TomTom Touch Cardio – everything is difficult at the start
«It doesn’t matter what you do, everything is difficult at the start,» observes Melanie Anna Lee, customer service representative in the digitec shop in Zurich. This was her pithy observation after trying out the TomTom Touch Cardio for four weeks following several months testing three Fitbits. Looking back on the experience, she has mixed feelings about the TomTom, which is surprising given the manufacturer is known for their sat navs. But on the whole, she is optimistic about where the device is heading.
«Read the instruction manual!»
Who actually reads instruction manuals for smart devices? Melanie certainly doesn’t. She does the same as most of us: pressing any old thing in the hope that the intuitive controls will somehow make sense and lead her to what she’s looking for. «Using the same technique for the TomTom was a complete disaster,» she says. The reason being the device isn’t particularly user-friendly.
She gets out the instructions, looks for a guide on set-up and laughs.
«Take a look at that. It’s going on about something to do with radioactive contamination and interference from radio signals.»
And she’s right. It’s written in black and white on page 26 and it probably stays unread in most tracker instruction manuals.
This device generates, uses and can radiate radio frequency energy and, if not installed and used in accordance with the instructions, may cause harmful interference to radio communications.
Not long into the test phase, Melanie goes on holiday to Bangkok, leaving the TomTom at home. She knew she was going to have to put her mobile phone on airplane mode, so she didn’t want to take any risks. «I’m pretty sure the trackers are harmless on a plane, but I’d rather not take it with me than risk crashing,» she explains with a smile.
Our tester Melanie is quick to conclude that you can do the set-up on a mobile but she would rather rely on the PC version – she says it’s quicker. She recommends reading the instructions, even if that goes against her usual policy for devices she buys for private use.
Using the tracker after an accident
The month with the TomTom is action-packed. We didn’t count the time Melanie was on holiday as part of the test period. On top of that, she ended up having an accident. She fell one Sunday while hurtling down a hill on her drift trike.
The result? Melanie got bored. The lively German normally takes about 20,000 steps round the digitec shop every day, talks to countless customers and also has a private life. Now she is on sick leave, holed up at home because everything hurts.
«It seemed like a good time to go through all the buttons to test out what the tracker can do,» she says.
There was one thing she was quick to pick up on. Although the hardware can do a lot, the software lags behind somewhat. For instance, the device only started showing a meaningful heart rate value after an update near the end of the trial. Initially, it only showed an average pulse rather than a value over a certain period of time. «This is testament to the fact that TomTom actively works on its software and isn’t satisfied with their current product,» she explains. It’s obvious that the small, black thing on your wrist gives a live reading of your pulse, as you can follow your heartbeat in real time on the tracker’s display. But Melanie doesn’t think it makes much sense not to show a graph for the day. «I’d like to have seen what my heart rate looked like on the tracker when I had the accident, as it felt like a real adrenaline rush.»
«On the whole, the app has its quirks,» she tells me. As a commuter, Melanie spends a lot of time on the train. During one of her journeys, a notification popped up on the TomTom telling her «you didn’t reach your daily step target today». «I only stopped moving for a few minutes when my phone thought I’d suddenly gone off somewhere.»
- The TomTom Touch Cardio sometimes syncs well with the smartphone but sometimes not at all.
- It thinks Melanie is sleeping when she takes it off.
- Whenever Melanie manually turns off Bluetooth on her smartphone, the app keeps popping up with warning messages, pestering for a Bluetooth connection.
This is all the more frustrating given how much the app could probably do given half a chance.
The app with potential
The TomTom sports app (Android and Apple iOS) is a product that Melanie thinks is still in the development phase. But if the current functions and controls are anything to go by, we should all be watching this space.
Unlike competitor models, this app lets you customise the interface. «If you don’t want to see how fat you’ve become, you can just stop the weight value showing up,» she quips. She clears her throat and corrects herself. «You can alter the user interface according to each sport.» But she can’t keep a straight face with that statement either. Marketing speak doesn’t really suit her the way cheekiness does.
Although the complete configurability of the user interface might not be intuitive in places, it does give the user a lot of freedom. If you want to pick out specific data and be able to display it quickly, you’re probably better off with the TomTom app than one that just summarises all the data and shoves it on one screen. She thinks back to the pulse graph that she only discovered after an update. «The graph might have been there before but was just well hidden.» She explains that the update could just have placed the option in a more prominent position. As Melanie wasn’t able to do a downgrade during the trial period no matter how much she tried, she wants to put the question to you.
Do you know if the graph that shows the pulse rate rather than a daily average analysis was there before? Let us know in the comments.
Competition in a year’s time
Even though the device didn’t blow her socks off, she doesn’t want to write off the TomTom Touch Cardio altogether. The set-up was slightly taxing compared with what you can expect from competitor models. Software-wise, the functions also aren’t 100% there. They pop up and then all of a sudden disappear into the depths of the app. But what the TomTom does have in bucketloads is appeal – and a manufacturer who is working on upping their game.
When it comes down to it, Melanie admits she wouldn’t be tempted to buy the TomTom Touch Cardio yet. When she talks about the device, she seems to be torn between frustration and optimism. She likes the idea of the tracker and its apps more than the reality of them. But as the app has regular updates, she feels she can conclude on a positive note. «In a year’s time, TomTom will probably be fantastic. Until then, users will have to watch it grow before their eyes.»