Friday, April 28, 2006

Bones in Motion BiM Active Mobile Service Comparison Review with Garmin Forerunner 205: On the Run

So how did Bones in Motion's BiM Active service fare when I took it on the run. Surprisingly, quite well. It is missing some features that I would personally like, but the beauty of these kinds of services is that they can continue to make enhancements to BiM Active for both cell phones and the website. Of course from Bones in Motion's perspective, porting these updates for each different manufacturer and cell phone model is a pain, and users have to be notified to download the latest updates, but at least users aren't stuck with an outdated device as the service is improved.

I ran with my Samsung A920 Multimedia cell phone and BiM Active on four separate occasions totaling roughly 38 miles. I purposely chose routes that either use to cause my old Garmin Forerunner 201 GPS reception problems and/or were remote and less frequently traveled (due to time of day and/or location). I did the latter since this is one of the primary reasons to carry a handset when running or exercising alone.

PLEASE NOTE, carrying a cell phone is not a substitute for using common sense. In an ideal world, we wouldn't have to worry about these things, but unfortunately reality is very different. Don't let carrying a cell phone lull you into a false sense of security, and throw caution to the wind, unless you have an even more advance converged device that includes cell phone, BiM Active, pepper spray and/or a taser :-)

I opted to hold the cell phone instead of using an arm band that would secure the cell phone to the upper arm. In order to improve reception, I was advised by Bones in Motion to carry the handset with the back facing up towards the sky since this is where the antenna and GPS chip were located. Ergonomically, it's a bit awkward due to the cell phone design, and I'm guessing folks with smaller hands might find it uncomfortable. I'd probably recommend purchasing an arm band and using it that way instead.

In order to start, pause, resume and stop recording your activity, you need to flip open the cell phone and press the appropriate soft key. This is a bit of an inconvenience, especially if you come to a stop sign or light and/or carry the cell phone in a pocket for cycling purposes. I usually just let the time run unless I think I'll be waiting for more than 5 seconds.

In these situations, it would be nice if one of the cell phone's external buttons could be configured to pause the recording. It would also be nice if there was an option to take manual splits instead of only the automatic splits of the pre-determined distance, which is selected before commencing an activity. There is an audible notification every time an automatic split is taken.

The data presented on both the internal and external displays during an activity are minimal but enough (i.e. time, distance, average pace, last split, calories burned, etc) so if you're looking for a lot of information then this is not for you. Having the external screen helps since you don't have to flip the phone open during the activity to view information. Again being able to configure what type of info you can see on the screens would be nice, but not necessary.

One of the best things about the BiM Active service is transferring activity data from handset to online. When you complete an activity you flip open the cell phone and press stop. You are then given the option to save or discard the activity. If you select save then it uses the Sprint Power Vision Network to upload the data wirelessly to the BiM Active website. No cables or cradles to connect to your PC. You just have to hit the BiM Active website to check out the details of the activity. Nice and easy...

Here are links to the rest of the review:

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