What would it take for Apple Watch to lap competing fitness trackers?
I’ve started cheating on my Apple Watch. It’s not that I don’t love it. It’s amazingly beautiful. It does stuff I didn’t even know I’d like. But when it comes to running wild in the outdoors, I’ve found a smartwatch that satisfies me more than Jony Ive’s wearable does.
For the past week I’ve been testing the Garmin Fenix 3, a top-of-the-line smartwatch from a company that’s made a name for itself by providing runners and outdoorsmen with some of the best wrist-worn fitness tech. I hate wearing the Fenix 3. While Apple Watch gently caresses my wrist, the Fenix 3 feels like I’ve strapped a tank to it. Yet it boasts features Apple Watch doesn’t have that I’m starting to think I can’t live without on runs and hikes.
I don’t plan to completely break up with the Apple Watch anytime soon, but I’m ditching it during my four-day trek through the Grand Canyon this weekend because there are still a couple things it needs to learn before it can truly be the best all-around fitness tracker.
Garmin’s chunky new Fenix 3 Sapphire sport watch faces stiff competition from Apple Watch. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
LAS VEGAS — When Garmin launches a $600 smartwatch just a few weeks before Apple is about to introduce its category killer, the company must be pretty confident.
Here at International CES, Garmin is showing off its new line of Fenix 3 Sports Watches — multisport fitness trackers with built-in GPS that can pair with a smartphone to show various alerts and notifications. It comes in three models, including the handsome Sapphire, which has a hard sapphire crystal face. It’s a beauty, but surely doomed, right?
When asked if Garmin was worried about the Apple Watch, due to be launched sometime this spring, a spokeswoman confidently said absolutely not. She explained that Garmin’s watches are unapologetically outdoor fitness devices built for sportspeople who want a watch to do very specific things — track workouts – and aren’t interested in beaming heartbeats or sending emojis.
“They are purpose-built,” she said, gesturing at the display. “They’re built for hiking, biking and running. Garmin has been in the wearables market for 10 years. We’re not worried at all.”
Each month, Cult of Mac's Lust List reveals the products we're reveling in right now.
Garmin Forerunner 920xt
Swim, bike and run your way over to your local Garmin dealer — the multisport watch you have been waiting for has finally arrived. Adding all the good stuff from the other new computers in the Garmin lineup, the Forerunner 920xt arrives with activity tracking, a color screen that actually shows colors, cycling VO2 max, a metronome and the ability for devs to create additional apps through Connect IQ. All in a package you could wear all day without feeling like a complete goober.
Unlike its predecessor the 910xt, the new watch can actually be worn and used as a watch. And if you are willing to carry your smartphone on your workouts, Bluetooth pairing can deliver real-time tracking and push notifications from your phone to the watch (although HealthKit compatibility remains limited at this time).
The Garmin Forerunner 920xt ($449.99 list) is packed full of features designed to help you track your data better; with third parties developing apps, at some point we might see heart-rate capability while in the pool. If you unlock half of this watch's capabilities, you might also start to unlock your own. — Jim Merithew
"Oooh, sweet toothbrush." Until recently, I could honestly say I'd never heard those unexpected words before. But that's exactly what my wife exclaimed when she spotted the Philips Sonicare DiamondClean rechargeable toothbrush sitting quietly on our bathroom counter.
It's easy to see why: The black matte finish looks and feels amazing, more like a high-end smartphone than a dental hygiene product. Luckily for our teeth and gums, the luxe brush is just as practical as it is beautiful. After my better half demanded that I hand over the spare brush head, she took the sleek sonic tooth-scrubber for a spin and declared her pearly whites felt cleaner than ever. She's hooked, and she still hasn't seen the cool travel case that holds the DiamondClean and cleverly recharges by USB.
I like the DiamondClean too, although it took a few sessions to get used to its high-pitched howl. Its polished bristles feel exceedingly gentle, and the at-home charging glass is unique (and dishwasher-safe, delivering us from the evil pool of drool that accumulates on pedestrian plastic chargers). All in all, the DiamondClean ($219.99 list) is more delightful than I thought a toothbrush could be. — Lewis Wallace
Strap these bad boys onto your head and use the included Xbox One wireless adapter to connect to your Microsoft gaming console, or just plug the standard 1/8-inch wire into any headphone jack on your iPhone, iPad or PlayStation 4 controller. The Strikers are comfortable, sound great and look pretty rad along the way. At $89.95 list, you won't have to break open your piggy bank to afford them. — Rob LeFebvre
The updated edition of Jonathan Zufi's coffee-table book Iconic costs a cool $250 — but it features a cool pulsating light!
