So what about this sports lark, then? Well, the handset comes preconfigured with a ‘sports mode’ designed to track five types of activity: walking, running, cycling, rowing and stair stepping.
Your first task is to tell it your gender, age, height, weight, endurance level (low, moderate, high), max heart rate for training, and resting heart rate. It uses some of this information in conjunction with its built in pedometer to calculate distance travelled during exercises on foot – i.e. running.
For the pedometer to work you have to wear the Nokia 5500 Sport on the provided belt clip. It wasn’t as sturdy as I’d have liked and I found it rather awkward.
More of a concern is that the pedometer uses an average measurement of stride length based on height. This is unforgivable for any kit that claims to measure distance travelled. Even cheap high street bought pedometers ask you to calibrate your own stride length. As for its use when you are cycling, I doubt average stride length bears any resemblance at all to cadence and distanced travelled on a bike.
Unless you are running on a very uniform surface such as a track or treadmill and happen to have an average stride length the pedometer isn’t going to be anywhere near accurate. My own off road stride pattern varies enormously. You can pair with a GPS antenna for more accurate distance measurement, but that requires buying – and carrying – additional kit.
Distance travelled is worked out on the basis of the pedometer readings, and during testing it varied a lot when compared with information delivered by a Timex Bodylink system I reviewed last August and still use.
Similarly, information on calories burned is a calculation rather than an accurate measure. And despite your ability to give the Nokia 5500 heart rate information it has no way of measuring this on its own and it can’t talk to a heart rate monitor so it can’t work with heart rate zones to help you maximise effort.
In fact, and this is my final pop at the pedometer, its best use is probably with the provided Groove Labyrinth game in which you tilt the phone to move a marble around a series of ever more difficult mazes. It is addictive, and I don’t often say that about handset games.
You can use the sports software to build a diarised exercise regime based on a number of different targets. These are no more sophisticated than the plans running magazines or web sites offer. The only real benefit offered here being that a training diary is automatically created for you.
You can slap the handset to get it to perform various tasks. While you are exercising a tap will get the phone to give you some performance info. If a text message comes in, a tap up to 30 seconds later will result in the message being read out. When you are listening to music you can pause, resume and skip tracks.