Posted by: Joe English | November 15, 2007

Product Review: Timex iControl for iPod watch

iControl

For those of you who run with your iPod, Timex has a new product that promises to help make it easier to manage your music on the run: the new Timex iControl for iPod. The new Timex Ironman Triathlon series watch includes a wireless transmitter and module that plugs into most iPods to give you control over the iPod from buttons on the watch.

Bottom-line:
The Timex iControl for iPod is a nice-to-have device that gives the user limited control over their iPod. It will be useful to those that want to put the iPod in a pocket and not have to dig it back out to change songs or change the volume. However, the iControl only allows management of a few iPod features and there are some trade-offs in using the device, such as a losing the ability to use your Timex heart rate monitor or Nike Plus system when using the iControl instead.

Pros:
– Extremely easy to use device
– Makes changing songs, pausing/playing and changing volume much easier on the iPod when running
– Great for navigating playlists
– Watch-mounted buttons solve the problem of dealing with the iPod’s control wheel when wearing gloves or mittens.
– Drop your iPod into a pocket and you won’t have to dig it out during a run to change songs or change the volume.
– Very small, lightweight watch.

Cons:
– Limited control over the iPod. Lacks ability to navigate iPod’s menus and does not have the ability to power off the device remotely (typically done by holding down the Play/Pause key on the iPod).
– Can not be used simultaneously with the iPod-based Nike Plus system.
– No heart-rate monitor option.
– Wireless dongle is powered by iPod and requires power to communicate with the watch (if left installed in the iPod it will eventually drain the battery).
– Button assignments are different than other Timex Ironman watches, so a bit of retraining is required to operate the watch.
– Play/Pause button (also Start/Lap button) is small and somewhat hard to operate.

Product Review:
When I heard about the new Timex iControl for iPod, I was pretty excited. I don’t particularly like carrying my iPod in my hand when running, so the thought of a device that would allow me to tuck my iPod away in a pocket and still have some control over it sounded great. Also, now that the weather has turned cold, I’ve started wearing gloves again, so navigating the control wheel on the iPod is more difficult than normal. Stopping to take off a glove to find a new song is a bit of a pain in the neck. As promised, the Timex iControl for iPod will let you do these things.

By plugging a small dongle into the connector on the bottom of the iPod, you gain the ability to play, pause, advance to the next track, move back to the previous track, and increase or decrease the volume on your iPod.

The product is extremely easy to set up. You literally just install the dongle into the connection port on the iPod and that’s all there is to it. However, the iControl uses the USB/1394 port normally used for connecting the iPod to your computer, so the Timex iControl will not work with all iPods. In particular, the Timex iControl does not work with the iShuffle, because it uses a different connector to plug into your computer. Almost all other iPods in the last generation or two will work with iControl. Be sure to check for compatibility on the Timex web-site to make sure that your iPod will work with the iControl.

When I took the Timex iControl for a test drive, I immediately found a few things that surprised me about it. First, although Timex iControl lets you move forward and back between tracks, there is no way to move back to a menu and select a different genre or type of music. In other words, once you’ve selected a group of songs, you’re stuck with it unless you use the control wheel. This would not be a problem at all if you use playlists, because you’ll be able to navigate forward and backward through the playlist to your heart’s desire.

The second thing that stood out to me is that there isn’t a way to turn off the iPod with the Timex iControl. Normally you hold down the Play/Pause button and the iPod will go to sleep. Holding down the Play/Pause button on the iControl watch has no function (it interprets this as another play or pause command). Again, this isn’t really an issue if you don’t turn off the iPod, but I found this to be somewhat strange. It’s a function that all iPod users are used to and will most likely wonder about on their first use.

Also, as a user of Timex Ironman watches, I was surprised to find that the buttons to start, stop and lap the timer were in different positions than other Ironman watches. I was totally stumped by the fact that the “back track” button for iPod control doubles as the “stop” button when in chronograph mode. I was trying out the new device on a track just as it was getting dark and it took me some time to find the stop button. (It is admittedly marked on the side of the watch face, but I was used to the stop button being on the other side as on other Timex watches.)

