Reviews

Runtastic Orbit – In Depth Review

September 12, 2014

Runtastic, the company more commonly known for their exercise apps, is no stranger to releasing its in-house exercise accessories and equipment. Nevertheless, the company’s foray onto the wrist estate in the form of a fitness band is a bold one in the midst of multiple Android Wear releases and the recently announced Apple Watch. Is this going to be a drop in the ocean of wearable tech or the trail of a comet that brightens the night with its path. We put it to the test.

Read: Runtastic Moment -Stylish Fitness Wearable released September 2015

Look and Feel

orbit in the box

What’s in the box: 1 blue wrist band, 1 black wrist band, 1 belt clip, charging cable, Runtastic Orbit tracker, instruction manuals.

top and bottom runtastic orbit

Left: The Runtastic Orbit with the display activated. Right: The tiny bump on top of the screen is the ambient light sensor.

The tracker unit is semi-translucent black and it sure has the “fitness tracker” appearance. A main prominent button on the front is the only means of controlling all the tracker functions. The OLED screen is small but sufficiently visible. The display is sharp and crisp even in bright daylight. A light sensor on top of the screen purportedly measures the amount of light every 3 minutes throughout the day; this feature is especially useful during sleep as a measure of sleep effectiveness.

back of orbit

Back of Runtastic Orbit: Charging port and a reset button on the top left.

There’s a tiny “reset” button on the back of the Runtastic Orbit; reminds me of the phrase if all else fails. Press this to delete all user information. The Runtastic Orbit stores about 7 days worth of data without syncing. Connection to compatible smartphone devices is via Bluetooth 4.0.

charger to runtastic orbit

The Runtastic Orbit uses a proprietary charging cable that keeps the Orbit tracker in place.

The Runtastic Orbit comes with a belt clip and 2 wrist bands (black and blue). You have the option of purchasing other coloured bands at an extra cost. The band is intentionally long and I would assume you can cut it to size or just double up.

belt clip

The accompanying belt clip allows the Runtastic Orbit to be worn on the waist.

runtastic orbit hand

And this is how the Runtastic Orbit tracker looks like on the wrist.

In order to ensure data is synced, the Runtastic Me app needs to be downloaded and installed on compatible smartphone devices. The app is available on both the App Store and Play Store. Interestingly, the Runtastic Me app can work independently without the Orbit tracker by utilising the accelerometer in compatible smartphone devices without linking to the Orbit tracker.

FUNCTIONS AND DATA PRESENTATION

Time, Step count, calories burnt, set goals, active minutes. Checked.

time steps cal active runtastic orbit

Clockwise from top left: Time, step count, calories, active minutes.

The calories burnt is dependent on your profile settings. However the Runtastic Orbit will also draw data from physical activities tracked by other Runtastic apps. I’ve worn a compatible heart rate monitor (HRM) chest strap using the Runtastic app and the active minutes and calories burnt are included in the Runtastic Me app.

The line at the bottom of each tracked stat is an indication of how much of your goal you’ve reached. For example, a thin white line halfway across the screen would mean I’m 50% past my step count goal.

sleep and wake runtastic orbit

Top: Sleep function activated with a 3 seconds long press. Bottom: Waking up is signified by a rising sun on the display.

Upon activation of the sleep function by long-pressing for 3 seconds, the Runtastic Orbit will only disable all other functions and display only two screens; the duration since sleep tracking commenced, and time. Similarly long-press for 3 seconds to exit sleep tracking mode.

The last interesting stand alone function is the happy tracking function. If there’s any point in the day when you feel ecstatic, elated or just uplifting, double press. Upon doing that you’ll get a smiley on your data chart. The purpose for happy tracking is not explicitly stated for now other than simply recording the happy moments in a day.

If you’re a user of the Runtastic line of fitness apps (well, at least the Runtastic app for now.), this where the Orbit tracker ups the ante over other trackers.

orbit connect HR and cal

Heart rate and calories on the Runtastic app is mirrored on the Orbit tracker once the app is activated. Prior linking is required. Other stats that can be displayed include current and average pace, average speed and duration.

Once the Orbit is linked to the Runtastic app, the Orbit tracker automatically takes on the role as a second display for the key tracked stats from the Runtastic app. It’s fuss free and seamless, just start the Runtastic app and the Orbit will connect after a short. You have to be on the same account for the recorded data to sync to Runtastic Me app.

How is this useful? For example, you’re running or cycling outdoors with the smartphone tucked snugly in your running belt. Runtastic Orbit will display your heart rate (if you’re wearing a compatible heart rate monitor strap), the distance, current pace, average pace, calories burnt, average speed and duration. All these without the need to reach for your smartphone.

That being said, this capability only works in the vicinity of your smartphone with compatible Runtastic app. No smartphone, no Orbit Connect.

idle alarm on Runtastic Orbit

You can set alarms and even when you want the idle alert to go off.

Another notable feature is the presence of vibrating alarm and idle alerts. You can set up to 3 alarms. The inactivity period is set an 1 hour. This is unlike the idle alert in Jawbone UP fitness bands where the inactivity duration can be set.

main screen grab runtastic me app

This is a pretty active day for me.

