Motorola MotoACTV Fitness Tracker/Smartwatch Review

MotoActv Watch

Verizon Wireless was kind enough to send over a MotoACTV for me to use and I’ve really enjoyed my time with this little device.

Currently, there are several companies making compact exercise computers or fitness trackers. Garmin, Polar, Timex and Nike have all been in that business for years. And recently, we have seen a huge increase in demand for “smartwatches”.  In fact, the Pebble smartwatch became the most popular Kickstarter project ever by receiving over 10 million dollars in funding from almost 70 thousand backers.

Its obvious that both fitness trackers and smartwatches have a market, well Motorola’s MotoACTV appears to be a combination of the two. Officially, Motorola calls it a fitness tracker and it does excel as a exercise accessory.  But it also includes features found on the smartest of smartwatches. Features like a MP3 player and the ability to sync to your smartphone for notifications and answering incoming calls.

So which is it? Well, after using the MotoACTV for a few weeks, I am unable to place it in one single definitive category. Read on for the full review to find out why.

In the box:

MotoActv Unboxing

Included in the box with my MotoACTV review unit was a belt clip, Motorola stereo headphones with in-line mic and remote, dual USB wall charger, a USB data cable and a few manuals.

The included headphones are actually pretty nice and they came with various sizes of replacement tips, which is always nice. I was also impressed to see that Motorola included a dual USB charger.

 

MotoActv Watch Band

Verizon Wireless also sent along the wrist strap.  This accessory allows you to wear the MotoACTV as a watch, but is usually sold separately. I am not crazy about the red coloring, but I’d still recommend it to anyone that is going to buy a MotoACTV.  It is a high-quality accessory that is comfortable to wear and easy to put on and remove.

 

Hardware:

MotoActv

The MotoACTV is a compact device that is similar to the iPod Nano in appearance. Measuring just 1.8 inches on both sides and 0.4 inches thick, its slightly larger and thicker than the Nano, but keeps the same squarish form factor. The device itself is comprised of a small display that is surrounded by several buttons, a micro USB port and a 3.5mm head phone jack. Motorola used metal everywhere possible while constructing the MotoACTV and the result is a surprisingly solid feeling gadget that weights in at 1.2 ounces.

While tiny, the 1.6 inch (176×220 pixels) touch-screen display is responsive, bright and easy to read. A light sensor helps ensure screen readability in any lighting condition and will even turn the display black-and-white when needed. The display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass, which makes it very resistant to scratching while the watch body itself is sweat and rain resistant.

 

MotoActv Belt Clip

Along the top, there is a Start and Music button. On the right side you have individual volume control keys and the power button. The 3.5mm head phone jack is located on the bottom, while a micro USB port for charging and data transfers occupies the left side. All of the buttons are made of high quality metal and provide good feeling when pressed. The USB port includes a built-in rubber plug to keep water and sweat out.

Internally, the MotoACTV features a 600 MHz OMAP3 (3630) ARMv7 processor and 256MB of RAM. Connectivity options include 802.11B/G/N Wi-Fi as well as Bluetooth 4.0 and ANT+ technologies for use with your phone and existing fitness sensors. Motorola also added an accelerometer that functions as a pedometer, a GPS receiver for tracking outdoor activities and if that isn’t enough, they also give you a FM tuner. There is no internal speaker on the MotoACTV.

I am really impressed with the MotoACTV’s design and build quality, everything looks and feels great and it is obvious that Motorola spent a lot of time making it a high-quality device.

Software:

MotoActv Droid Razr

Motorola took Google’s Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) operating system, made a bunch of tweaks to it and put the resulting feature-rich software on the tiny MotoACTV. It was a great decision by Motorola. The software found on the MotoACTV puts other exercise tracking and smartwatches software to shame. It is more like a miniature smartphone than a standard MP3 player or a sports watch like the Garmin Forerunner.

Motorola gave the MotoACTV an intuitive and easy to navigate user interface. Users interactive with the device by either swiping back and forth on the touch screen or by using a series of long or short button presses. Available menus include Settings, Workout, Clock, Music and Notifications. Tapping on a selected menu takes you to the available options for that category. It’s all ridiculously simply to learn and use and the hardware buttons allow for easier operation while exercising.

The MotoACTV provides ongoing tracking of fitness performance stats, including your pace, distance, calories burned, and a map of route covered. All of this information is automatically synced to your MotoActv.com portal for later analysis.

Standard workout options include walking, running, cycling, elliptical and step machines. But there is a plethora of other activities available, stuff like Martial Arts, Snow Boarding and Gymnastics. All told, there are 40 different types of activities that can be tracked using the MotoACTV.

User customizable data fields allow you to change what information is displayed depending on your selected activity and preference. Arrangements include either three or six metrics that can be made up of time, speed, distance, calories, heart rate, laps, step rate and interval intensity. And the MotoACTV can be set up to notify you when you have accomplished your per-determined exercise goals.

 

Motorola also equipped the MotoACTV with a intelligent music player. It tracks your performance stats overtime while different songs are being played and uses the collected information to recommend the songs from your playlist that help you perform your best. The feature sounds niffty on paper, but I’m not sure how effective it is in real-world use.  I know certain songs can motivate me to be active more than others, but I never noticed the MotoACTV selecting any of them from my music.  With that said, it does do a great job as a standard, everyday MP3 player.  Music played from it sounds great and the transfer process is made easy with the included MotoCast software. My review unit included 8GB of internal storage. If you grow bored of your selection of music; you can always switch to the radio with the included FM tuner.

 

Another nice feature of the MotoACTV is it’s ability to sync with your Android smartphone for calls and messages. I paired my review unit with a Motorola Droid Razr and stereo Bluetooth headphones and they all worked together great. Calls were sent from the phone to the MotoACTV and finally to my headphones.  Everything worked as it should with no noticeable loss in call quality.

Conclusion:

MotoActv Package

Motorola has created a gadget that can be appreciated by a lot of different types of customers. It works great as a fitness accessory, a MP3 player, a smartwatch or just a odd miniature Android-powered device. It serves so many different purposes that it is kind of hard to compare it with just a normal MP3 player, exercise computer or smartwatch.

I know someone that wears a MotoACTV daily just because of the notification system and MP3 player. To him it is nothing more than a smartwatch. I also know of someone that is a serious runner that trains with her MotoACTV paired to a Garmin heart rate monitor and rarely uses the music features or notifications. To her, the MotoACTV is a fitness tracker. Both of them use the device for two completely different things, but both seem to be very happy with it.

Personally speaking, I am not a fitness junky. I do try to stay active and get away from my computer desk as often as possible. But I am not serious enough about it that I would need most of the MotoACTV’s fitness features. However, I still want one. Just because it makes such a great smartwatch.

The Motorola MotoACTV is available from Verizon Wireless for $149