The book, originally released to wide acclaim last year, is a photographic tribute to Apple's products that’s elegantly crammed with more than 150,000 glossy photos of every single piece of hardware out of Cupertino. It also includes practically everything else, from prototypes to packaging.
The updated version of Zufi's good-looking book — with 16 new pages — comes in plainer, cheaper editions (the Classic Edition costs $75, while the $99 Classic Plus Edition adds a black slipcase), but you’ll want the Ultimate Edition. That’s the one with the LED embedded in its classy Cromwell Aristo Grain-White clamshell case. When you pick up the book, the LED gently pulses in homage to MacBooks of yore. Now that’s iconic. — Leander Kahney
With Thanksgiving in the rear-view and Christmas eggnog in the offing, perhaps it's time to consider – just consider, mind you – a little dietary moderation. I've never been a giant fan of fruits and vegetables (especially the really healthy green stuff), and I certainly don't get as many daily servings as I should, but after seeing lard-ass fright flick Fact, Sick and Nearly Dead and taking a realistic look at my waistline, I got nudged in the direction of juicing.
And by "nudged" I mean my wife bought me a fantastic Omega J8006 Nutrition Center Juicer ($240 from Amazon). This chrome-and-black masticating monster uses a single menacing augur to crush and squeeze every last delicious drop out of fruits and vegetables. I especially love what it does with carrots, turning a pile of orange root vegetables into a nutrient-rich thirst-quencher. Toss in a few bits of ginger or a couple handfuls of kale, and you've got a surprisingly delicious drink that's guaranteed to give you a boost.
It's not all about health, either. Fresh fruits like cantaloupe and pineapple make shockingly good additions to fanciful drink recipes. And that ginger juice? Unbelievably potent and awesome for kicking cocktails up a notch. I'm still fat, but I don't feel nearly as sick or dead. — Lewis Wallace
If you've ever tried to record your own vocals, you know that the built-in microphone in your Mac or iPad, while competent, isn't something you'd want to use to create a world-class song demo. IK Multimedia knows iOS audio, and their iRig Mic HD ($129.99) is an incredibly good condenser microphone that will let you unleash your inner rock star (or podcaster).
It connects easily to your Mac or iOS device via the included standard USB or Lightning cable. And it's serious business, as the iRig Mic HD has a 24-bit audio-to-digital converter, a 44.1/48 kHz sampling rate and a fantastic pre-amp to reproduce your vocal performances at a rate of stunningly high fidelity. — Rob LeFebvre
If you are going to cover up your beautifully sleek new iPad mini, it might as well be with Italian leather and microfibers. The Nodus Access case (89.99 pounds) exudes an elegance and simplicity that can’t be overstated. Or is that understated. Either way, it is beautiful.
Using micro-suction technology to hold your iPad firmly in place, the case couldn’t be any simpler. — Jim Merithew
If you play darts, you know it's all about the doubles and triples. Landing your pointy projectile in those choice slivers of bristle board real estate make all the difference when you are playing to win.
The Bandit Plus ProTrainer ($65 from A-ZDarts.com) can help. On this fiendish and well-constructed training tool, the double and treble beds are just half the size of a regulation steel-tip dartboard. Practicing with this demanding mistress is the darting equivalent of running in ankle weights or sliding a doughnut on your bat while taking a few cuts in the on-deck circle. Spend some quality time with the ProTrainer at home, and those precious moneymaker slots will look gigantic when you step up to the oche during your next pub match. — Lewis Wallace
Available just in time for the holiday gift-giving season, the SteelSeries Stratus XL is the first full-size wireless controller for iOS. It mimics larger home controllers, with a button layout that will be familiar to most console gamers and a 40-hour window of battery life eked from only two AA batteries.
The build quality is insanely good, making this an ideal choice for anyone who wants the comfort and style of a full-on gaming controller for the hundreds of iOS games that utilize Apple’s new made for iPhone (MFi) controller system. The Stratus XL will be available starting December 9 from the SteelSeries website and other fine retailers. — Rob LeFebvre
A good piece of gear can make your life better. And, just as surely, a crappy bit of kit can turn an ordinary task into a profoundly irritating experience. This month's Lust List items keep us moving in the right direction.
