Published on August 15th, 2012 | by Celina0
Exclusive! Iqua Beat: Audio-Driven Exercise
One of the hardest things about personal training is being self-motivated during those moments when you’re tired, sore, or just flagging from exertion. And one of the most annoying parts of many fitness gadgets is their cumbersome nature, where you need a phone and a sensor and some wires and then you need to consider your music and handle that separately. So we were definitely interested in a new way of helping you exercise, using your iPhone to control and manage a set of wireless headphones that contained some sensors inside of them- a nifty combination of gadgets that sounded incredibly useful.
That’s the promise of the Iqua Beat A1, a voice-guided personal trainer that uses Bluetooth to connect to your iPhone (no Android or other smartphone support at the moment), and a custom app that helps you set fitness goals, monitor your sessions, and track your progress. The earbuds connect to a fairly hefty dongle that serves as battery pack, step counter and controls, and come with a built-in mic so you can make or receive calls while on the go. Plus, they have an interesting earlobe attachment that measure your heart rate!
The hardware itself was decent- the earbuds audio and mic voice quality are nothing special- a bit fuzzy, no noise isolation or wind baffling make these little better than the stock earbuds, though they do have more comfortable tips. The hardest part was finding a way for the dongle to be situated comfortably- it does have a nice, solid clip, but the cords to the earbuds aren’t long enough to allow the dongle to sit anywhere but our collars, in which case the mic is left in an odd position. The earbuds themselves are pretty straight-forward, though we weren’t sure that the infrared sensor and the odd clips that attach to your earlobes were properly placed.
We turned on the device, found it on our iPhone’s Bluetooth pairing list, and connected instantly with no code needed. The battery level of the device shows up as well, and you’re immediately prompted to download the free app from the App Store. It looks pretty sleek, orange and very readable, and detected the Iqua Beat before initializing some configuration steps. You input your age, weight, height, and target heart rates, and also can choose from an activity list that includes some obvious ones like walking, running, and bicycling but also some more unusual options like canoeing, Ultimate Frisbee, Nordic walking, squash, and even floorball. Also, the football they refer to is clearly what we call soccer, but we can’t blame this European company.
Of course, none of this matters if the information isn’t accurate, and we have mixed results: it’s easy-to-use, fun, and fairly accurate at distances, but the heart rate measurements were off across multiple people in several activities. We like that the unit is splash-proof and the battery life was decent (charging is done via USB), but there weren’t any obvious export tools or ways to share or save your workouts or results. The first time you use the device, the sudden voice speaking to you will certainly surprise, but we definitely found it useful, helping us track timings (“Halfway there!”) and encouraging you to push a little harder if your heart rate is low (or the detector thinks it is). Slick, well-designed, and very reasonably priced, this is a great competitor to some of the other offerings that we’ve seen, especially considering the lack of subscription fees (eat your heart out, BodyMedia Fit). Of course, you do get what you pay for, and that means no cloud support or online components. It’s not yet available widely here in the US, but their online store should be up soon, and the price appears to be around $180.