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Garmin Forerunner 15 review: sports watch first, fitness tracker second

Garmin Forerunner 15 review: sports watch first, fitness tracker second

As the reviews editor for this tech blog, I often get asked which fitness tracker I own. And I tell people: I don’t need one, silly; I run marathons. Maybe that sounds snotty, but it’s true: During training season, at least, I’m probably more active than most people buying a fitness band. And besides, I already own a running watch to track my time, distance and pace. That doesn’t mean I can’t use a little extra motivation, though. My activity slowed to a crawl this winter, precisely because I was burned out from all those long training runs. (The frigid weather didn’t help either.) At one point, I didn’t exercise for nearly two weeks. I gained back the weight I lost last year, and my muscle mass shrank. It now hurts to do squats. Even so, asking me to wear another device is a tough sell — especially when it means my stats are getting spread across different services.

For people like me, there’s the Garmin Forerunner 15, a sports watch that doubles as a fitness tracker. Like other running watches, including those made by Garmin, the Forerunner 15 tracks your distance, pace and time. It’s offered with an optional heart rate monitor, and has a handy run-walk setting. But it also tracks your activity between workouts, telling you how many steps you’ve taken and how many calories you’ve burned. It issues not-so-subtle reminders to move, lest you spend too much time in your cubicle. At the same time, it doesn’t do everything a standalone fitness tracker would: It doesn’t monitor your sleep habits, and you can’t log your food intake directly from the app. Priced at $170 ($200 with the heart rate monitor), it costs more than your typical fitness tracker, but it’s cheap for a running watch. So is it a good deal? That all depends on your priorities.


Compared to other fitness trackers on the market — models from Jawbone, Fitbit and Nike — the Forerunner 15 is bulky, especially sporty-looking. Remember, though, that this is a running watch we’re talking about, not so much a fitness tracker. And compared to other sports watches, it’s actually pretty lightweight. Like many of you, I’m upgrading from an older model, a much-clunkier watch called the Forerunner 110. And let me tell you: The weight difference is noticeable. The first time I put this on, I kept glancing back at my wrist as I ran up the block, as if I had forgotten something at home. Nope, that’s just what it feels like to take a load off.

For the purposes of this review, Garmin loaned me a black watch with electric-green accents. Not the color scheme I would have picked, but real-life shoppers will at least get a choice. In addition to the green-and-black one, you can order it in black with blue accents, red with black accents, teal with white or violet with white. Regardless, it’s not going to blend in with your everyday outfits the way a Jawbone Up24 would, especially in these summer months when covering it with long sleeves isn’t really an option. Most days, I stuck it out, even if the watch didn’t go with my dress, but there were a few days when I sacrificed fitness for style and decided to leave the band at home.

As it happens, the size and design are identical to the Forerunner 10, a cheaper, $130 watch from Garmin that doesn’t include features like continuous step counting, heart rate tracking and interval training. Like the Forerunner 10, it has a plastic band with lots of sizing holes; and a 55 x 32-pixel display that shows two lines of text and is easy to read outdoors. It’s also waterproof up to 50 meters, meaning you can shower with the thing, or even go swimming with it if you’re so inclined (note: Garmin warns against wearing this for high-speed water sports like jet skiing, as a wipeout could still break the watch).

In the box, you’ll also find a proprietary cradle that plugs into your computer’s USB port — you’ll use that for charging and syncing the device. If I’m honest, I would have preferred a standard micro-USB charger, but at least the cradle is sturdier than on the 110. With the 110, I would sometimes wake up for a run to find that my watch wasn’t actually charged. On the Forerunner 15, the cradle snaps in, so you never have to wonder if the charging points are properly aligned. Also, proprietary cable or no, the setup here is quite simple: I’ve just been leaving the cradle plugged into my laptop, which means I typically charge the watch long before I need to. Speaking of which, the Forerunner 15 is rated for five weeks in watch mode and eight hours of running, so your mileage will vary depending on your exercise regimen. That said, I recently completed a two-hour run and still had three out of four bars of battery life, which means Garmin’s claims are probably pretty accurate.


Similar to other fitness trackers, you’ll need to first walk through a short setup on the watch itself. In particular, you’ll be asked to divulge a few specifics about yourself, including weight, height, gender and birth year. You can also set a max heart rate — a sort of redline, if you will — though that’s, of course, optional, especially if you didn’t bother to buy the available heart rate monitor. Once you do that, you’re ready to start moving.