The home screen of the Runtastic Me app is clean and easy to understand. You set your profile and you’re good to go. There are no options to add friends.

steps and active minutes runtastic me

Step count and active minutes screen grab from Runtastic Me app. 

It is only in the app that the newer features are obvious. You can see from teh screen capture above that the smiley from the “happy tracking” and a treadmill logo from a Runtastic app workout are indicated in the Runtastic Me app.

distance and sleep graph runtastic me

Distance and sleep screen capture from Runtastic Me app.

Again, the logo from Runtastic app that appears on the screen is dependant on the workout you did. If you ran, it would be a running man logo. In my case, it’s a tiny treadmill.

sleep graph colour runtastic me

From left to right: Orange for light sleep, green for deep sleep and red for awake. The gray graph at the bottom is the data from the ambient light sensor.

While I understand the implications of deep and light sleep, I don’t recall being awake that much.  The data from the ambient light sensor can also be seen in the sleep data screen. The gray coloured graph at the bottom of the screen is indicative of the amount of light tracked; the higher the line, the more light detected. This would probably give you a good idea how long you’ve been outdoors in the day or how dark your snooze environment is.

calories burnt history vs total runtastic me

Left: Total calories for the day. Right: detailed cumulative view by running finger across screen.

Running your finger across the screen allows you to reveal further details of the graph. In the screen capture above, I was able to see how many calories I burn a specific points of the day or during my workout which was tagged by Runtastic app and synced to the Runtastic Me app.

step and active minutes setting runtastic me

You can change the goals for step count and active minutes.

The target for step count and active minutes can be amended but this does not seem to be the case for calories and distance. By default, Runtastic Me app has pre-set the goal to 8000 steps and 60 active minutes. You can also see your progress for the day on the Orbit tracker.

Anything Else?

The Runtastic Orbit is waterproof to 100m/300ft. That is way more than most people would ever need. The battery life is pretty impressive at about 7 days even when I use it with Orbit Connect. The extra wrist band gave me the option colouring matching clothes. And I really appreciated the belt clip. The Runtastic Orbit, though a workhorse, is not something I would put on for more formal occasions. The belt clip allows me the option of hiding it in a pocket and still clocking my stats.

Upon reaching 50% of your step count goal, the Runtastic Orbit will buzz and the display will show “50%”. The same will happen for completing your goal for the day so you’ll known through tactile feedback that you’ve reached your goals.

An update on August 2015 allows the Orbit to display smart notifications in the form of icons. Currently the feature works for Android devices only.

In a Nutshell

Pros:

  • Steps, distance, calories, active minutes, sleep tracking
  • Vibration for idle alerts ad setting up to 3 alarms
  • Waterproof to 100m/300ft
  • Decent battery life (5-7 days)
  • Crisp and sharp OLED display that is clearly seen in bright daylight and night
  • Time and goal progress
  • Alerts (vibration) at 50% and 100% of set goal. Display will also indicate progress
  • Happy mood tracker
  • Second display when linked via Orbit Connect- displays distance, current and average pace, calories burnt, average speed and duration of activity.
  • 2 wristbands and 1 belt clip
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Sync via Bluetooth Smart
  • Smart notifications on Android devices from August 2015

Cons:

  • Limited functions in Runtastic Me app. (No addition of friends)
  • Data from Runstastic Orbit is not synced to Runtastic web account
  • Requires smartphone to activate Orbit Connect.
  • No weekly or monthly view of data, only daily.
  • No summaries of data sent to email.
  • Does not connect to heart rate monitors directly.

Perhaps the purchase of a Runtastic Orbit might bring more people into the ecosystem of Runtastic apps and vice versa. I do like the Runtastic app and personally find that it’s one of the better designed running apps out there. The fact that the Orbit can act as a second display is a bonus for me to fine tune my training. It would have been awesome if heart rate monitor straps linked directly to the Runtastic Orbit without the smartphone.

I have the Runtastic heart rate pro smartphone app and I see that data on my Runtastic web account. However, I did not see the stats from the Runtastic Me app. It seems the data syncing is one-way for now. Activity sessions tracked by Runtastic app will be indicated on the Runtastic Me app but not the other way around. This is one area Runtastic must look into to ensure seamless usage across their ecosystem of fitness apps.

orbit full colours

The full range of coloured wrist bands you can purchase seperately.

Presently, the versatility of the Runtastic Orbit is only marred by the lack of detail in the Runtastic Me app. Browsing my data day by day is not the way to go but I see potential and there’s plenty of room for the app to get better. Weekly and monthly summaries would be very much welcomed and can go a long way to motivating people to stay active. Hopefully future updates will solve this

It is clear to me the full potential of the Runtastic Orbit is to be tapped with the Runtastic apps. If you’ve been a long time fan of the Runtastic apps or you’re in the market shopping for a new tracker to re-ignite your dimming passion for exercise, the functions-abundant Runtastic Orbit tracker is well worth your consideration.

The Runtastic Orbit is on sale at the RRP of $119.99. You can get yours from Amazon.com where there’s usually an attractive discount and free delivery depending on where you reside.

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