Moov Now Review: Your Best Bet for a Fun Fitness Christmas

It’s no secret that I like the idea behind Moov, the US-based but China-connected fitness startup. After my review of the startup’s first-gen fitness tracker, I was so impressed that I bought one, and used it religiously. So earlier this year, when I learned that the company was launching a second-generation tracker, I was pretty excited. “More than any other startup I’ve written about — and that’s hundreds — Moov has changed my life,” I wrote. Does the next generation of Moov – the Moov Now – offer that same promise?

The concept

To understand whether the Moov Now is worth your money, you need to understand what it is. Moov Now, like the original Moov before it, is a bluetooth fitness tracker that you strap to your wrist or ankle. The physical tracker links with an app on your smartphone (Android or iOS) that will track your progress but also give you real-time feedback as you exercise via a computer-generated voice in your headphones.

For example, during a “speed endurance” run, the Moov will tell you when intervals start and stop. It’ll periodically fill you in on how fast you’re moving, and let you know if you’re slipping behind your target pace. It’ll also let you know if it catches you making a mistake, like letting your footfalls get too heavy (which can lead to injury). And just like a real coach, it will periodically nag you about things like maintaining the proper posture and swinging your arms correctly.

When you’re not actively working out, the Moov Now won’t coach you, but it can track your activity levels throughout the day as well as your sleep patterns at night to give you a broader picture of your health.

The hardware

The Moov Now, strapped on and ready for a cold-weather run.

Since Moov’s app is a constantly-evolving beast, the biggest changes that came with the Moov Now release were to the hardware tracker. The original tracker was good, but this one does have some improvements that make it worth the upgrade.

First and foremost: way longer battery life. Moov says that the battery in the Moov Now will last as long as six months, and while I can’t be sure whether it can really go that long, it has worked fine for me over about a month of testing. When the battery does run out, you’ll have to replace it – it’s no longer rechargeable – but the Moov Now takes CR2032 coin batteries that are cheap and easy to find. Not having to worry about recharging the battery once a week like I did with the first-gen Moov is a massive improvement.

The new Moov Now is also smaller and sexier. The actual tracker is a tiny metal cylinder about the width of a quarter that you slip into rubber wrist or ankle straps. The rubber strap holder features a hole-punch pattern that gives the device a futuristic look and highlights whatever color you’ve chosen (the strap is always black, but there are four color options for the tracker). The snap system on the rubber straps is still a pinching hazard for those among us with hairier legs, but the Moov Now felt more secure to me during a run, and unlike its predecessor it never popped off.

The Moov Now is also waterproof. That seems like a no-brainer for a tracker that can handle swimming, but I tested it several times just to be sure.

New tracking features

The other big change with Moov Now is its new feature: activity and sleep tracking. To be clear, Moov Now is not a step tracker; instead it just tracks your general activity level throughout the day and graphs it for you. Your Moov workouts will be highlighted (as you can see in the image below), but you’ll also get data on the rest of your day. If you’ve been sitting on your ass playing video games, you’ll get a pretty flat line. If you’ve been more active, you’ll get a more varied and satisfying-looking bar graph. If you keep the device on at night you’ll also get estimates of how much good sleep time you got.

In my own tests, I found these features somewhat useful, but they weren’t enough to get me to wear the Moov 24/7. Although it looks much better than the previous iteration, it’s still a bit strange to wear something with no watch face on your wrist. For me, the Moov Now’s feedback on sleep and activity was interesting, but I didn’t feel inclined to really do anything with that information, and as a result I stopped bothering to wear it around the clock pretty quickly.

(The Moov Now also supports integration with some third-party heart rate monitors. This technically isn’t a new feature as it has been a part of the Moov app for a while, but it’s something that has been added since my original review of the first-gen device so it seems worth mentioning here anyway).

The app and exercises

Moov’s bread and butter – the exercises in its app – hasn’t changed much, but since my original review, the separate workout apps have been combined into a single Moov app and support for cycling has been added. The app is basically the same between iOS and Android – the only difference I noticed is that on Android, background music pauses while the Moov coach is talking, whereas on iOS it fades down but continues to play. The iOS approach is less jarring if you’re listening to music, but if you’re the type who likes podcasts or audiobooks then the Android pausing approach works much better. Either way, though, you can work out with Moov Now and still enjoy your music or other audio entertainment.

Running: Running is still Moov’s forte, and it has the most diverse offerings here. You can choose from a variety of workout types: brisk walking, running efficiency, speed endurance, sprint intervals, and open training (where Moov acts more like a tracker and lets you keep your own pace while logging all your data). Moov still gives you a bucket of data to peruse once you’ve finished your run, and that now includes an interactive GPS map (pictured below) of your route with mile markers you can tap to view specific information like pace, range of motion, and cadence over that mile.

