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Published on October 19th, 2012 | by Greg


PEAR Square One: All-in-One Work­out Pal

Ac­celerom­e­ters, heart rate mon­i­tors, au­dio coach­ing. Foot pods, da­ta read­outs, train­ing sched­ules. Cus­tom head­phones, on-de­mand in­struc­tion, per­son­al­ized op­tions and plans. Run­ning and jog­ging, like so many ac­tiv­i­ties and hob­bies, have found ev­er more ways to use tech­nol­o­gy and put it to work, of­fer­ing en­cour­age­ment and gath­er­ing feed­back. To­day’s de­vice of­fers an in­ter­est­ing mix- all of the above, in fact- and does so with­out a bunch of sub­scrip­tion fees or even the need for a smart­phone.

If you’re just try­ing to have fun, or pow­er walk, this might not be for you. But for more se­ri­ous ath­letes, or even am­a­teurs who could use a lit­tle ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion, the Pear Square One of­fers a com­pelling pack­age and a sol­id val­ue propo­si­tion, with fair­ly stylish hard­ware that can hold up to a beat­ing. There are quite a few pieces to cov­er, so let’s get to it. If you al­ready have some of these items, this might not be a great fit, but over­all the PEAR Square One is the best all-in-one, out-of-the-box sys­tem that we’ve tried.

In­clud­ed in the im­pres­sive­ly small pack­age is the base unit it­self, along with a set of bright blue head­phones. In­side a cute reusable bag is the rest of the gear- the foot pod, which at­tach­es to the laces on your shoes and doesn’t re­quire spe­cial shoes, as well as the heart rate mon­i­tor and strap (and a few re­place­ment ear­bud tips, plus a USB ca­ble). The bright blue col­or scheme was con­sis­tent from the box to the soft­ware, a nice touch- but the on­ly col­or op­tion avail­able.

The first thing we did was read the in­struc­tions, which were thank­ful­ly sim­ple and straight­for­ward. Af­ter set­ting up a free ac­count on their site, which asked ba­sic ques­tions like height and weight, we were asked to down­load a pro­gram to our com­put­er (both PCs and Macs are sup­port­ed). In­stal­la­tion was pain­less, and then we con­nect­ed the de­vice to our com­put­er with the in­clud­ed USB adapter. Af­ter re-en­ter­ing our ac­count in­for­ma­tion, we had to syn­chro­nize the de­vice, link­ing it to our pro­file. Ev­ery­thing is sim­ple and clean, and you can al­ways ad­just your plans, check out your sched­ule, or track your ac­tiv­i­ty from any brows­er even when you don’t have the de­vice on hand- as long as you’ve synched it! Their sys­tem makes it re­al­ly sim­ple to brag about your work­out on Face­book, though you won’t have ac­cess to nifty maps like with some com­pet­ing prod­ucts that use your smart­phone or a GPS de­vice. In­stead, you’ll see the style of work­out, and the dis­tance, du­ra­tion, and calo­ries burned. You’ll even get a score, based on how well you stayed with­in the tar­get zones for a giv­en work­out. Our main com­plaint about the soft­ware and da­ta read­outs were some odd lim­i­ta­tions- no step count,

Which leads, nat­u­ral­ly, to the work­out and rou­tines them­selves. Most are free, though more ex­ten­sive paid ones are avail­able for marathons, and you can choose from ex­am­ples in­clud­ing “45 Minute Tem­po Run”, “20 Minute High In­ten­si­ty In­ter­val Run”, and “30 Minute Fat Burn Run”. The ba­sics of the sys­tem are the work­outs, and you can se­lect, down­load, and in­stall a work­out to the base unit in a mat­ter of min­utes. Each in­cludes cus­tom au­dio (even with ran­dom tips on weight loss) and tar­get­ed heart rates, and two of them- the as­sess­ment run, which you use first, and the free for­mat run, are al­ways avail­able on your unit.

Take your de­vice- a bit big­ger than an iPod Shuf­fle- clip it to your cloth­ing, and then wire­less­ly con­nect the pair of pe­riph­er­als. The unit feels a bit cheap- all plas­tic- but was lightweight, weath­er-re­sis­tant and took a cou­ple of drops with­out a scratch. But­tons are easy to find, though vol­ume is a bit dif­fi­cult to ad­just. And speak­ing of an iPod Shuf­fle, the sys­tem is cus­tom-built to work with the fourth gen­er­a­tion of Ap­ple’s tiny mu­sic play­ers- we didn’t have one on-hand, but they serve as the mu­sic source should you wish. The heart rate mon­i­tor was lightweight and seemed to work fair­ly well, sim­i­lar or bet­ter than oth­er sys­tems and pe­riph­er­als that we’ve tried. Ac­cu­ra­cy was not per­fect- there didn’t seem to be a way to cal­i­brate our foot pod- and our heart rates seemed oc­ca­sion­al wonky, as we did have trou­ble get­ting to Zone 5 or stay­ing in Zone 1 re­gard­less of how hard we tried.

It’s a sim­ple con­cept ex­e­cut­ed pret­ty well. The omis­sion of a mu­sic play­er is odd, but get­ting an iPod Shuf­fle is cheap and easy. The use of tar­get­ed zones in­stead of re­ly­ing on com­pli­cat­ed math is a neat way to get you to fo­cus on spe­cif­ic needs, but it was hard to get them right, even with au­dio feed­back sug­gest­ing that we speed up or slow down. The va­ri­ety of free work­outs is im­pres­sive, but you’ll need to con­nect the Square One to a com­put­er to get them or change them, as well as synch it up to see how you did. The bat­tery life is sol­id, and the head­phones top-notch for this use (they stayed in even while run­ning, a feat on­ly one oth­er pair has man­aged), but au­dio suf­fers quite a bit and there’s no re­al way to make adap­tive playlists based on your work­out or needs. For run­ners or jog­gers who want a sim­ple so­lu­tion, don’t want to car­ry a smart­phone, and who don’t have oth­er gear- and es­pe­cial­ly if you al­ready have an iPod Shuf­fle- this de­vice will help you vary and im­prove your work­outs. Avail­able now, at a rea­son­able $250, con­sid­er­ing how much you get in the pack­age, and the lack of sub­scrip­tions or ad­di­tion­al fees.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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