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New Balance RunIQ smartwatch: Our first take

RunIQ smartwatch is a wearable device made by runners, for runners

Wearable tech can be great, but such products are often designed for general use. When a runner needs a smart device, however, they seek something more tailored for that activity. With that in mind, New Balance has created RunIQ, an Android Wear smartwatch for runners, by runners.

Made in collaboration with companies including Intel, Google, and Strava, RunIQ was designed with features runners need most. The stylish form factor also ensures that it can be worn throughout the day, no matter the occasion.

More: Garmin Forerunner 35 GPS running watch review

With RunIQ, athletes can keep track of their performance through a number of features. Included are a built-in GPS, heart rate monitor, lap button, and interval capability. The GPS allows for course tracking, pace, and distance measurement. With continuous use of the GPS and heart rate monitor, the watch will last up to 5 hours, meaning runners can track a full marathon. RunIQ also acts as a standard smartwatch with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity. Typical use will allow up to 24 hours of battery life.

Thanks to its collaboration with  Strava, RunIQ will allow runners to upload and share their workouts with a global community called the New Balance Global Run Club. Members can connect with each other, track performance, share their favorite routes, and celebrate accomplishments. There are also virtual training programs, and races that can be performed alone or with other members.

PaceIQ, a wireless set of sport headphones, is being launched alongside RunIQ. These lightweight Bluetooth headphones were created in collaboration with Jabra to provide a premium sound, secure fit, and rapid charge time. When used alongside the RunIQ, a dedicated button provides real-time audio updates on a runner’s performance.

Both are available for pre-order from New Balance’s website. RunIQ will hit store shelves on February 1 for $300 in both black and gray. Different watch bands will also be made available. PaceIQ will be released the same day for $110.

Hands-on with the New Balance RunIQ

We were pleased at the neutral design of this smartwatch. Fitness-oriented brands very often try to make a product look sporty and extreme, which limits the day-to-day appeal of a daily wearable such as a watch. This is especially important because the RunIQ is an Android Wear-based device, which expands its usefulness far beyond its fitness tracking. Runners may initially be attracted to this watch because of the New Balance brand or the tie-in with Strava, but they’ll keep it on their wrists because the RunIQ will remain useful in all their other daily activities, including times when they need to say, “OK Google.” Digital Trends confirmed that the RunIQ is ready for Android Wear 2.0.

The rubber watchband felt quite comfortable during the short time it was on our wrists, and the perforations throughout the band should go a long way in mitigating the sweat factor. The RunIQ has one of the nicer rubber watchbands we’ve encountered on first impressions.

new balance runiq
Marcus Yam/Digital Trends

The battery life claim of 24 hours of casual use, which shrinks down to just a handful of hours with GPS and heart rate sensing, could be disappointing for those accustomed to more specialized trackers, but the design goal was to ensure that the RunIQ could last through an entire marathon. Those who are used to charging devices on a daily basis won’t find too much of an issue with this, but if you tend to neglect your charging duties, you may want to look elsewhere.

Thankfully, RunIQ’s charging mechanism is dead simple. A microUSB charging puck magnetically attaches to the bottom of the watch, making for a foolproof and essentially plug-free solution. Users can take their watch off and just drop it on top of the charger. It’s not quite as easy as wireless charging, but it’s pretty close.

Highs

  • Attractive watch design
  • Display is a perfect circle
  • Heart rate and fitness tracking
  • Integrated GPS

Lows

  • Limited battery life
  • Not for iPhone users