Runtastic is doing the reverse of what many startups are doing these days: it’s going from being a software platform provider to becoming a hardware maker with the Runtastic Orbit fitness tracker. The Orbit is similar in concept and execution to the various trackers from Fitbit, Jawbone and Nike already available, but with a number of features designed to set it apart from the competition. Runtastic succeeds in terms of utility, but this is ultimately a take on wearables that will probably appeal most to existing Runtastic fans or those who aren’t that concerned with the fashion aspects of wearables.
The Orbit boasts an impressive feature list, including a built-in OLED display, vibration feedback, ambient lighting detection, a full week of battery life and waterproofing for up to 300 feet of submersion. It can track steps, distance, calories burned, total active minutes, sleep and it can provide regular inactivity vibration alerts as well as wake up alarms. In the box you get not one but two straps for the Orbit, which is itself a small Fitbit-style pill-shaped device, and a smaller clip for wearing in a less obvious place.
Orbit is comfortable enough to wear, I found, thanks to the soft rubberized material of the band, and its waterproofing means that you never really have to take it off if you don’t want to. Over long periods, however, I wasn’t thrilled about the Orbit’s comfort levels – especially when worn to bed as a sleep tracker. Essentially the Orbit feels more like a watch than some of the other wearables out there, and that meant I generally preferred to take it off overnight than keep it on, despite the gadget’s impressive sleep tracking abilities.
Runtastic’s companion hardware for the Orbit, Runtastic Me, is well-designed and clearly benefits from their years of experience building health tracking software for mobile devices. The Me app syncs with the Orbit via Bluetooth Smart (so no pairing required) and it lists your steps, active minutes, calories burned, distance and sleep. You can tap on each of these for any given day to drill down and see more about each category displayed in a nicely designed graph, as well as manage your device from the Me app’s settings page.
The Orbit also works with Runtastic’s existing fitness tracking apps, so I was able to use it with Runtastic Pro to track my runs, and as a second screen device that provides feedback throughout your activity. It changes modes when used with the fitness tracking software, and is detected automatically, starting things off with a countdown until your run begins, and then providing you with updates along the way including time elapsed, distance travelled and more. While the feature is currently only available for Runtastic and Runtastic Pro, the company says it will roll out support for Orbit across its suite of software in the future.
While the Orbit is about as feature-laden as you can get in an activity tracker that’s similar in styling to the Fitbit Flex or Jawbone UP24, in the end it also sports a design that is decidedly uninspiring. The big silver button is handy in terms of using the device easily while you’re running or participating in other activities, but it does little for the overall aesthetics of the device. In the end it seems like design was an afterthought to function and features, which is why this is a great tool for those who want a wearable that offer the most in terms of utility, but not necessarily for those also concerned about fashion.
The Runtastic Orbit is available from the Runtastic Online Store for $119.99, and ships by August 11. In the end it isn’t drastically different from the existing crop of similar devices, but with its easily readable display, feature set and hardware control, it’s a good option for active users looking for something to complement their exercise routine, especially if you’re already a fan of Runtastic’s software and services.