December 13, 2017

TomTom Touch Full Review

Note: For this review, TomTom very kindly provided me with the TomTom Touch a few days before release, free of charge. Since then, I have been fully testing all the features and put the activity tracker through its paces so I can give the best informed review possible.


Overview

The TomTom Touch is TomTom’s first move into the activity tracker market, taking a bold step by introducing new, never before seen features of Body Composition analysis into a wrist based device. The TomTom Touch does everything you’d expect your modern day activity tracker to do, adding in a nice clear touch screen along with 24/7 activity and heart rate tracking.

TomTom announced this new activity tracker alongside their new TomTom Spark 3 at the 2016 IFA event in September, proudly advertising it to be the first of a kind with its ability to measure both you muscle and fat content.

Having tested all of these features – paying special attention to the newest additions of Body Composition  analysis – I have been able to thoroughly understand what TomTom have tried to do and have also been able to see whether it is a success or not.

On the most part, yes, it definitely is a reliable and competitive activity tracker which I believe will hold its own in the intense market dominated by Garmin and Fitbit. However, understandably there are areas of improvements that I’m sure will be worked upon for upcoming versions.

Being TomTom’s first attempt at a sole activity tracker, you’d expect there to be these areas that sometimes lacked the clarity and precise results you would want from a device costing you over £100, however it is the usability and simple addition of TomTom MySports which makes this a really nice addition to the ever-growing TomTom fitness range and will prove – from what I have seen – to be a successful device.


Unboxing and Set Up

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Unlike the vast array of options which TomTom offer for their Spark 3 lineup, the TomTom Touch comes as just the same simple device each time; the only difference being whether you opt for the small or large wristband.

For the small band of the TomTom Touch, TomTom recommend it for wrist sizes of 125-165mm and the large band for sizes of 140-206mm.

For my testing, TomTom sent me a large black model of the TomTom Touch, the contents of the box remains the same no matter what size or colour you buy.

Upon opening the box, you are first greeted with the band itself at the top which lifts out to uncover the charging cable along with long, irrelevant documentation in multiple languages. However there is also a rather useful ‘Getting Started’ instruction manual which walks you through the initial set up.

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The TomTom Touch itself is made up of two parts in the same way the other TomTom products are fashioned; the band and the pod like device which does all the work.

To get started with the TomTom Touch, you have to unclip the pod from the band. This is easily done through pushing down on the top of the pod, above the silver rings at the bottom. With the two being separated it reveals the charging point for the Touch at the back end of the device.

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Now just follow the instructions given when the device is connected, downloading the upload software of TomTom MySports Connect along with making a TomTom MySports account (or log in if you’ve already got one).

From here, enter your basic details (e.g. weight and height to help with calorie calculations) and your device will be completely set up and ready for you to start using.

Now, you're ready to go!
Now, you’re ready to go!

Design

Activity trackers are designed so that you wear them all day, every day. Because of this, they need to have a slim, sleek and minimalist design so that they remain discrete whilst being worn with all different kinds of clothing.

Here with the TomTom Touch, TomTom have definitely not compromised on the design for functionality. It can also definitely be said that the TomTom Touch is not the best looking and smartest activity tracker which it being questionable to wear alongside smarter clothing. However, I would say that this is not the aim of TomTom whereas others such as the Névo Activity Tracker have gone for the more up-market approach to their designs.

The TomTom Touch comes with a very nice, sleek touch screen segment which runs the full length of the pod stored within the band.

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The band itself is made from a lightweight rubber material which feels nice to wear but it slightly too slippy to tie the band with ease. For me the way in which the band is tied is definitely a downfall to of the activity tracker and needs improvement, but once on works perfectly well.

One of the nice things about the band and the pod being separate is that you have the ability to customise your Touch and change the band to whatever colour you want from the selection offered by TomTom.

(Source: TomTom)
(Source: TomTom)

Despite these bands being a bit expensive, they’re a nice way to make it feel like you have a new device, even if it is just a new colour.

