MP3 players are becoming an increasingly standard piece of workout equipment. Music can help keep runners “in the zone” or help keep weight lifters’ adrenaline pumping, and audio books and podcasts can help us make more efficient use of our workout time. Now that MP3 players are small enough, battery life is long enough, hard drives and flash memory is large enough, and prices are low enough, just about any athlete can have access hours of audio content anywhere their workout takes them.
But not all the problems have been solved. Although the iPod’s user interface is widely considered revolutionary for its simplicity and intuitiveness, there’s no getting around the fact that interacting with an MP3 player while working out is usually not very convenient. Removing your iPod from wherever it’s stashed can be tricky while running, and after you’ve managed to retrieve it, the controls can be clumsy to use and the screen difficult to see. Of course, the risk of fiddling with your MP3 player too much while working out is that it can easily break your concentration and flow.
Enter the Timex iControl watch. Timex IRONMAN watches have always been designed to make interacting with them while running as simple and natural as possible, so why not extend the functionality of your watch to also control your iPod?
The Timex iControl watch is a fully functional IRONMAN with the following features:
- Integrated iPod controls. You can use the Timex iControl to wirelessly play or pause your iPod, move to the next or previous track, and to adjust the volume. The iControl is compatible with the first generation 1, 2, and 4GB iPod nano, the second generation iPod nano (aluminum), and the 5th generation 30, 60, and 80GB iPods (video).
- 99-lap, 100 hour chronograph with a resolution of 1/100th of a second. You can even customize the layout of the chronograph to suit your particular needs or tastes.
- Chronograph recall. You can use the recall function to review your last workout. Scroll through up to 50 laps, and see an overall lap average as well as your best lap time.
- Countdown timer. The Timex iControl has a standard countdown timer that goes up to 23 hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds. It can be configured to automatically repeat, or to stop after time has elapsed.
- Interval timer. An interval timer allows you to set two countdown timers which elapse and sound alarms consecutively. This is useful if you use the increasingly popular walk/run method of distance and endurance training where you improve your overall time by taking regular walk breaks so that you don’t slow down toward the end of a long race.
- Three semi-programmable alarms. A programmable alarm allows you to specify the date as well as the time at which an alarm will sound. Daily alarms, on the other hand, sound at the specific time every day, which is generally less useful since we typically use alarms to remind us of irregular events. The Timex iControl has three alarms which I call “semi-programmable”. You can’t set the exact date on which they will sound, but you can choose between weekdays, weekends, or daily.
- Multiple time zones. The Timex iControl will keep track of the time and date in three different time zones. It uses a very simple approach to multi-time zone support: rather than being preprogrammed with cities, time zones, daylight savings rules, etc., it simple provides you with three date and time “slots” which you can set any way you want. Sometimes the simplest approach is all you need.
- Day and date display. This may seem like a small thing, but not enough digital watches show you both the day and the date simultaneously. Yes, I’m aware of the fact that I should be able to remember the day of the week, and I usually do, but when I’ve been putting in a few 12-hour days in row, sometimes they start running together. I really like watches that make it easy for me double check the day at the same time I’m checking the date.
- INDIGLO illumination. The Timex iControl has an excellent electroluminescent function. Rather than illuminating the entire LCD, only the digits are illuminated which makes them very crisp and easy to read. The iControl can also be put into “night-mode” which lights up the digits when any button is pushed to make operating the watch in the dark much easier.
- Water resistant to 100 meters, or about 330 feet.
Although the most interesting feature of the Timex iControl is certainly its ability to remotely control your iPod, I do want to point out that even without the iPod functionality, it’s actually a very nice sports watch. It’s so light, and the webbed strap is so soft and airy, that it’s very easy to forget that it’s on your wrist. The bezel has a nice shine to it, and the LCD is one of the highest contract displays I’ve seen on a digital watch. The fit and finish of the Timex iControl is clearly a step up from previous IRONMAN models.
But let’s be honest: wirelessly controlling your iPod from your watch is extremely cool, and not just for athletes. Although my iControl mainly accompanies me to the gym, once you start wearing it around, all kinds of additional uses start to become apparent. As Paul pointed out in our original Timex iControl post, if you connect your iPod to your car stereo through an auxiliary input, you can essentially control your car stereo with your watch which is easier and probably much safer than messing with your iPod while driving. I even found the iControl extremely useful while walking around the city one day since I was able to keep my iPod buried in my backpack. Of course, having to push a button on your watch before you can talk to people may come across as a bit strange, but in my opinion, it’s all part of the fun.
By Christian Cantrell