On paper the TomTom Touch is a decent tracker, but the devil is in the detail, and it didn’t quite shine on our wrists. Usability niggles and short battery life mar a decent fitness tracking performance, and while the body impedance data is a useful benchmark of your receding waistline, it’s not as accurate as a pair of scales. But the real shame is the lack of effective goals setting, especially around weight and exercise. It could have been so much better.
- Useful body composition data
- Resting heart rate
- Short battery life
- Few incentives and poor goals
- Confusing app
On face value the TomTom Touch has a killer USP: boasting a sensor that claims to rate your body fat, the Touch is more than just another me-too fitness tracker.
Evidence of fitness tracker buying behaviour has shown that most people who buy an activity band are already pretty fit. But a device that can essentially tell you how fat you are is a different prospect: TomTom has the chance to go out there and bag a new brand of customer.
As we said in our first-look at the TomTom Touch back at IFA 2016, it will live and die by accuracy and cultivating a nurturing attitude. Can TomTom make a late impression in the fitness tracker game? Read on to find out.
TomTom Touch: Design and features
The TomTom Touch isn’t much to look at. While we’ve seen a race towards fashion and customisation from the likes of Fitbit, Misfit and Apple, there’s no such play from TomTom. Rubber band, removable module, annoying clasp. It comes in black, blue, purple and orange, although only black seems to be available at the time of writing.
The clasp it one of those where you force the pin through the hole, which is always a tad fiddly, and more prone to coming free. It ended up on the pavement once, and came undone a handful of times throughout the testing period.
So it’s not a looker. The screen is a little monochrome OLED affair that shows the time on the home screen and a circle that quickly shows step goal progress (and a little star if you’ve made it). The thin screen is touch enabled, but you need to press the metal ‘button’ to wake the Touch. There’s no tilt-to-wake feature which is quite annoying.
Once awake you can swipe the screen up for activity tracking, up again for body composition, and once more for a live bpm readout from the optical heart rate sensor underneath. We actually missed the final screen for a while, and usability gripes do form the majority of negativity about the Touch.
Swipe down from the clock and you can go through your daily steps, active time, calories burned and more.
The TomTom Touch will also show basic notifications, although this is limited to calls and text messages – and serves more of an alert to pick up your phone than any useful filter or replacement.
TomTom Touch: Activity tracking
First things first, general activity tracking: the TomTom Touch does everything you would expect a standard band to do. There’s step tracking. Sleep monitoring and heart rate too, which is examined 24/7. The focus is on resting heart rate – which is the metric you really need to keep an eye on – and that’s added into the app and plotted across time.
Of course, the TomTom Spark will also keep tabs on calories burned and distance travelled. These are all logged in the app and you can break this data down by different times. More on that later.
After a few weeks of testing, we’re pretty happy with the accuracy. TomTom Touch’s steps reporting was pretty much spot on with the Fitbit Charge 2 and other wearables we tried, so nothing outlandish there. Distance recording was usable (not perfect, nothing is without GPS) and resting heart rate fell in line with Garmin and Fitbit too.
Sleep tracking is a little basic, and you can’t really drill into light/deep time – so anyone looking for analysis of slumber is going to be disappointed. The best you get is an average time, so fine if you’re looking to get your eight hours. Weirdly, there’s not a sleep-based goal – and the whole thing feels like an after-thought.
Unlike sleep, you can set goals for most aspects of the TomTom Touch. You can have step, sport and weight goals, which enable you to set a number or figure and a time period to make the goal. This can be running (time, distance or number of activities), weight or muscle composition, or steps (by number, distance or duration). It’s a decent idea – fitness trackers fail because of lack of goals – but it’s not that well implemented.
Firstly, the app doesn’t hassle you or bother you to make your goals. It doesn’t hold you to account or offer any incentives. What’s more, the goals are what you make them – we prefer Garmin’s step tracking initiative that adapts over time as it learns about you. It’s still not perfect, but beats TomTom’s. This is what we meant when we said that the Touch would live or die by the way its features were implemented – and in truth there’s a basic understanding of fitness tracking here that holds back a decent device.