All told, the learning curve should be pretty slight. The Forerunner 15 has four buttons along the sides, which you’ll use to find your way through the settings. These include: an “enter” key on the upper right; a button on the upper left to light up the screen; one on the lower left to navigate backward; and one on the lower right to cycle through menu options. With so few buttons, then, figuring out which to press basically comes down to a process of elimination.

As I said earlier, the display has room for two lines’ worth of information and by default, the time always sits on top. As for slot number two? You could see the date, your step count for the day, your calorie burn or your daily step goal. To cycle through these, just press the button on the lower-left side of the device. You’ll hear a beep every time you press a button and believe me, that can get a little annoying, since some menus are several layers deep. Fortunately, though, you can silence key tones from the settings if they start to annoy you.

In use

Even if you never log a run, you’ll be getting use out of the Forerunner 15: Start walking around and it logs your steps. Stay still for too long, and it’ll beep, with the word “Move!” showing up on-screen. And it’ll stay there, right in your face, until you get up and walk around for at least two minutes. It’s more or less the same approach Garmin takes with its higher-end Vivofit tracker, except in that case, it’s a red line, not the word “move.” Either way, it’s highly effective: A competing band might vibrate once when you’re in the middle of a meeting, at which point you can pretend the reminder never happened. Here, the reminders are discreet — and persistent.

As on the Vivofit, too, your daily step goal automatically changes from day to day depending on how active you’ve been recently. So, if you exceed your goal, your daily target will keep inching up. If you miss your goal, you might see it dip slightly the following day. What’s especially convenient is that either way, your step target will change gradually. So, if I go on an 11-mile run, it won’t drastically skew my daily step goal unless I consistently travel such long distances.

As a running watch, the Forerunner 15′s built-in GPS radio located my coordinates reasonably quickly, especially if I was in a spot where I’d been before (the front of my apartment building, for instance, where I begin most of my workouts). The watch is also good at holding onto that signal, especially compared to my older Forerunner 110, which sometimes lost track of where I was, even after it established my starting location. The distance tracking is also spot-on — it accurately pegged the distance around Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, for instance, basically matching the distance posted online.

Though the watch is designed so that you can use it out of the box with barely any setup, there are still a couple things you might want to tweak before going on your first run. By default, the watch shows your distance and elapsed time as you’re running. That’s fine for me personally, but if you like, you can instead have the watch show time and pace, time and calories burned, pace and distance, pace and calories, or distance and calories. Ideally, of course, you could view your pace, distance and time all at once, but that’s just not possible with this watch; you’d have to instead upgrade to a higher-end model like the Forerunner 220. Unfortunately, too, the watch doesn’t automatically cycle through these various screens — the 220 does, but not the Forerunner 15. No, you’ll have to press a button if you want to see your other stats.

Like the lower-priced Forerunner 10, the 15 allows you to set up timed intervals. (No distance intervals, though.) This is great for speed work — say, running five minutes at tempo pace and resting for 30 seconds in between. In my case, timed intervals allow me to alternate between running and walking, which is actually all I do these days; ever since coming back from an injury two years ago, I’ve been sticking with three minutes on and one minute off.

So, to recap: Timed intervals are a useful feature, and one I’d recommend you try. My only issue is that the speakers on either side of the device aren’t very loud, and the volume isn’t adjustable either, which means I sometimes fail to hear the “walk” beeps over the sound of my headphones. To be fair, weak speakers are a problem with running watches in general — that’s why many of the walk-runners I know opt for a standalone Gymboss timer instead. If you go for something like the Forerunner 220, you can also opt for a vibration alert, which is impossible to ignore, but that’s simply not an option here.

Other features include Auto Lap, which tells you your time for each mile, and Auto Pause, which automatically freezes the clock when it detects you’ve stopped (super handy if you get held up at a traffic light and don’t want to worry about manually un-pausing the timer). Meanwhile, Garmin’s “Virtual Pacer” feature compares your current pace to your target one. Finally, the watch is compatible with foot pods, allowing you to record your distance indoors. (Note: Even without a foot pod, you can log your time running indoors.)