The screen may also need some improvements in the future versions. The OLED screen on the TomTom Touch is bright and clear, yet lacks higher resolution and colour like other mainstream devices such as the Polar A360. This is likely a compromise made by TomTom to allow room for the electrodes needed for the Body Composition  and enough battery space too.

A slight issue comes with the touch screen in the wet and rain as it sometimes struggles to be fully responsive when there is water on the surface, however this is the case with almost all touch screen devices. The touch screen does however respond well when used with gloves.


Body Composition

The big new feature and main selling point for the TomTom Touch is its ability to give you Body Composition  analysis.

This is done by placing your finger on the silver electrode built into the Touch’s pod and hold it there for about 15 seconds whilst it reads and calculates your composition. From this reading, the TomTom Touch will give you a percentage of body fat, muscle mass and others of which your body is comprised of.

The electrode on the underside of the TomTom Touch
The electrode on the underside of the TomTom Touch

How it works

The TomTom Touch uses the same technique of measuring body fat percentage as the conventional electrode machines used by professionals and that are found in most gyms.

These machines work via Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) which sends out a small electrical current. This current flows through the body easily until it meets fat or muscle tissue where there is some resistance. Upon measuring this resistance, the machine uses algorithms to commute what percentage of the body is muscle and fat.

This BIA measure is dependent on the subject’s sex, age, height and mass. Therefore, most full body Body Composition  analysers have built in scales to gain an accurate mass reading to reduce the error on this value.

As well as an accurate mass reading, these analysers have four points of contact and can therefore send an electric current throughout the entire body. One stands with the feet touching the electrodes as well as handheld devices making contact with the hands.

The TomTom Touch uses this same system, but a less advanced one. For the TomTom Touch to measure your Body Composition  it only has two points of contact, one on the underside of the band and another on the front. By placing your finger of the hand which doesn’t wear the band on the electrode, it creates a loop for the band to send the current through.

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Body Composition Accuracy

Due to this design and application of the BIA technology by TomTom it is inevitable for the TomTom Touch to not measure a fully accurate value for body fat and muscle percentage. This is due to there only being two points of contact for the Touch to connect and send a current through. Alongside this, there are other variables that are not always kept accurate such as height and weight which have to be entered manually, with weight changing on a daily basis, this can causes inaccuracies.

To test the accuracy of the Body Composition  features of the TomTom Touch, I gained the assistance of a PhD researcher at Loughborough University to measure my Body Composition  using their TANITA analyser. This machine gave a fully comprehensive Body Composition  analysis, measuring the distribution of body fat and muscle, something the Touch cannot do obviously due to its primary aim of being an activity tracker.

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From this analysis, the TANITA machine read my body fat percentage to be 3.3% initially over two tests on the same day. A week later I returned for further testing where the analysis showed a slight change to 3.6% body fat.

However, from extended use of the last few months with the TomTom Touch, I have unfortunately not been gaining similar results. The TomTom Touch consistently gives a value for my body fat percentage to be 15.5%. This is down from an initial 16.5% which was measured during the first week of testing, but I have yet to see it fall closer to the more accurate measurement given by the TANITA machine.

TomTom says that you should wear the TomTom Touch for 15 minutes before measuring your Body Composition , allowing the Touch to correctly configure to your body. Alongside this, TomTom also suggest that the readings improve in accuracy over time as the device calibrates correctly. But despite wearing the Touch most days for the last few months I am yet to see changes.

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However, personally I am at one end of the extreme with a low level of body fat. This therefore makes it harder for the TomTom Touch to measure this level accurately as there is less resistance to deal with. I have also tested the Touch on other subjects who have higher body mass and fat levels and these have shown to be more consistent. Other reviews of the TomTom Touch have implied that the readings are not accurate but can be quite close to the true value giving a sensible indication to whether you are over or under-fat.

