Oct 18th, 2011

The Motorola ACTV is not a new concept. We have seen the smartwatch for fitness tackled several times to varying levels of success (mostly no success at all). The most memorable attempt is Sony Ericsson’s LiveView, a similarly sized device based on Android and ready to sync up to the nearest Google smartphone. The difference here is really how Motorola is marketing the ACTV. They clearly want this device to be seen as a companion for folks while they exercise or perhaps even be a motivational tool that gets people moving a bit more. And with that concept they have done away with using the ACTV concept as a jack-of-all-trades Android companion. Instead they have made a focused effort to tailor this device to be used during exercise, even building an entire suite of online tools for tracking and monitoring your progress.

Sure, it does pair up with your Android phone and allow you to quickly view messages and answer calls (and it does pair with any Android phone, not just Motorola devices). Sure, it is also a mini music player capable of holding 8GB to 16GB of music (depending on which model you pick up). But even then the way the ACTV handles music is based around fitness. The device keeps a record of what songs played at which point during your workout. You can go back and view this yourself, but the ACTV also smartly chooses which songs get you the most motivated by comparing tracks to your workout data. It can then automatically call up these “power” songs to get you pumped up when you start to slack a bit on your 5-mile run.

The device itself is made well, works as advertised, and also plays host to a myriad of already available accessories based on the ANT+ protocol, from hear rate monitors to cycling computers, providing extremely accurate workout tracking based on more than GPS and accelerometer feedback. But the problem is — and the reason why the Motorola ACTV may fare no better than the similar devices before it — is the pricing. Motorola has priced the ACTV at $250. Totally reasonable for an 8GB music player and real-time fitness monitor, but a high asking price for something most will view as little more than an accessory to their Android device.

Die-hard fitness buffs might get behind the ACTV, and Moto is pushing it to the right people. With star fitness guru Bob Harper from The Biggest Loser and a man who ran across the county, Dean Karnazes, putting their weight behind the device it might come out of the gates strong. Moto will also be pushing the ACTV heavily at the New York City Marathon. Is it enough to make the Moto ACTV a holiday success? We’ll have to wait and see. As a runner and Android user, I sure am taking a hard look at the ACTV.


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