Mavic Cosmic Carbone 40C
Pushing my bike into what can only be accurately described as a head-sided tailwind and attempting to navigate the tourist-riddled Golden Gate Bridge towers, I was once again thankful to have the Cosmic Carbones mounted to my whip.
There are faster hoops. There are rims that have spent more time at the salad bar. But if you are looking to go faster, over more “epic” terrain, with nary a concern about how precious your carbon wheels may be, then the Mavic Cosmic Carbone 40C (1,990 euro a pair list) should be on your upgrade shopping list. They will get you where you need to go regardless of the condition of the tarmac or what the weatherman has in store for you.
On that recent trip across the international orange landmark, I experienced just about every microclimate and terrain known to man. The braking surface worked surprisingly well in the wet foggy conditions, the climb up hawk hill was a joy and only during the nastiest of crosswinds did I notice the Carbones’ deep rim. Mavic took its sweet time releasing their first full-carbon clinchers, but they nailed the Mavic tradition of building bombproof, lust-worthy wheels. — Jim Merithew
You know what I hate about Apple computers? The precious keyboards. They look lovely, with their sleek designs and tiny little keys, but they absolutely kill my wrists and fingers. That’s why I plug a grimy old Goldtouch keyboard ($129 list when they made ‘em) into the MacBook Air that I use for work. I even take the weird-looking A-frame keyboard with me when I travel. It’s not an elegant-looking solution, but it’s a lifesaver.
I’ve dealt with typing-related RSI for decades. While I use voice recognition when I have to write something lengthy, it’s not the perfect tool to accomplish every task in every situation. Sometimes I need to hammer away on a keyboard, and when I do, the Goldtouch makes the experience far less painful. It’s split down the center, with a ball joint that lets me adjust the angle between the two halves as well as the height at the center. And the soft-touch keys just feel good to me. — Lewis Wallace
I'll admit it: I checked out Rocket Girl from my branch libraryout of a thing for cat-eye glasses and an ingrained curiosity aboutsmart women that history has forgotten about.
Even if you don't care about either of those things, pick up this biography about rocketscientist Mary Sherman Morgan. It's written by her son George D. Morgan,who found that the Los Angeles Times was unwilling to print the obit hewrote because so much of what she accomplished "couldn't be verified."So he painstakingly pieced together her story — from herhardscrabble childhood to some tendencies that today we'd probably callOCD — while tracing the history of rocket science inAmerica.
Rocket Girl ($18) reads like a novel (and, in fact, the work first debutedas a play at CalTech). The story about Mary’s now-credited invention ofliquid fuel Hydyne, which powered the Jupiter-C rocket, is super-compelling.It's a great read, whether you care that she was our first female rocketscientist or not. — Nicole Martinelli
Sailing at the local Friday night beer can races used to be more humiliating than fun: The dispirited crew of Baby Blu almost rechristened the boat Dead F***ing Last before I got armed with Garmin's quatix marine GPS watch ($449.99 list).
As the defacto crew tactician of the decrepit Cal 20, I followed the oldest advice from racing sailors: Start first, keep ahead, finish first. Now that I'm sporting a good countdown watch and can accurately gauge the distance and time to the start line, we are often first off the mark. The navigation aids and speedometers on the quatix help us with the “keep ahead” part, though they can't do much to cover the fact that the old lady we sail desperately needs a face-lift. The best part: I got to keep our first commemorative beer glass from the first win. Arr, thanks quatix! — Stefano Maffulli
The first time I saw a Vinturi wine aerator in a Sonoma County tasting room, I pegged it for a gimmick. The woman behind the bar opened a bottle of red and poured some into a glass. Then she poured some of the same vintage slowly through the Twinkie-size plastic contraption into another glass and invited us to try the two side-by-side.
It was an effective demo.The flash-aerated wine clearly tasted better: richer, fuller, a little bit softer. More balanced and less brash. The Vinturi ($39.95 list) opened up the young wine, allowing its true character to shine through. Wine snobs have been decanting their vino forever, but dumping a bottle into a separate container and letting it “breathe” properly takes patience. The Vinturi gets the job done in seconds flat. The strange sucking sound it makes is air that’s getting mixed into the wine as it flows through the funnel-like device (thanks to the Venturi effect). It’s not for everybody, and not for every wine, but when you pop a cork and you don’t want to wait around, it’s a fantastic time-saver. — Lewis Wallace
The Shape Shifter and I just returned from a photo shoot in Utah. I could not have asked for a better travel companion. I stuffed two camera bodies, three lenses, a Q-Flash, various cords, cards, batteries and battery chargers, my laptop and oh so much more into this gear-swallowing beauty. And then I carried it on and stuffed it under my seat. Amazing.