My only complaint about Moov’s running programs is that they’re not more customizable. While each has lots of difficulty settings to ensure that you’re challenged but never faced with the impossible, there’s still a lot you can’t change. Personally, for example, I love how the speed endurance program challenges me to keep a pace, and warns me whenever I fall behind. But the program insists on interspersing rest intervals every mile or so where it’ll let you run at any pace. I’d love to be able to choose an option to disable rest intervals and have it keep me at a set pace for the entirety of my run, but at present that’s not possible. It also lacks a few other unnecessary-but-nice features of other running apps like shoe selection to help keep track of how many miles have gone into each pair of running shoes, or built-in marathon and half-marathon training programs.

These are minor gripes, and for the beginner or casual runner, they’re almost certainly irrelevant. But if you’re a more experienced (or more picky) runner, you may find yourself wishing you had a little more leeway in planning your runs.

Bodyweight workout: If you need to get a quick sweat going (or just want your workout over as fast as possible), this is your best option. The Moov coach will guide you through a series of bodyweight exercises with virtually no rest in between so that you can burn calories fast. In as little as ten minutes, you’ll do three sets of jumping jacks, squats, planks, lunges, pushups, and crunches, with Moov’s coach critiquing and cajoling you all the way. The app’s ability to track all of this is impressive, and although at times you’ll hate the Moov coach for not letting you rest, isn’t that kind of the point?

Cycling: I only got the chance to try Moov’s cycling mode once (I don’t have a bike at the moment), but functionally it’s pretty similar to the running app, although it doesn’t have different training modes. It tracks everything from your cadence and speed to elevation and calories burned, and of course offers real-time coaching via headphones. It also has a live map feature, which will be useful for those who can mount their phones on their handlebars. One thing that’s important to note: Moov’s cycling mode will not track your progress on stationary bikes. This is a little disappointing, as the stationary bike is my go-to replacement for outdoor exercise on days when the weather makes going outside impossible.

Cardio boxing and swimming: I didn’t try either of these exercises with the Moov Now, because cardio boxing requires two Moov Now trackers (I only had one) and swimming in my area at this time of year requires a heated pool or an interest in contracting hypothermia (I have neither). I did try cardio boxing a year ago for my original review, though, and based on that experience I’d say it’s another excellent workout, but one best enjoyed with a larger-screen device like an iPad.

A note about connection quality

When I started testing the Moov Now, I was using a three-year-old iPhone 5, and I found that it would disconnect several times during almost all of my runs. This was only a minor annoyance – the disconnections seemed to last just a split second, so my running data remained accurate – but it made me wonder about the Moov’s bluetooth range.

After switching to a new Android phone, though, I haven’t had a single connection issue with the Moov. Given that, I’m fairly certain the iPhone connection issues I experienced were a problem with my phone’s bluetooth rather than a problem with Moov Now. I think this experience is worth pointing out anyway, though – if you have an older phone or a phone with any history of bluetooth issues, you might find Moov disconnecting occasionally, which can be annoying in the middle of a workout.

Should you buy a Moov Now?

The Moov Now will run you US$80 on Moov’s website, and you can now also find it in retail Apple stores as well as on Apple’s website. Is it worth it? In a word, yes.

I said this in my original review and it still applies: the Moov is the best fitness device out there for beginners, and for people who want a tracker that can cover a variety of different workouts. It’s the perfect low-effort solution, because you can pick whichever sort of exercise you’re in the mood for and Moov’s coach will tell you exactly what to do, no planning required.

With that said, if you’re really into one particular sport (like cycling or running) and you want the freedom to customize your workouts, Moov may not be the best option right now. I expect more options to be added to the app over time, but right now, Moov is all about telling you how to work out. If you have your own ideas about that, Moov isn’t particularly suited to helping you realize them.

In that way Moov can be kind of like a fitness gateway drug. That’s certainly what it has been for me. Before I first tried the device, I had stopped working out regularly and I hadn’t run in years. After reviewing and then buying the device, its running programs got me hooked, and in months I went from a non-runner to somebody who’s running upwards of thirty miles a week. Somewhere along the way, I actually stopped regularly using the Moov, switching to an app with a few more running-specific features and customization options. But I love the Moov’s live coaching, which pushes me to maintain a specific pace, and if Moov would just add a few tweaks and features, it’d be my go-to app again in a heartbeat.

It’s also worth pointing out that for the price, it’s hard to beat Moov. A Garmin running watch paired with Strava Premium, for example, would offer me more advanced running-specific features, but it would also cost hundreds of dollars. At its price point, the Moov Now is a damn compelling option even for advanced runners looking for tracking and coaching that doesn’t break the bank. It’s still a few app updates away from perfect in my book, but it’s still a gadget that any fitness freak (or workout wannabe) should be ecstatic to find under the Christmas tree this year.

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