Published on November 9th, 2009 | by Greg0
Fun In The Sun with Swimovate and Suntrica
For most of us the days of beaches, pools and sun tans have been put aside for mistletoe, wrapping paper, turkey and snow angels. Just because the daily attire of choice leans more toward jackets or fleece instead of your favorite board shorts or teeny bikini doesn’t mean that someone on your holiday list wouldn’t love to start getting ready for longer warmer days now. Set yourself up to be the favorite gift giver this season with a Pool-Mate watch or a SolarStrap solar charger.
Swimovate’s Pool-Mate watch is, at first glance, a lap-counting watch. However, much like many other activity watches the Pool-Mate does a lot more than just track laps for you. It also displays and stores session time, average strokes per lap, speed, distance, calories and efficiency, and it does it for both the overall session and for each individual set. The internal accelerometer is responsible for the lap counts, it detects the glide portion of a lap, and quite accurately at that. (Note that accuracy decreases in pools smaller than 10 meters.) We tried ours out in both the pool at the gym which is 25M in length, and found it to be quite accurate, even with multiple strokes in a set. The difference between the crawl and butterfly really didn’t seem to trip this watch up at all. All of the information is stored in the watch’s memory, which holds a large amount of data- we weren’t able to use it all up.
It’s available in both blue and gray, and honestly the biggest drawback is that the watch will only last for 12 months with regular use, and then will have to be sent back to Swimovate for a new one, as it’s not possible for a user to replace the battery. At $114 it might be a bit overkill for the occasional swimmer, but for anyone who is swimming on a regular basis it’s a handy tool to keep track of fitness progress.
While we don’t have a solution to the non-replaceable battery in the Pool-Mate watch, we do have a battery solution of sorts for many of your other gadgets. The Suntrica SolarStrap is a solar battery charger, designed to work with most phones, smaller digital cameras, GPS units and mp3 players. We’ve long been big fans of solar chargers, and realize that any type of alternative energy is still (sadly) a fairly new technology. The drawback to a portable solar charger, in this one and models we’ve looked at previously as well, is that they are slow. To be portable, not many photo-voltaic cells can be used, which will ultimately affect the speed at which the charger properly power your gadget. A partial charge will take around 12 hours in full sun, and to get a full charge you’re going to need over 24 hours of full, direct sunlight- so it could take several days, depending on where you’re at.
We found that the SolarStrap works consistently and reliably though, and is really ideal for maintaining a charge on our devices that have already been charged through more conventional means. It works by strapping around the device that needs to be charged, and comes with many different adapters (we tried out the iPod, PSP, mini-USB, and Nintendo DS and they included several others for phones like SonyEricsson and Samsung) so that a wide array of electronic gadgets can be charged. The SolarStrap is remarkably thin, flexible and lightweight, and it’s very easy to strap onto a purse, backpack or multi-use bag. Ours got rained on a bit, and we didn’t have any problems, but we’d suggest doing your best to keep it dry though if for no other reason than to preserve it’s longevity and usefulness for you. The SolarStrap can be fast-charged using an AC charger or a USB cable, which are both available as accessories. While not widely available yet, we expect that products like this will become much more accessible in the near future. Your best bet right now is to look up a dealer on Suntrica’s website. The SolarStrap costs about $50, an excellent pricepoint, and other models are available for those with a need for extra durability or power.