The convergence of fitness and entertainment technology has become something of a trend. Nintendo (NTDOY.PK) has been hawking their Wii Fit platform. Apple’s (AAPL) been joined at the foot with Nike (NKE). Now Samsung (SSNLF.PK) is working out with Adidas (OTC:ADDYY).
Friday the electronics maker introduced the MiCoach, a curious combination of mobile phone and MP3 player that is aimed narrowly at the fitness market. Every bit a convergence device for the gadget freak, the system bundles all the key functionality of a cell phone with a small 1GB MP3 player, a heart rate monitor and an electronic training monitor into a single device. All that’s missing is a water bottle and gym membership.
Like the Nike and iPod partnership which was launched in 2006, the new offering from Samsung aims to give customers workout feedback from the multifunction device. It can track pace, heart rate, calories burned and distance traveled. It also allows the data to be uploaded into a computer workout diary or training program and can provide real-time feedback.
The primary data for the gadget comes from the heart rate monitor and a shoelace mounted sensor. Unlike the Nike/iPod Nano equivalent, customers aren’t limited to certain shoes. The Samsung sensors are portable and not directly integrated into the footwear.
Samsung expects to offer the phone in two bundles. A deluxe version will be pricy and probably cost around $600 at launch. A lesser package that leaves out the heart rate monitor and other accessories will probably cost about $400.
Adidas and Samsung are both making it a point to emphasize the phone’s fitness credentials. Eric Liedtke, VP of Brand Marketing at Adidas, said the miCoach “is the most advanced interactive training system in the marketplace.” “The uniqueness of miCoach,” he added “is that it collects and analyzes personal data and then customizes training plans based on your fitness level and specific goals.”
For those looking for a phone that does a little of everything, this could have some appeal. It would mean one less thing to carry when you head out for a run. On the other hand, there’s something a a little off about a phone that tracks how fast you’re going and can interrupt to tell you “pick up the pace.” The target market for the phone is likely to be relatively narrow (especially given the price point).
The miCoach was developed as part of a two-year research and development effort that included product experiments run at the Athletes Performance Institute at Arizona State University.
The phone will be available in Germany and the rest of Europe by the end of March. No official time frame has been set for a North American or an Asian launch. Sometime in late 2008 or early 2009 is probable though a marketing push that coincides with Samsung’s sponsorship of the 2008 Beijing Olympics would also make sense.