- Review Price: £129.00
- Activity tracking
- Heart-rate monitor
- Body fat analyser
- Sleep tracking
- Calories burned
What is the TomTom Touch?
With so many activity trackers to choose from, a strong USP is vital to stand out from the step-counting crowd. TomTom’s latest play in a populated market is the Touch, with its ability to measure body composition from your wrist. Of course, it also does the usual things we’ve come to expect from an activity tracker in 2016: recording steps, sleep and workouts, and measuring heart rate.
Body composition analysis isn’t interested in weight. Instead it focuses on the percentage of fat that makes up your total body mass. The Touch works this out using bioimpedence technology, sending a tiny electric current through your body and measuring the resistance it meets when passing through fatty tissue. Unfortunately, while this sounds great, its application with the TomTom Touch is seriously flawed.
TomTom Touch – Design and setup
A lightweight, and what might have been discreet looking, activity tracker is slightly spoiled by TomTom’s decision to whack a cheap-looking faux silver button on the main unit. A requirement of the body composition analysis feature – you place your fingertip on it to complete the resistance-measuring circuit – it’s an ugly addition to an otherwise sleek bit of wrist wear.
On the plus side, the comfortable strap feels fine on your skin over long periods and the main unit isn’t too chunky, so wearing the Touch all day (and night) doesn’t get irritating.
To charge, simply pop out the main unit from the strap and use the included micro USB cable. This open port means the Touch isn’t fully waterproof, but it’s water-resistant enough to be worn in the shower or having you running for shelter in the rain. While it would be nice to be able to swim with the Touch, I’ll take that sacrifice over a proprietary charger any day as TomTom has a frustrating tendency to use them with its products. After a quick charge and download of TomTom’s essential companion app, MySport, along with any updates you might need, you’re good to go.
TomTom Touch – Fitness tracking
Step counting and sleep tracking are perfectly adequate, both producing near identical stats when compared to a Fitbit Alta and MS Band 2. A vibration lets you know when you’ve hit your goal, and sleep tracking is both automatic and smart enough to not count sitting watching a film as having an evening nap.
The touchscreen lets you swipe between steps taken, total time spent working out, current heart rate and calories burned. Time is displayed too, of course, but you need to tap the button to wake it. Disappointingly, the screen is tough to see in sunlight. Not just direct light, but just outside light in general. In fact, even on a fairly grey day it’s an effort to make out. In other words, don’t trade in your watch for a Touch.
Recording workouts is easy. Just swipe down from the main screen, tap the button to start and tap again when you’re done. It’s not interested in what exercise you’re actually doing, though, and beyond logging the fact you’ve exercised – and for how long – there’s not much purpose to it. Especially since the Touch is constantly recording heart rate anyway.
In the MySport app, all your workouts will be logged simply under ‘gym’, and beyond a graph showing your real-time heart rate, workout duration and calories burned, there’s not a huge amount of information to glean from it. Same with sleep; you can see the amount of time you spent sleeping, and can view it by day, week and month – as with all other stats in the app. That’s great for getting a general overview of how much shut eye you’re getting, but there’s little insight into the quality of it.
Related: Why tech has made personal trainers redundant
It’s not all an exercise in mediocrity, though. The Touch’s heart rate monitoring impresses, constantly recording to give you a minute-by-minute log of your ticker, presenting it in line graphs in the app. It’s a great way to monitor overall heart health. For example, I made the – slightly foolhardy – decision to go up the stairs at Covent Garden underground station nearly every morning while testing the Touch, and seeing that spike on the graph get slightly lower over time is a great visual representation of progress. 24/7 monitoring also means that you can instantly see your current heart rate without having to wait for it to get a reading. One downside? Constantly checking your pulse is a drain on the battery, and though TomTom claims the Touch has a five-day battery life, I struggled to get through four.
Finally, pair the touch with your phone’s Bluetooth and you can get notifications. An icon and vibration let you know when you receive a message or call, and while you can’t see the text or compose a reply, it alerted me to activity I would otherwise have missed on the occasions my phone was languishing in the next room.
Related: Workout logs are the key to getting fitter – here’s why
TomTom Touch – Body composition analysis
So why should you even care about body composition analysis? Well, the traditional method, Body Mass Index (BMI), is an archaic method that just takes into account your weight in regards to your height. A notoriously inaccurate way to determine whether or not you’re in optimum shape, it brands those that strength train as overweight thanks to extra muscle tipping the scales, while naturally tall people struggle to put on enough weight to not linger in the underweight category.
Worse still, using weight loss as a yardstick for success can damage self-esteem. For instance, it’s misleading when someone finally gets round to working out regularly and sees their weight increase as a result of the new muscle they’ve built, rather than drop.
Bioimpedance bathroom scales have been around for a while now, and though body composition is, undoubtedly, a better measure of the shape you’re in than BMI, bioimpedance is a far from perfect way to measure it.
I once had my body composition analysed by DEXA (Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry) scan, and the results were considerably different from the readings I got from a variety of bioimpedance devices. But that’s fine as long as the results you get from those devices are consistent, because while the numbers may not be totally accurate, they still act as a baseline to give you a decent idea of how your body composition is fluctuating.
Annoyingly, it’s impossible for me to report on the Touch’s consistency. Despite following TomTom’s instructions to the letter, the vast majority of times I tried, The Touch flat-out refused to give me a reading. During a fortnight of testing I only managed to get it to work twice. That’s just two results out of 20 plus attempts. When successful, the results aren’t displayed on the Touch’s screen, either. Instead, you’re kept in suspense until you next upload your data to the app, where you’re presented with percentages for muscle, fat and ‘other’ (bones and water, basically) in a colour-coded graph.
In theory, it’s a brilliantly effective way of getting a proper reading on how diet and activity affects your physique, I just wish it worked. And it’s not just me; Trusted Reviews’ Wearables and Fitness Editor Richard Easton had a similarly inconsistent experience when he used the TomTom Touch. The TomTom Touch is very, very particular on how you place your finger on its sensor, right down to the angle of your placement and ensuring you don’t create a false circuit by accidentally touching other parts of your body. It’s just not very user-friendly or reliable.
Should I buy the TomTom Touch?
Considering the main feature it’s sold on rarely works, it’s hard to wholeheartedly recommend the Touch. If you want an average activity tracker with a better than average heart rate monitor, however, and the potential to analyse your body composition, this is your best – scrap that, only, choice right now.
Related: Best fitness trackers round-up
An average activity tracker with impressive 24/7 heart rate monitoring, the Touch’s unreliable body composition analysis makes it a squandered opportunity for TomTom to carve a unique spot in the crowded activity tracker market.
Watch: Wearables and Fitness Buying Guide
Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.