The Magellan Echo is a recently released ‘sports smart watch’; serving the purpose as a display and control for popular Bluetooth enabled smartphone apps. For cyclists, the concept isn’t new, with the Wahoo RFLKT performing a similar role. The Echo isn’t specifically a cycling product, but it does offer suitable functionally – on and off the bike – for people who carry their phones everywhere.
A watch isn’t perfectly suited to on-bike use; it requires a hand off the bars to operate and a look away to view. What the Echo does offer cyclists is control over their smart-phone apps: the ability to stop and start a timer, ensure everything is recording or even control music.
Pairing the watch to your Bluetooth Smart (4.0) enabled smartphone is a quick and simple process, but one that requires an appropriate app. We found the Wahoo fitness app to offer the greatest control and functionality, though other apps such as Strava and MapMyRide offer basic connection.
Using the Wahoo Fitness app, you’re able to create and customise the individual screens on the Echo. The screens can be split to show multiple sets of data, or kept to single functions with a large display.
Via the addition of the appropriate Bluetooth Smart sensors, you can sync in heart-rate (available including the watch for UK£130/US$199/AU$199 or as a separate accessory for AU$69.99), cadence or even power (via a Stages Cycling power meter) to your phone. The Echo can then relay all this information straight to your wrist in real time.
Operating the watch is done using the four well-sized side buttons and by tapping the screen to toggle between data displays.
Mountain biking with the watch presents a few problems. With enough vibration the device can mistakenly you're tapping it, and will change screens. The easy-to-use buttons also cause issues: we found them prone to occasional pressing with the back of the hand, changing our settings.
The whole unit weighs just 41g, including the wide rubber wrist strap. The strap is comfortable to wear through the day and doesn’t slide around. The large aluminium closure clasp is easy to use – even with sweaty hands.
When not connected to your phone, the Echo serves as an everyday watch and offers a single screen with time, date and a weekly distance summary. An unexpected bonus comes during travels and crossing time zones; once the watch is connected to a phone, the time of day automatically updates.
Battery life of the Echo has proven exceptional, using a single user-replaceable CR2032 cell battery. Magellan claims a generous six-month battery life under heavy use, and closer to 11 months under light use. Keep in mind this is all with the watch on 24/7.
Phone battery life is becoming less of an issue too as apps become more efficient. We were able to go for a couple of hours with the Echo, a heart-rate strap and a Stages Power Meter, and use roughly 25% of our iPhone 5 battery. For most people, phone battery life won’t present a major issue.
Currently the Echo is only supported for iPhone use (4S and above), but we’re told Android compatibility isn’t far away.
For us, the most exciting aspect of the Echo is its future potential. As it’s just relaying data from a smartphone, its limitations are really bound by the apps and so continuous improvement is in its design.
For those keen on the idea of the Echo but only wanting to use it on the bike, we'd still recommend the Wahoo RFLKT because it’s off the wrist and so free of the accidental screen changes we experienced. However, if you’re after something to use with your phone for multiple outdoor activities, the Echo is a clever option.