TomTom, the navigation and mapping company, entered the domain of GPS running watches four years ago. The Dutch company has infused its background and knowledge into its wearables, and produced some worthy products for athletes. But with its latest entry, the Tomtom Touch, it is taking on the much bigger casual fitness market.
As such, the Touch tracks a number of routine parameters: steps, calories burned, distance travelled, and sleep time. In addition, it sports a built-in heart rate monitor and a touchscreen display, and offers phone notifications. Its body is rated IPX7 for water resistance. To set it apart from the competition, TomTom has come up with one unique feature – the Touch is capable of analysing your body composition, which means it can measure body fat and muscle mass percentage.
Going by its form and design, the Touch’s closest cousin is the Fitbit Alta, though we wouldn’t go so far as to call the Touch fashionable. Here’s why: TomTom has opted for a boring, bland rubber watchband that cannot be changed. A few colours other than black are available outside India, but not here. Either way, the Touch isn’t a tracker that you’ll want people to notice on your wrist, let alone show it off.
The Touch fares rather poorly in terms of usability. The main unit can be removed from the rubber band, but the mechanism holding it in is awkward to use. Putting the tracker back into its clasp is one of the most frustrating things about the Touch. TomTom has gone for a pin-and-hole fastener instead of a buckle, much like Fitbit with the Alta. However, the holes are on the upper half of the strap and the pins on the bottom. When you try to put this device on, the pins end up poking your arm, which isn’t the most comfortable experience.
Fit isn't a problem, as there are enough holes to fasten the band comfortably. You can get the Touch with either a small band or a large one. Like other companies, TomTom advises you to measure your wrist before you decide between them. If it's between 125mm and 165mm, you're better off with the small one, while the large size is suitable for people whose wrists measure between 143mm and 206mm.
The band seems to get easily damaged, and our review unit clearly showed scuffs and nicks over time. Also, you’ll need to pop the tracker out of the band every time you need to charge it, because the Micro-USB port is concealed. Hiding it was the only way TomTom could make the Touch splash-proof without resorting to a proprietary charger like other companies. We were happy to see a standard Micro-USB port, which means you won't have to worry about charging if you don’t have the cable that came with it.
Display, navigation, and performance
Though the Touch has a monochrome touchscreen, the only way to wake it up is to press the round silver button on the front. A single press brings up the display, and you can then scroll through pages by swiping up and down. The first screen shows the time and your daily step progress. If you swipe up you’ll see activity tracking, body composition, and heart rate readings. If you swipe the other way, you’ll get your step count, calories burned, distance covered, active time, and sleep duration.
Inexplicably, the screen can’t wake up when you raise or tilt your arm. This makes the Touch generally annoying enough to use, and it’s a lot more frustrating than other similar products. Having to tap the button interrupts your flow, but what’s worse is that you have to hold down the same button to end your exercise routine, and it’s too easy to do accidentally press down for too long in the middle of a workout.
Unfortunately, the problems with the Touch don’t end there. Like with the Fitbit Charge 2 and Samsung Gear Fit 2, you can start and end activity tracking from the wearable itself. However, unlike both those products, the TomTom Touch doesn’t let you specify what activity you’re about to undertake – the only way to do that is from the app, and that too only after finishing.
The Touch doesn’t have a built-in GPS chip or even connected GPS which its competitors offer. That means while it’s in activity tracking mode, the Touch only shows you the current time, time elapsed, calories burned, and heart rate. Even after synchronising the Touch with the TomTom Sports app, the only additional information you get is your stride rate and the amount of time spent in different heart rate zones – fat burn, speed, or sprint. While the app has a clean look, it doesn’t do a good job of organising and arranging all the information it presents.
Since the Touch doesn’t work with your smartphone to record distance, you don’t get any data on that front. The app does show the total distance covered for the day, but that’s only an estimation based on the number of steps you’ve taken, and not connected in any way to your phone’s GPS. When you’ve got competing brands offering such features (at very similar prices), it’s hard not to see this as a shortcoming. TomTom seems to be reserving distance tracking for its more expensive GPS running watches, which is disappointing.
