Up close: Adidas ‘Smart Run’ smartwatch aims to keep pace with hard-core runners

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Adidas made waves in the tech world this week by unveiling its new smartwatch. But the announcement left some key questions unanswered: What is Adidas aiming for with this device? And who?

In an interview with GeekWie after the announcement, Adidas Interactive head Paul Gaudio was quite clear up front: the miCoach Smart Run, as it’s called, isn’t aiming to compete against the Pebble or Galaxy Gear smartwatches. For uploading data to the cloud, the miCoach watch relies on a WiFi modem, rather than connecting to a smartphone. Nor is Adidas aiming to go after the Nike FuelBand.

“That is a different consumer. It’s a lifestyle consumer, and we’re really targeting with this product someone who has a goal, who wants to get better, wants to improve, and is trying to better themselves, in some way, and usually doing so through running,” Gaudio said.

To help that process, the Smart Run has a GPS unit and a heart rate sensor to track how far and how fast someone runs, and how that run affects their heart rate. Using Adidas’s miCoach software, a user will have training information sent to them to help maximize their workouts with training encouragements either transmitted on the screen of the phone or through a set of connected Bluetooth headphones, if a user has them.

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If there’s one thing to be said about the Smart Run, it’s that Adidas was certainly focused when it came to urs vision. Handling the smartwatch, it seems light enough to be comfortable for a day of wear, without getting in the way or throwing you off-balance.

There aren’t any excess features that aren’t targeted towards running. The Smart Run actively avoids any kind of connection to a user’s smartphone–no notifications or phone controls–instead trying to be an all-in-one hub for runners to cut loose from the rest of their lives, but continue to track important metrics about how they run. That’s nothing new in the running space, but Adidas thinks the simplicity of its offering sets the Smart Run apart from the rest of the pack.

“Right now, this kind of technology is rarely simple. You know, it’s rarely easy for people to understand, it requires manuals, requires some greater understanding of the physiology behind it,” Gaudio said.

Instead, Adidas wanted to simplify its offering to the user, so that people who pick up the Smart Run don’t have to spend half an hour with a manual in order to get their watch working.

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A simple interface isn’t going to be what sell a $399 smartwatch, though. Gaudio emphasized that Adidas sees the killer feature of the Smart Run as how it integrates with the company’s miCoach training system.

“It’s about taking data, it’s about generating insights from that data, and turning those insights into an action plan,” Gaudio said.

And what about that price point? Gaudio says that Adidas realizes they’re asking a lot of money for the hardware, but for Adidas, this is just the beginning.

“Obviously, we see ourselves extending this technology into other price points in subsequent seasons, but at this point we want to start with the best and really come out with an experience that meets expectations or exceeds expectations,” he said.

  • Dave

    I will be curious about the value proposition for this versus Garmin’s GPS watches. Garmin’s watches at comparable or cheaper price points have everything the Adidas watch does (but for music player), and those Garmin watches are also good for swim and bike–targeted at triathaletes. Garmin devices also seem to have a better ecosystem of training programs and coaches who know how to create plans for those devices. I cannot recall seeing anyone advertising miCoach programs but I wasn’t really looking so maybe they are there.
    Seems very overpriced relative to the competition for a run only GPS watch but it does look skinnier than some of the high end Garmins.

    • Basil Registers

      Garmin watches do not currently offer wrist pulse sensing. They rely on a separate HR chest monitor, which are unreliable and interfere with running. This watch uses the Mio HR light sensor and works pretty well, certainly getting a good compromise between ease of use and accuracy. Based on the tech involved I think $400 is reasonable.

      • dloeser1

        Its an optical pulse sensor, it uses reflective light through the capillary bed to determine pulse. Similar to how light is used to measure pulse ox. I believe it is the same sensor that is on the Mio Alpha, that sensor is made by Phillips. Garmin watches to do not take accurate HR readings in water, and their watch designed for swimming has no GPS functionality, its simply a glorified accelerometer. The new Polar Loop will work in water, the Mio Alpha does work in the water, but their is no residual data to export unless its synced in realtime with an application. If this works in water then it will be worth every cent, waterproof bluetooth headphones, and all data on the watch will be a swimmers dream.