Obviously this is TomTom’s first attempt at making a device which has the ability to measure Body Composition  and will not be perfect first time round. This gives them the ability to better the technology in future revisions along with altering the software and algorithms used to improve results.

For now, being able to measure your body commotion from the wrist is a great idea but the correct implementation of this BIA technology into a small wearable device is not quite there to give consistent, accurate readings. Yet, I still don’t believe this is a reason not to get the TomTom Touch as with software updates and for those who aren’t at the extremes of low body fat levels, the TomTom Touch is a capable device.


Use as an Activity Tracker

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The main basis of the TomTom Touch is it being an activity tracker, recording your daily activity through a main set of data fields. The fields which the TomTom Touch can track are:

  • Steps
  • Calories
  • Distance Walked
  • Activity Minutes
  • Sleep

The accuracy of the number of steps counted is neither here or there compared to the main protagonists in the market. The TomTom Touch has shown consistent and reliable results throughout all of my testing, accurately tracking various activities.

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On one day wearing both the Garmin Forerunner 235 and the TomTom Touch, both were very close to one another, with the TomTom Touch recording 6,031 steps versus the Garmin’s 6,136.

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You can never tell which is the most accurate value, but as I have used other activity trackers such as the Garmin Vivofit and Vivosmart, they all give roughly the same number within a couple of hundred steps.

Goals

There are many different thoughts on how active you should be throughout the day in terms of how many steps you take or minutes which you are active with a rough consensus being about 10,000 steps a day. These targets can be tracked via setting personal goals for you to aim for.

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On the TomTom Touch you can set up a personal goal via MySports which are synched and displayed on the TomTom Touch itself as a circle which gets filled in accordingly to how close you are towards that goal.

It is important to note however that the calories and distance walked won’t be the most accurate of values. The calorie value is based upon your height, weight and activity data, increasing the number of variables and therefore won’t be 100% precise, however this is the same for any other device tracking calories.

The distance travelled will also be slightly off due to the TomTom Touch not having inbuilt GPS. Therefore, this value is an estimate based off your average stride length so will not always be spot on and a way off other devices which have both activity tracking and GPS, like the TomTom Spark.

The TomTom Touch also tracks your sleep data. This just gives a you a cumulative time for which you were asleep for over each day, it does not however give you details on how active you were during your sleep.

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Heart Rate and Workouts

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All new activity trackers are looking to implement an optical heart rate monitor into the device. With this heart rate monitor it allows for 24/7 heart rate analysis to see how it fluctuates throughout the day along with giving you a level of your resting heart rate.

From the data recorded, you are able to view on TomTom MySports your heart rate throughout the day and see how it fluctuates. On the whole, the daily heart rate data matches up to all expectations. It remains low and consistent throughout the day with spikes occurring during any physical activity.

As seen in the MySports data below, the TomTom Touch can calculate your average heart rate throughout the day and also predict your resting heart rate level. There will be some changes in the resting heart rate value over time but I have seen this to remain consistent.

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Whilst acting as an all day activity tracker, using the heart rate monitor to analyse your heart rate, the TomTom Touch allows for an activity/ exercise/ gym mode where the Touch is able to record and track your workouts as well as your activity data. With the TomTom Touch the same sensors are used as in TomTom’s other devices and remains at the forefront of the best optical heart rate sensors, especially of the ones which I have tested.

TomTom don’t make their own sensors but use those of the company LifeQ. Here, the heart rate monitor uses an advanced multi-sensor system of both green and red LEDs to monitor heart rate.

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I personally believe that TomTom have done the correct thing to use a specialist heart rate company of LifeQ to implement their sensor into the Spark 3. This means that TomTom can focus on the GPS aspect, whilst LifeQ are specialists, making the best sensors possible.

To start a workout on the TomTom Touch, swipe down from the time screen and tap on the home button/ front electrode to get going. There will be a small vibration to let you know t he activity has started. Then to finish, carry out the same process as to start.