Unlike other fitness trackers, the Forerunner 15 doesn’t have wireless syncing, which means you’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way: by plugging your watch into your computer using the included cable. Keep in mind that when you connect the device for the first time, you won’t see any sort of prompt to download the corresponding software; you need to do that yourself. Heck, even once the software is installed, your watch won’t sync automatically, either. Sort of annoying, that.

To be clear, there are actually two pieces of software: a Mac/PC client for syncing your data and updating the watch’s firmware; and an Android/iOS app where you can view your data. In either case, you’ll need to create a Garmin account, or log in using some other popular service (Facebook, Twitter, G+, Microsoft, Yahoo or even LinkedIn). It’s worth noting that there’s a Garmin Connect website too, though I generally prefer the apps: They have a touch-friendly layout that makes it easy to tap the various “cards” for more detail. With the website, clicking on the cards doesn’t do anything; you have to press a specific button to show them at full-screen, which quickly grows tiresome. Either way, it’s a straightforward, if crude, experience, but I do appreciate how customizable it is: Being able to remove cards you don’t need helps keep things simple.

As I found, the app is what you make of it: You might choose to add friends (“connections”), but Garmin doesn’t make this easy. Surprisingly, there’s no way to search your contacts for people who are also using the service. On a similar note, you can sign up for challenges, like who among your contacts can take the most steps in a day. Again, though, this kind of friendly competition seems less enticing when you don’t know any of your opponents in real life. You could also manually enter your sleep data — when you went to bed and when you woke up — but the watch doesn’t currently track your sleep patterns on its own. There’s also an option to track calorie intake, but you can’t do that from the app itself, as you can with Fitbit’s or Jawbone’s fitness trackers. Instead, Garmin allows you to link up your MyFitnessPal account, and port over your food log from there.

If nothing else, you’ll want to use the app to track your activity. As a warning, the watch itself only has enough memory to store seven days’ worth of data, so make sure to sync at least once a week. Inside the app, you’ll see a dial of sorts indicating how far along you are toward meeting that day’s step goal. Likewise, if you’re looking at a previous day, you’ll see at a glance if you made your quota. Additionally, those charts are color-coded, with green for days you met or exceeded your goal, and blue for days you didn’t. From there, you can drill down by day, week, month or year. Finally, there are graphs at the bottom showing when your activity peaked or slumped. If you’re like me, you ran five miles before work and then settled into your cubicle all day.

All things considered, I could do without the app; just compete against a daily step goal, time my runs and not worry about my data history. Because here’s the thing: Not only is the app limited in what it can do, but it also doesn’t offer much in the way of encouragement. What if you exceed your daily step goal by three-fold? No celebration for you. And what if you run 10 miles before 9AM? You’ll later get the same command to “Move!” as you would if you had spent the morning on your couch. To Garmin’s credit, it tracks personal records in running — things like longest distance, et cetera. But as a daily fitness band, the Forerunner 15 never felt like my cheerleader. And let’s be honest, the person who buys this product is probably more interested in their running stats anyway. Even so, when someone decides to wear a fitness tracker, it’s probably because they crave a little extra motivation.


I’ll admit, after testing the Forerunner 15, I was tempted to return the pricier Forerunner 220 I recently purchased and get this instead. If you’re like me — a runner who also wants to track activity between workouts — the 15 is a compelling choice. It offers a surprisingly robust feature set, one that’s nearly on par with the 220 (plus fitness tracking, of course). All told, too, what it does, it does well: accurate GPS tracking, combined with long battery life and timely reminders to get up and walk around. True, it doesn’t bother with sleep tracking, but with a design this bulky, I can’t say I’d want to wear it to bed anyway.

There are other compromises as well. Because this is a running watch first and a fitness tracker second, it looks like, well, a running watch, which means you probably won’t want to wear it all the time. There’s sadly no wireless syncing, and thus no seamless way to get all your data on your phone. Also, considering people are getting this watch because they want a little extra motivation throughout the day, it would be nice if the watch and accompanying app did a little more to celebrate your achievements — exceeding your daily step goal, for example. All that said, the Forerunner 15 covers most of the fitness-tracking basics, and costs about the same as a basic runner’s watch. I say that’s a good deal. You know, so long as you’re reasonably serious about running.

