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Hands On with the Motorola Droid RAZR and ACTV

Droid RAZR MotoACTV Comments  8  

The MotoACTV is a unique device. Well, almost. It looks like a direct copy of the Sony Ericsson LiveView. But the resemblance is only skin-deep. While both are Android-based watch-like devices with music players, the MotoACTV has a strong fitness bent, with GPS, pedometer, and even remote heart-rate monitoring. It connects to your phone with Bluetooth, and to your home network via Wi-Fi.

While Sony Ericsson opened up to the LiveView to developers, Motorola is not doing the same with the ACTV. The fact that it has Android inside is interesting to industry obvservers, but irrelevant to a consumer, since it's not an Android device in the sense that you can add apps to it.

The ACTV can be worn as a watch, or as an armband, or a clothes clip, or even mounted to your bicycle handlebars.

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ACTV Body  

The design is nice. It's not tiny by watch standards, but it's quite tiny for an Android device with a touch screen that happens to be water-resistant.

The side buttons are for volume and lock-unlock. The "back" key is a touch button on the front, which compliments the touch screen well. The top two buttons are shortcuts to fitness and music functions. The buttons are stiff, but large and work well.

...which are pretty much the only functions anyway. There isn't even a "watch" or alarm or timer function at the main menu level, and there's no "tools" menu, etc. The only way to set an alarm is via one of the fitness apps. So this really isn't designed to be a watch you wear all the time. It's strictly a fitness companion.

The fitness options are quite extensive and seem well thought-out. There are separate functions for running, cycling, certain gym machines, etc. It will track your steps, your heart rate (via Bluetooth headset,) and - in outdoor running and cycling modes - your distance via built-in GPS. It uses this - together with info you've input about yourself, like age and weight - to calculate a very accurate calories-burned display, which resets itself each night.

The heart rate monitoring is key to tracking how truly effective your workout is. The ACTV features ANT+ wireless technology (also seen in many Sony Ericsson phones) for connecting to other fitness devices, including heart rate monitors. But the really innovative way to monitor your heart rate is with the special headphones Motorola also introduced, which have built-in heart rate monitors. That's a lot more convenient - and more comfortable - than a dedicated device strapped around your chest or arm.

ACTV interface  

You can upload all of this data to the web. There's also an Android app, but it's frustratingly limited, serving only as a conduit to get data from the ACTV to the web. The web is where you manage everything, not your phone, which seems like an antiquated way to do it. Why can't you view a map of where you've run, or see a heart rate chart, on your phone? That's just dumb.

One innovative feature is that it will keep track of how hard you're exercising and what you're listening to at each moment, so that over time, it will tell you your "power songs" that seem to motivate you to exercise the hardest. Neat!

You can also use your ACTV together with your phone to view caller-ID info, answer or reject calls, and see incoming text messages. But that's it for phone integration, and the ACTV doesn't connect to cell phone networks itself; only Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. That's fine for a fitness companion, but if you were hoping for a Dick Tracy watch, this isn't it.

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