I have also put a minimal amount of kit into it and zipped the compression zipper shut, so I could commute on my bicycle with this pack. It has waist and chest straps to keep it securely in place and plenty of pockets to help you organize your life.
Think Tank builds serious camera bags for serious photographers. If you like to travel light, like to work out of the same bag you travel with, or only carry a minimal amount of gear, then this thing is overkill. But if you travel with a pack of cameras, love adventure photography or just like to get your shit organized, I can’t say enough positive things about the Shape Shifter ($264.75 list). It’s the perfect bag for the photographer who likes to go loaded for bear. — Jim Merithew
When the standing desk craze took off, I thought it wasanother overblown trend created by the same fitness yuppies thatturned gluten into the most dangerous edible compound sincetrans-fats. Then I got a NextDesk Terra (starts at $1,497) andI’ll never go back to a boring, sit-in-your-chair-till-your-ass-is-numbdesk again.
The design is perfectly simple. The stained bamboo top is gorgeous andenormous. But the best thing about the NextDesk is how smooth andquickly it moves up and down, thanks to the 18-volt DC motors in eachleg that raise it up to a max height of 50.5 inches.
Fast-forward 18 months and not only have I cut my Red Bull dependency in half bymoving around to stay alert, I’ve become a master at typing whiledancing as Google drones through another painful three-hour keynote. — Buster Hein
For the first time in my life I was hailed a DJ hero at a picnic thanks to two things: 1) I’d downloaded the great 20 Reggae Classics and 2) I brought a Harman Kardon Onyx Bluetooth speaker.
Sitting up by the Russian River in the baking sun, there’s nothing better than the incredible sounds created by Jamaica's legendary Trojan label. And the Onyx did them justice, thanks to the four speakers and two passive radiators packed into its distinctive round enclosure. The Onyx has a stainless steel handle that makes it look a ringed planet. It’s big for a portable speaker, and well-built, but it’s light and easy to carry.
Best is that it sounded great — rich, balanced and loud. It has every connection option under the sun, including AirPlay (via Wi-Fi), DLNA and NFC/Bluetooth for our Android friends. Buttons are touch-sensitive and there’s a simple, easy-to-use app that can be downloaded from the App Store. Battery life wasn’t great (five hours unwired/ eight hours wired), but it was adequate for a long afternoon’s partying. It’s a bit pricey ($399 on Amazon) but for a speaker of this high quality, well worth it. — Leander Kahney
I think fuchsia is your color. Photo: Eli Milchman
LAS VEGAS — It was only a matter of time before the behemoths of the fitness world jumped into the fitness-band fight; although considering Garmin has been making wrist-borne fitness gadgets for ages (in the guise of their Forerunner line) one might have expected their new Vivofit to have arrived much sooner.
It’s become horribly obvious that the more a driver fiddles with their phone, the better chance they have of becoming involved in a car accident. But even taking one’s eyes off the road can be problematic — so Slovakian-based Sygic has added a head-up display mode to their iOS turn-by-turn navigation apps that tries to alleviate the problem by keeping the driver’s eyes focused on the road.
Garmin has just announced a neat new HUD box that takes the map info from your iPhone and projects it up onto your car windshield. Named after the Paul Newman character in the movie of the same name, the HUD is designed to work with Garmin’s Navigon and Street Pilot apps, connecting to the host phone via Bluetooth.
RFLKT by Wahoo Category: Sports/Fitness Works With: iPhone 4S+5, iPad 3,4, mini Price: $130
The promise of the Wahoo RFLKT is of a tiny, ultralight box with an LCD readout which displays information from an iPhone cycling app on the handlebars of your bike. You get the advantage of using your favorite tracking app, and also of having an easy to read and control HUD, instead of having to buy an expensive GPS-enabled bike computer.
LAS VEGAS, CES 2013 – End-of-lifing the Garmin EDGE 500 bike computer is a little like Apple ditching the iPod mini. It’s a classic which would surely keep selling millions for years to come. But the new EDGE 510 is as odd a replacement as the iPod nano, only it’s bigger, not smaller.