Go for a run. Listen to music. Track your location. Get messages. Don't bring your phone. That's the elevator pitch for the Timex Ironman One GPS+, a stand-alone smartwatch that doesn't need any phone to connect to: it gets its own cellular signal, and connects with AT&T's wireless network to get messages and even send them, too.
Sound too good to be true? Well, if you're a fitness nut who hates running with a phone, this might be your dream device. It's a product that, while novel, has its own quirks to consider: a high price ($400 in North America, pricing and availability for other regions has not yet been announced), and necessary cellular data service among them. But it could be an indicator that future smartwatches are going to try to stand on their own, too.
The Timex Ironman One GPS+ looks like it fell out of someone's early-2000s technology time capsule: an ugly plastic design and boxy display give it a weird, specialty-device look. But, that's really what the Ironman One is meant to be: a rugged, durable watch for on-the-go fitness and connectivity, not a sleek fashion watch.
In a lot of ways, this Timex watch seems like the Adidas miCoach Smart Run that debuted last year, minus the onboard heart-rate tracker, meshed with the Qualcomm Toq. Except, this watch can also get cellular data. If you're not completely immersed in the smartwatch world, just consider this a type of super-smart runner's watch.
This is also, as I said above, a smartwatch without a smartphone, and that's the chief advantage which sets it apart from other phone-tethered smartwatches out there already. That means you can get email and messages, and respond to them via a pop-up onscreen keyboard.
AT&T will include a year of free data service to the Ironman watch for US and Canadian customers, but beyond that it'll cost to stay connected. It's not clear how much. The watch has HSPA connectivity and uses a cloud-delivery service powered by Synchronoss.
More interesting is the watch's ability to send alert messages in case you're hurt or need help. That could be a killer app, if done properly. Find Me mode also sends out the wearer's exact location in the event of emergency.
The watch can track speed, distance and pace and pair with popular fitness apps Runkeeper, Strava and MapMyFitness. It also works with external heart-rate monitor bands you wear around your chest. You can order your Ironman watch bundled with a monitor for $450. It's also water-resistant up to 50 meters, which you'd expect from an outdoor sports watch.
Mirasol display: Perfect for outdoors
Remember the Qualcomm Toq? The Qualcomm-manufactured smartwatch, with its daylight-friendly color Mirasol display, was more of a concept device to show off how that bright e-ink display would be perfect on a wearable. It actually looks better in direct sunlight, much like an e-ink e-reader. It's backlit at night on the Ironman watch with Indiglo.
Oh, and it's a touch display, too, unlike the Pebble Watch, which uses a reflective LCD and side buttons. I haven't used this Ironman, but the Mirasol touchscreen responsiveness on the Toq was a little sluggish, more like what you'd get on a Kindle Paperwhite than an Android Wear watch. Maybe that's been improved.
It should be one of the most sunlight-friendly watches next to the Pebble, but that doesn't necessarily mean stellar battery life; with GPS and cellular turned on, the watch lasts an estimated 8 hours.
The Ironman One GPS+ can be preordered now, but it won't be available until November. By then other alternative types of fitness smartwatches should be in full force. How many of them will also be smartphone-free isn't clear, but my bet would be it won't be the only one. But this could end up being the best smartwatch for survivalists and lumberjacks...provided there's a battery charger nearby.