While phone makers often attempt to sell you on trivial trinkets and non-practical doodads in order to differentiate themselves, every now and then a phone delivers a legitimately novel and avant-garde “killer app”.
Now that is currently a relatively untapped market for cell phones that has typically been satisfied through other devices or traditional gyms.
So what about embedding fitness functionality in your mobile phone? Now that’s novel – and the Sony Ericsson W580i Walkman has done it with relative ease and effectiveness.
Since I was specifically interested in reviewing this phone for its fitness applications, I’m focusing my analysis on that aspect of the W580i. The rest of what you’d expect in a modern-day phone is there as well (and it comes in black, white, pink and jungle green).
Before you tear into its fitness functionality, you may (or may not) notice one glaring element of criticism: Where’s the fitness? The relatively revolutionary technology embedded in this phone is unfortunately somewhat buried. If I were Sony Ericsson, I’d brand the W580i as a “fitness phone” on the box, on the manual and most certainly on the phone itself. Instead, it’s downplayed.
If you don’t buy the phone for this specific purpose, you may instead just happen to find it one day while scrolling through the phone’s menus or perusing the manual (which many people don’t do). If you weren’t sold on the feature in the first place, it may merely come to you a surprise perk later on. This is a mistake.
Yes, you have now discovered the W580i’s interesting and practical fitness feature. Before you get started, though, make sure to introduce yourself to the W580i now that the W580i has introduced itself to you. In “Fitness” mode, scroll down to “Settings” and then “Personal Data”.
Enter your height, weight, year of birth and gender to improve its calorie-counting accuracy so the W580i can specifically customize itself to you. I don’t mind this one-time requirement and it’s simple to do. On the other hand, you’ll notice “Advanced Calibration” on that screen as well.
I’ve found that important for its distance calibration, but on the flip side, it’s somewhat cumbersome to request of a first-time user. The W580i will ask you to walk a “known distance” and then record how many yards you traveled. Because using yards instead of feet may be a bit boggling for U.S. customers, you’ll need to remember that there are three feet in a yard.
In addition to remembering some grade-school information, you’ll also need to locate a yardstick at home or some other measuring tool so you can assess how many yards you travel in the W580i’s requested sample walk. Not everyone has a yardstick at home, but hopefully you’ll clear this start-up hurdle.
Once you do, things get interesting. First, you’ll notice the W580i has a built-in pedometer. The “steps” feature counts your walking steps based on movement. If you just walk and hold the W580i still in your hand (which I initially did as a test), the steps might not register correctly. In fact, I initially thought the feature didn’t work.
If you correctly slip the W580i in your pocket and walk with a natural sway in your hips, though, it’ll register relatively accurately. So long as you have “step counting” activated, even if you forget about your W580i while it’s in your pocket or bag it will do its job to track your steps.
The walking feature measures your distance (again unfortunately in yards), the number of steps and how many calories you’ve burnt. You’re able to change certain unit settings – i.e. from kCalories to kJoules or miles to kilometers – but not yards to feet. This should be an option.
Track Your Running
Along with monitoring your walking, the running function is also based on the phone registering your movement. When you begin running, there’s a bit of a delay for the data measuring to kick in. When it does, it does with relative accuracy. This, of course, is all based on the human accuracy of your “advanced calibration” when you manually measured and input yards based on a known walking distance.
But the statistics monitoring becomes really impressive in the “Advanced” section of your “Results” page. This is a Java-powered application that requires a memory stick and connects to a mobile Web site.
Within this more graphical display, you’re hit with additional training data, eye-friendly graphs on up to 20 sessions, motivational medals to reward you for reaching your goals and fitness trivia.
Overall a Revolutionary Fitness Phone
From an overall fitness perspective, the W580i is genuinely innovative, practical and ultimately useful in support of a healthy lifestyle.
But the W580i could do more. The W580i doesn’t measure your heart rate. Heart rate is a critical element for many people who work out and closely monitor their results against their goals. This functionality could have been added with a chest strap that wirelessly communications with the W580i. Take note, Sony Ericsson. This is a missed opportunity. Continue reading on page two...
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