The TomTom Touch only has the capability of tracking your heart rate, calories burnt and time during your workout. It must be noted that the activity tracker does not include any GPS and will not track your route.

Despite this limited functionality, the TomTom Touch still remains a solid tracker of your workouts and is good to use when at the gym.

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Extra Features

One of the most critical things for an activity tracker is their battery life. Some of the older trackers used a replaceable battery which couldn’t be charged, whereas most new trackers – including the TomTom Touch – use a rechargeable battery.

TomTom advertise a rough guideline of 5 days worth of activity tracking which I have found to be pretty accurate, gaining at least 4 days from each full charge.

This value will be different for everyone depending upon amount of usage such with workouts which have a heavier effect on battery due to heart rate and activity tracking. With the addition of Body Composition  too, the TomTom Touch hods up well but not great in comparison to other activity trackers in terms of battery life but with the extra current having to be drawn from the battery for the body analysis, this is an understandable trade off.

(Source: TomTom)
(Source: TomTom)

The obvious addition to this TomTom device was smart phone notifications. However, the TomTom Touch only adds half of what we have come to expect on the higher end trackers seen with Garmin’s devices.

The TomTom Touch – when connected to your smartphone via Bluetooth – will vibrate and notify you when you have a new notification, whether it be a text or a call. The Touch will vibrate continuously on a call or once for a text.

Why I say that the TomTom Touch only has half of what other devices have is because it lacks the ability to view and read the notification. You are only alerted to the fact that you have one, however one is unable to view it directly on the screen. This is a shame, but far from a deal breaker as it is not often that you find yourself reading a text message on a very small activity tracker screen.

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For me, a main selling point from TomTom’s perspective is the integration of the TomTom MySports mobile app. This app is very easy to use with a clear user interface.

To pair your phone with the MySports App turn Bluetooth on on your phone with the MySports App open. Then go to Settings > Phone > Pair New and let the two connect by entering the code once the watch has been found by your phone.

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The app will also automatically download your activity data once the app is opened and connected to your phone, allowing you to view your data straight away.

You can also use the app to configure the settings of the TomTom Touch, turning on or off the all day heart rate and phone notifications.

One slight downfall of the TomTom Touch is the lack of full waterproofing. The activity tracker is IPX 7 rated, meaning that it is splash proof and okay to wear in the shower for example, whereas swimming would certainly not be advised.


Conclusion

The TomTom Touch definitely holds its own in the activity tracker market. Being TomTom’s first attempt at creating an activity tracker that was completely separate to their GPS device of the Spark lineup, it for me is a string first attempt.

What I really like about it is that TomTom have done something different which no other company has cone before by implementing the ability to track Body Composition  data. As I have previously said, it is not perfect yet but I am sure it will get better and it is a good first attempt.

This sets the TomTom Touch aside from other activity trackers by adding this feature whilst retaining the features which you’d now expect from the best activity trackers on the market. These other features such as 24/7 heart rate tracking and phone notifications work well and add to the consistent performance of the TomTom Touch.

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In comparison to other activity trackers the TomTom Touch certainly is a contender with its new features of Body Composition and great connectivity with the TomTom MySports App. Therefore I believe the Touch is a great addition to the TomTom line of products and is a solid activity tracker given the rate at which thew market moves.

I am happy to answer any questions regarding the TomTom Touch in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!


The TomTom Touch is available to buy on Amazon here:


2 Comments

    • Hi Rik,

      There are a number of reasons why you are unable to get a body composition reading. Firstly, ensure that you have been wearing the Touch for at least 15 minutes prior to trying gain a reading as the Activity Tracker takes time to calibrate.

      Another thing to check and make sure is that there is no moisture, either sweat or water on the two electrodes as this will disrupt the electrical circuit. Finally, ensure that the electrode on the underside of the band is fully touching your skin without too much hair in the way.

      Hopefully this helps, and if you are still having issues I’d recommend sending the device back to TomTom.

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