The TomTom Touch’s inability to show distance data for activities also meant that we were unable to compare its accuracy against a mile marker. Instead, we tested its step tracking accuracy against the Fitbit Alta, which demonstrated a mere 3-5 percent difference with an iPhone’s own measurements when we reviewed it. By that standard, the Touch seemed to be record even less, around 10-15 percent on most days (with an average of 2,000 steps a day).
USP, and missing basic features
The Tomtom Touch doesn’t have anything to show off beyond its USP, which is body composition analysis. Here’s how TomTom has enabled this. When you wear the Touch, its underside is in contact with your skin. If you place your other hand’s index finger on the silver button, a mild electric pulse is sent from one arm to the other through your body in a process known as Bioelectric Impedance Analysis. Once the process is complete, you’ll see a tick mark on the screen, and you need to open the app to see the result.
The thing is, there is no easy way to estimate body fat percentage. The two current gold standards are underwater weighing and DEXA scans. Both of these can be expensive – the latter more so – which makes them unviable for most people. BIA is used by some health clinics and it can be accurate when done with professional-level equipment; home and handheld devices don’t follow that pattern. This means you shouldn’t expect a high level of accuracy from the Touch.
Essentially, body composition analysis should be seen as a bonus feature at best, not something that you should base serious health-related decisions on. It also doesn’t make up for the fact that the Touch is missing many features which are considered basic for a fitness tracker. For one, it doesn’t have an altimeter, so you can’t record the number of steps you’ve climbed. You can track sleep, but this wearable doesn’t do silent alarms. It doesn’t nudge you to move when you’re inactive, and it lacks automatic tracking which means it won’t log impromptu bursts of exercise. There’s also no way to log food, water, or caffeine intake.
Phone notifications on the TomTom Touch are heavily limited. It supports calls and text messages, but just as icons. You can’t tell who’s calling, or what a message says. This is a fraction of what the Alta can do, let alone the Gear Fit 2 which even supports limited kinds of replies with Android phones.
Socially, the TomTom app is also a dud. One of the reasons for Fitbit’s immense success in the casual fitness market is its community features and the gamification of competitive goal tracking. Fitbit, and other manufactures, have realised that people tend to be much more active if they have someone to impress. There’s no social aspect to the TomTom Touch, and that’s quite disappointing.
TomTom is using the appeal of body composition to make the Touch look good against its competition, but Fitbit has come up with its own unique features too. Starting with the Charge 2, Fitbit devices track a new metric called Cardio Fitness Level (an estimation of VO2 Max). There’s also guided breathing, which is available on smartwatches such as the Apple Watch with watchOS 3. With the Gear Fit 2, Samsung redefined what to expect at this price range – built-in Wi-Fi and GPS, a Super AMOLED display, and even a music player with onboard storage.
The Touch is only sweat-, rain-, and splash-proof, like most Fitbit products. TomTom advises users not to swim or bathe with it. The Gear Fit 2, meanwhile, is rated to survive in up to five feet of water for up to 30 minutes.
TomTom says users can expect five days of battery life, but we got only four days on average. For what it’s worth, battery life varies depending on usage, so it might differ for you.
In India, TomTom has priced the Touch at Rs. 13,999 for both the small and large band versions. At this price, it’s impossible to recommend buying this product, considering the things it can’t do and the features you get with alternatives from Fitbit and Samsung.
If you would like to join Fitbit’s extensive community, the Charge 2 retails officially at Rs. 14,999, with actual prices lower than that depending on the colour and band you choose. The Samsung Gear Fit 2 sells for as little as Rs. 9,990 and blows the Touch out of the water in every respect.
Frankly, there’s no reason to buy the TomTom Touch. If you’re looking for a premium fitness tracker, you’ll find better comfort, features, and tracking elsewhere.
Ratings (out of 5)
Other features: 2
Value for money: 2
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