TomTom Touch: Body composition
But of course, the big USP is body composition. The TomTom Touch can tell you what percentage fat and muscle your body is, giving you a new data set to work towards.
The feature has been around in scales for a while, and is well suited to that format. A (undetectable) electrical pulse is sent from one foot, around the body, and back through the other to the sensor. From the way it travelled, the scales can tell how much of your body is lean muscle or wobbly fat.
The TomTom does the same, but from the hand. Place your finger on the top sensor and the pulse will fly around to the next sensor which is under the band, completing the circuit of cellulite. You then get a tick on the band to say it’s complete, and it’s time to check the app.
The big question here is accuracy – and we found the TomTom Touch to be close… but not completely on the money. We tested by heading to our local Nuffield Health gym who kindly helped us do a body fat test, which makes up part of the Health MOT. On a set of scales we achieved 26.8% body fat compared to 22.5% on the TomTom Touch. Close, you might say. Kind of. While only a few digits out, the 26.8% rating puts us in the obese category (an absolute joke, by the way) and the 22.5% puts us in ‘overfat’ yet nearly in the normal zone.
While it does highlight the ridiculous scale of guidelines on body fat, it also shows that a few percentage points do matter. However, the TomTom Touch is consistent, and in many respects it’s about bringing the number down over time to make a positive health change, rather than being 100% accurate.
The last critique we’d make is that body composition should be taken in the morning, before you eat or drink. It would be nice if the Touch prompted you to take the reading at specific and regular times, which would also act as a motivator – but it doesn’t.
TomTom Touch: Sports tracking
One major feature of the TomTom Touch is the sports tracking mode, which lets you start a stopwatch when you’re exercising. The mode will track time, distance (from arm movement) and heart rate during that time.
It’s not a bad mode for those who hit the gym, although far from suitable for runners, cyclists or anyone who cares about proper pace and distance. The results of the session are logged in the app, where you can see heart rate over time, heart rate zones, average heart rate calories and duration. It’s basic, but useable, great for fitness classes or yoga – something well aimed at its particular niche.
It also puts the heart rate sensor under the microscope. The TomTom Spark has one of the best optical sensors in the business, and while the Touch can’t quite match it for accuracy, it’s not bad. It doesn’t crap out badly with arm flexes and twists, making it half decent for workouts. What’s more, it dealt okay with sudden increases, meaning it should report on gym sessions with reasonable accuracy.
However, there is one issue. Because of the need to wake the Touch with the button, we found that cancelling activities accidentally was a real issue during workouts. We ruined a host of test runs while trying to check our heart rate, and it made testing properly a real ordeal. Another self-made usability issue for TomTom that could be easily avoided.
TomTom Touch: The app
The TomTom MySports app has been a weakness in the company’s armour over the past few years, and unfortunately, it still needs a lot of work. The reason the TomTom Spark is so good is that it plays nicely with Strava and RunKeeper, but unfortunately with the TomTom Touch, MySports is unavoidable.
There are two issues and the first is design. Everything is badly labelled and we spent two weeks unable to find any extra data (you have to press the ‘total steps’ panel to find data on sleep and heart rate.) Once you’re there, however, it’s quite easy to see and filter by date, though as we complained before, analysis and encouragement is few and far between.
The second issue is that you can only use MySports with one TomTom device, so if you’re an existing Spark or Golfer customer, you’ll now have to sync those manually with a PC, and give over your app to the Touch. The good thing is that work done on other TomTom devices counts into your daily totals. It’s not a huge problem, but it would be a lot nicer if all devices worked seamlessly – let’s admit it, it’s hardly a groundbreaking idea. Garmin manages all six of my watches, scales, golf devices and trackers simultaneously.
TomTom Touch: Battery life & waterproofing
TomTom promises five days of battery life from the Touch, but unfortunately our testing was well shy of this. Our Touch lasted around three days between charges, which is below expectation, to be honest. It charges by micro USB which is handy, although that wipes out any hopes of waterproofing. It’s shower-friendly though, thanks to an IPX7 water resistance rating.