Filed under: Wearables



US book publishers now make more money from online sales than physical stores

An e-book app on an iPad

Brick-and-mortar book stores have clearly been on the decline for a while — just look at Barnes & Noble’s rocky finances. However, there’s now some tangible evidence that the pendulum has swung in favor of internet-based sales. BookStats estimates that US publishers made more money from online orders and e-books in 2013 ($7.54 billion) than they did from old-fashioned physical retail ($7.12 billion). While the difference isn’t huge, it suggests that a large chunk of the American population is content with buying books that it hasn’t seen in person.

There is a bit of a dark cloud to this silver lining, at least for the booksellers. BookStats notes that e-book sales jumped about 10 percent to 512.7 million copies, but revenue was flat between 2012 and 2013; it may have been lower prices that triggered a surge in demand, not a renewed interest in going digital. With that said, researchers warn that their data doesn’t include books without ISBN numbers, so quite a few self-published e-books may have slipped through the cracks. Even with that wiggle room in the data, it’s evident that there’s a transition underway — you just shouldn’t expect to see the corner bookstore disappear overnight.

[Image credit: Robert Michael/AFP/Getty Images]

Filed under: Internet


Via: GigaOM

Source: Book Industry Study Group


AT&T Galaxy Note 2 Finally Gets KitKat with Android 4.4.2 Update

I’ve been running KitKat on my trusty old Samsung Galaxy Note 2 for some time now, but the day has finally arrived for AT&T to release the official 4.4.2 KitKat update to the public.  AT&T is just about the last of all the carriers to release the update, but at least they did. The Samsung […]


Seidio Ledger Case for the HTC One M8

There’s already a lot of selection of cases for almost every smartphone available, but when your phone has the popularity of the HTC One series, there’s generally more selection. We’ve been taking a look at a few of the options available for the HTC One M8 and next up is the Seidio Ledger Case.  Design […]


Therapists are turning to the web to help revolutionize mental health treatments

We all know how effective the talking cure can be, but for many people, carving the time out of their schedule to meet a psychotherapist can be impossible, not to mention daunting. Services like Pretty Padded Room have sprung up to provide a solution to these problems, offering secure video chats with mental health professionals as an on-demand service. In a report by WNYC, a 24-year-old entrepreneur reveals that, rather than the confrontational setting we imagine, a spot of online therapy is more akin to “Skyping with a friend.”

Informality aside, another benefit is the cost, given that a 30-minute session costs less than $50, whereas a real-world meeting would be anything up to three times that price. It’s also a neat way to circumvent restrictions if none of the local therapists are signed up to your insurance provider. Online therapy has also been established to be as effective as its counterpart, although it is believed that it’s not as useful for people with severe conditions. There are some issues to overcome, such as privacy concerns, non-qualified service providers and the fact that practitioners are only able to practice in the state where they are licensed. Still, in the same way that Netflix revolutionized movie rental and Uber’s changing transportation, perhaps the Tony Soprano of 2020 will spend more time with their tablet than in the waiting room.

Filed under: Internet


Source: WNYC


Google kills Orkut to focus on YouTube, Blogger and Google+

Google’s long suggested that Orkut, its other social network, was living on borrowed time, but today it’s finally confirmed that the end is coming. The search giant said today that it’ll shut down the service on September 30th in order to shift its focus to bigger projects like YouTube, Blogger and Google+. Although users in the US never really took to it, Orkut remained popular in Brazil and India for the better part of a decade (it’s been maintained by Google Brazil since 2008). However, with Facebook and Google+ continuing to enjoy global growth, Google’s decided the time is right to pull the plug on the service that was originally built as a “20 percent” project. While the company is now blocking new signups, current users can continue to contribute to the site until October. Once the deadline passes, they’ll be able to export their profile data, community posts and photos using Google’s Takeout tool for up to a year after it closes its doors.

[Image credit: coletivomambembe, Flickr]

Filed under: Internet, Google


Source: Orkut Blog


LG’s 77-inch curved OLED 4K TV is every bit as expensive as it sounds

How much would you fork out for a 77-inch, curved, 4K, OLED TV? Well, LG hopes you’re hovering around a couple of grand per descriptor, having announced it’s launching such a gogglebox in the UK for only £20,000. It won’t actually be available until October, though, so you still have a few months to fill up the piggy bank. As you’d imagine, the “world’s first” curved OLED UHDTV packs a ton of branded technologies that promise a perfect picture, including the necessary upscaling engine that converts lower-res video to “near-4K,” as well as LG’s webOS smart TV platform. For the thrifty, there’s a 65-inch model also launching in October for a mere £6000, which you should easily be able to scrape together from the change lurking between your sofa cushions.