A couple of other drawbacks that you should note:
– since the wireless dongle uses the same port on the bottom of the iPod as the Nike Plus system, you’ll need to choose one or the other.
– the wireless dongle draws power from the iPod. You’ll need to remove the dongle after use to avoid draining your iPod’s battery. It might have made more sense to have the iPod be able to power down the dongle when the iPod goes into sleep mode.
– I was surprised to find that there was no heart rate monitor option available with the iControl. As a user of other Timex Ironman watches with heart rate monitor options, it would have been nice to give the iControl the ability to also monitor a heart rate strap. I have a distinct feeling that this will be a future option that Timex would offer for the product. In the mean-time, you will have to choose between your iPod and your heart rate monitor.
– There is also no interface to the Timex Speed+Distance monitor system, but this could be another future option.

The watch itself is extremely small and lightweight. I was surprised at how much lighter it was than other Timex Ironman watches that I’ve used, in particular the Speed+Distance monitor. I found the Play/Pause (also Start/Lap) button to be a bit small to activate properly with my fingers when doing intervals on the track, but I’m sure I would get used to this.

Overall, I think the Timex iControl for iPod is a nice-to-have device. You’ll find it easy to use and it will let you tuck your iPod away in a pocket. But the functionality is somewhat limited and there a number of drawbacks that should be considered before buying it. This might be a good “gee cool!” stocking stuffer for your running mate who uses an iPod on their workouts and runs.

Pricing:
MSRP is $125.00.

Availability:
You can buy the iControl from Amazon.com by clicking this link: Timex iControl for iPod

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA

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Responses

  1. […] You can read the rest of this blog post by going to the original source, here […]

  2. Neat device. As you mentioned, especially great for the gloved hands.

  3. I was sold on it until I read that I lose my heart rate monitor and nike+….Both of these are fetures I want….

  4. […] review on Timex’ iControl watch, a good companion for your iPod. It has taken quite a long time to […]

  5. i want more ipod watchs to purchase

  6. Perhaps a more concerning problem is that there does not appear to be any way of switching off the ipod control function. Although the dongle needs to be plugged in for this to work, that does not mean that the watch has its radio transmitter switched off when its not plugged in. The end result is that you should not really be wearing this where radio frequency (RF) interference could be a problem… for example on an aeroplane. So you can buy this watch, but if you travel you have to leave it at home? … not too convenient if you ask me.

  7. In answer to Guy’s comment: I haven’t been able to get an answer from Timex on this one yet, but I’m still trying.

    I will say that I notice that my son’s baby monitor gives a loud crackle about once every two minutes and — after Guy’s comment — I’ve noticed that it doesn’t do this when my watch in not in the room with me. So maybe Guy is on to something here. . .

  8. Of course, I never put my iPod to sleep BECAUSE it sleeps automatically when I do not use it, especially when I put it on hold. So I never needed that function myself, never used that function myself, never knew about that hold-down-play-pause feature before now and never plan to use it for the rest of my life. So, I really could care less if the iControl has no way of manually putting the iPod to sleep. I do agree that with the transmitter sucking juice from the iPod even when its asleep is REALLY awful!

    OTOH, am I the ONLY one who tries to exercise the mind while I exercise the body? Am I the only one who uses his iPod for Spoken Word Podcasts and Audiobooks?? When you listen to spoken word, bookmarkable content, you almost NEVER care about advancing forward or back a track. The ONLY feature you want is the ‘What did he just say’ button or the 5-seconds skip-back feature. Or, in terms of iPod use, the Rewind function. Without a Rewind feature, the iControl is a no go useless hunk of metal, plastic and liquid crystals.

    Will SOMEBODY develop an iProduct with the 5-seconds skip back?? I guess maybe when hell freezes over. Thanks, Apple and Timex, for nothing!

  9. […] Product Review: Timex iControl for iPod watch For those of you who run with your iPod, Timex has a new product that promises to help make it easier to manage your music on the run: the new Timex iControl for iPod. […]

  10. I have got an ipod shuffle, which is really a wonderful options, to operate easily. Love to have an ipod, after a long struggle, infact.

  11. My problem with the Timex Ironman is you cannot get a replacement watchband for it anywhere in Australia!!! Driving me nuts.

  12. Timex I control is a nice companion while you travel. But my strap has to be replaced pretty soon. Unfortunately there is no replacement available in India. Anybody has any idea how to get a replacement of the band?


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