that matter most Android phones). It has two buttons at the top. One that turns it on and one that activate the selection or turns the screen back on.
The two edges on the left and right are touch sensitive and allow you to scroll through options.
What was really needed is a third physical button. I’ll explain why.
You are about to set off on a ride and your phone is nicely tucked away in the Fitness Pack pouch. But now you can’t hit the start button. Surely it would be logical this would be possible from the LiveView? Unfortunately, not in this version.
The LiveView is more about relaying the information on the screen as opposed to controlling the phone. In practise, when riding a bike, this was very tough to do and required the hand coordination of a street juggler. You had to reach over with your one hand to turn on the screen, then put your hand back on the handlebar whilst raising the other hand to view the screen.
All of this had to be done very rapidly as the screen is only at full brightness for 5 seconds. Then there’s a further 10 seconds at half brightness. However, unless riding in the dark I found the brightness levels lacking. I’ve dived into the settings but don’t see any option to extend this time.
The only way around this is if you mount the LiveView to your handlebars but the strap isn’t really suited for this job.
Overall, it’s clear this is a device better suited to runners as opposed to cyclists.
Fitness Pack Armband
The Armband that is supplied feels comfortable to wear and doesn’t shift around during exercise. I can see it lasting many years as it feels of a quality construction. Unfortunately, it is only water resistant and not waterproof so in a heavy downpour you’d have to secure your phone elsewhere.
Here’s a quick 2-minute video of a test-ride I did with the mount where I explain the good and bad points.
Review of the Sony Ericsson Fitness Pack
Overall, I’d have to give the Sony Ericsson Fitness Pack a 3 out of 5. Sony Ericsson have the right idea here. A product that extends the mobile phones capability as a fitness aid. On spec everything looks great. The armband holder is good, having the little screen frees up your hands and gives you quick access to the stats and the overall package feels right. However, the execution hasn’t quite worked out. Setup is too lengthy and looking at your stats on your wrist is difficult for a cyclist.
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.