Filed under: Home Entertainment, LG



iTunes U on iPad will let teachers create courses and take your questions

iTunes U on an iPad Air

Right now, iTunes U on the iPad isn’t a complete educational tool. You can read textbooks, but not much else — you still need to use old-fashioned email to ask the teacher a question, for example. It’s going to be much more useful on July 8th, when Apple releases a major overhaul to the app. The new iTunes U lets teachers create and manage courses entirely from the iPad, plucking source material from other apps and even the device’s camera. Students, meanwhile, get some much-needed interaction — you can now ask questions from the app, or join in class discussions.

The launch may be well-timed. iTunes U’s upgrade is coming just as Samsung has unveiled a brand new version of its School suite that has its own collaboration tools; teachers can push content to all their students at once, and students can participate in group projects. It also arrives just after Apple lost a lot of support from the Los Angeles school system, which is now diversifying its device mix beyond iPads. It’s too soon to know whether or not the new iOS app will be strong enough to counter the fiercer competition, but it should at least be handy for classes that were already bent on using the iPad as a learning platform.

Filed under: Cellphones, Tablets, Mobile, Apple


Source: App Store, Apple


The best paid RSS reader apps for Android

RSS Featured

I have loads of different websites that I follow whenever I have some down time. Whether I’m at work, home, or out and about for the day, I usually always check out my RSS feeds, and I also check out anything else that I missed, right before I hit the hay for the day. On my iPad and iPhone, I use Unread, which is a new, but beautifully minimal designed RSS reader that is on the top of the list of my favorite iOS applications. When moving to my HTC One M8 or Nexus 5, I never really got settled into an RSS reader, due to how darn picky I can be. Upon joining AndroidGuys, I decided to revisit the situation, and am here to bring you a breakdown of some of the top paid RSS apps available on the Play Store today.

Please note that this post is split over multiple pages.


Press Feeds

Now before I get started, I must mention that while looking for an RSS reader, I look for Instapaper integration. That way if I want to read something at a different time, I can do so. When I was using Android exclusively, I remember taking a really long look at Press. It’s beautifully designed, the fact that a dark theme (I love dark themes) was included, and that it easily synced with Feedly after Google Reader went bye bye. After you have set up your Feedly account, and everything has synced up, you are presented with a unique “home” layout.

The Home “hub” is divided into the specific categories that you created within Feedly, where each of your feeds are displayed. The dots on the right hand side of the screen represent an estimation of how many articles are unread within each category. For example, in the screenshot above, you can see one dot representing the fact that I haven’t missed many articles within my Android section. However, within my Apple category I have a lot of articles that I haven’t skimmed through yet. This is the first instance where Instapaper comes into play. I will skim through my RSS feeds, and if I see something more in depth than a news topic, I will save it to Instapaper, and read it later in the day, or when time allows.

Press Article

There are also three different sections at the top of the Press hub, where you can view your unread RSS feeds, the feeds you’ve already read, and an specific articles that you’ve starred during your RSS adventures. When you’re within a specific article in your RSS feeds, there are a few more buttons to press and play around with. At the top, you can set the specific article to read or unread, favorite the article for later, share, and the menu overflow to access the settings of Press. At the bottom, there is an arrow pointing left to go to the previous article, a icon to view the article in Readability mode, and an arrow pointing to the right, to move onto the next article.

The post The best paid RSS reader apps for Android appeared first on AndroidGuys.


DroidTV is your own DVR in your pocket [App of the Day]


Watch what you want when you want with DroidTV.  The DroidTV app by Northwest Divisional Software Inc. aims to fill your pocket with your favorite shows without draining your pocket of your hard earned money.

Use this amazing app as your own personal DVR, and record shows anytime any day of the week.  Watch your shows at your leisure instead of rushing home to catch your weekly favs.

DroidTV includes Chromecast support so you can still watch your shows in HD on your television

The best part about DroidTV is that its totally legal and very inexpensive. You can have access to your shows for as little as $3.99 a month, or opt for a lifetime subscription for just $49.99.  The DroidTV app even comes with a 14 day free trial. You get full feature access during the trial.

Try DroidTV today and you will be glad you did.

The post DroidTV is your own DVR in your pocket [App of the Day] appeared first on AndroidGuys.

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