A few days ago I was on-hand at the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where Swatch showed off a cool new watch designed specifically for beach volleyball players and fans: the Swatch Touch Zero One.
The Swatch Touch Zero One is a comfortably sporty, niche-focused yet mainstream-accessible activity tracker that looks beautifully low-tech on the outside but is spectacularly high-tech at the core of what it does and packed full of features I found exceptionally interesting and innovative. What the team at Swatch has begun with this device is undeniably brilliant. The watch and the wider ecosystem it is helping to establish are absolutely significant developments in the world of wearable technology and I will be very excited to see where Swatch takes things next. Very. Excited.
The primary function of the Touch Zero One is to enhance the beach volleyball experience. For players this means tracking and analyzing performance in a device that has to be durable enough to deal with sand, water and constant jolts. For fans — and this is a very cool feature — this means having a chance to be more involved in the game (more on that momentarily).
Beach volleyball players, from beginners to professionals, can use the Touch Zero One to track data like power and number of hits and see those metrics on the watch itself. And players can dig deeper into these stats as well as access additional stats within the accompanying app. In the app you’ll be able to see how many hits were attack hits, low hits, high hits and see the average power of your hits.
All of this information is highly useful for training and improving strategy. In other words, it’s not outlandish to say that these insights could help beach volleyball players win more matches.
And like I mentioned, there’s a function of the watch designed specifically for fans of beach volleyball: the ability to measure clapping (both the amount of claps and the intensity). In other words, the Touch Zero One can measure fan engagement! And I think this is really cool for a couple reasons.
First, it’s entirely possible that many beach volleyball players are fans and vice versa, so it makes the watch twice as useful for people who play and enjoy the sport. Second, imagine, as Swatch does, a global leaderboard where fans representing countries compete right along with the athletes to show team spirit.
And if you think beach volleyball fans wouldn’t be into tracking their cheering, you could not be more wrong. While I was in Fort Lauderdale I witness first hand how passionate, energetic and downright serious these fans get. They’re already doing everything they can to stick it to the other team (and other team’s fans) so why not make it official in a, “See, we care more than you and we can prove it,” sort of way?
On a bit of a side note, before we get back to the features, I have to say that I’m a big fan of the “quantified self” movement. My addiction to data about myself started with tracking statistics for for DailyTekk: I couldn’t (and still can’t) get enough. Page views, views by country, time spent on the site and seeing which articles perform best. And then came health tracking, sleep and activity tracking, environment sensors, etc. I love it all: and I think other people do too (or would if they haven’t really gotten into yet) as long as it’s as automated as possible. And in this case (tracking fan engagement and team support with the Touch Zero One) it’s as simple as wearing the watch, clapping and, eventually, comparing. Long story short, I’m really keen on this function.
And I suppose this is as good a time as any to talk a bit more about the ecosystem Swatch is building here. With the Touch Zero One the company is gaining a foothold in the world of not just activity tracking but personalized activity tracking. They aren’t taking a one-size fits all approach, developing one device that you merely load different apps on for different types of activities. They’re going to the next level by developing different devices that are specific to subsets of people and interests and the Touch Zero One and beach volleyball are just the beginning. I hear surfing is next, probably followed by other sports and eventually, I am told, there could even be a watch designed specifically for chefs! I think it’s an approach that makes an awful lot of sense given the fact that people do different things with their lives and those pursuits necessarily demand customizations that go beyond swapping out bands and software.
Alright, back to the features.
The Touch Zero One is also an activity tracker everyone, even non-beach volleyball players and fans, can use and love. It’ll track total steps, calories burned, distance traveled and time spent walking or running. In the app you’ll be able to see that you burned an amount of calories that was equal to a burger, for example, so the app provides a lot of food for thought (get it?!) when helping you think about your fitness.
And this brings me to one of the crown jewels of this watch: it’s app. While I respect the hardware for what it is (a thoughtful, useful watch with a thorough understanding of it’s target market), it’s the software accomplice that makes everything worthwhile in my mind. Whereas the watch screen itself is necessarily basic in it’s capabilities, needing to withstand hot, sandy, wet conditions and needing to be as light and durable and comfortable as possible (with as long a battery life as possible), the app pulls out all the stops and fills in any perceived gaps. It’s one of the better fitness apps out there, volleyball or otherwise.
The apps design is clean and playful; it’s got a bit of an attitude and doesn’t take itself too seriously while at the same time it’s able to help players and fans get more serious about their game and health.
I particularly like the app’s coaching aspect. So not only does the app track your data but it gives you hints and suggestions to help you better reach your fitness goals. And there are 3 different coaches (avatars, styles) to choose from: a tough guy, a lazy dude or a super hero. And one fun and unique aspect of the in-app coaching is the ice cream meter: when you do something the coach likes, he’ll reward you with a scoop of ice cream. It’s a fun visual way to gamify the fitness experience. It’s also something you won’t find anywhere else: the Apple Watch included.
One really awesome aspect of the app is the ability to set a virtual goal of walking or running to famous cities around the world. It’s another fun and unique way to think differently about what you are accomplishing. For instance, you could set a goal of walking to London and, when you had traveled that distance over time, you’d get a notification that you’d made it there! For me this is exciting: to think about actually having traveled that distance over time is an incredible achievement. I personally find this feature highly motivating and entertaining. Any company could have come up with this, but Swatch beat them there by thinking differently about how information could be presented.
Finally the Touch Zero One is a watch and gives you multiple time zones, the date, an alarm, a chronograph and a timer function. Once again, the app shines through by being the best and easiest way to control all the time functions (from the phone rather than on the actual watch screen).
The Touch Zero One comes with 6 different band types and color options. The designs I feel are probably the coolest (and most unique) are the SUNZERO and SKYZERO which have a really intuitive strap design that allows them to be put on or off very quickly (you know, if you’re playing beach volleyball). There’s a cord that stretches (almost like a hair tie) over the watch face and latches on the other side. It’s really slick. The other bands and colors look great too; there’s a lot of room to let your personality shine through.
So how well does the Touch Zero One work and perform? I had a chance to test it out during a private lesson with some Italian pros at the Fort Lauderdale tournament and I have to say it’s very light, very comfortable, very tough and user-friendly once you get to know how it works. Honestly, while I was playing I didn’t even notice that it was on my wrist (which is pretty awesome because the last thing players would want is any kind of a distraction).
The fact that the battery lasts for 9 months is incredible. With all of the smart devices I have sitting around me at my desk, the thing I resent most about many of them is their very poor battery life. Even charging something every night can be a huge hassle. Case in point: when I fly with my smartwatch I have to bring it’s charger, keep track of it, hope the airline doesn’t lose my luggage, unload it, plug it in, remember to re-pack it. You get the point. There’s none of that with the Touch Zero One. Again this is possible because all the really heavy lifting happens app-side.
So what’s my take? I highly recommend the Swatch Touch Zero One to any beach volleyball player — whether novice or pro (especially if you’re in a competitive arena) — and to any beach volleyball fan. In either case you’ll be more connected to the game and in the athletes case, you’ll be armed with the information you need to become a better player. If you’re serious about beach volleyball, I’d go so far as to say you need this. Let’s put it this way: if I were a competitive beach volleyball player I wouldn’t want to be without it.
And quite honestly, even if you’re not into beach volleyball but are considering purchasing a fitness/activity tracker watch, I’d absolutely look into the Touch Zero One as an alternative to a Fitbit or similar device. It’s that good at what it does and the app is truly one-of-a-kind both in it’s style and features.
Easter Egg Alert: the Swatch Touch Zero TWO will be debuting at Rio for the Olympics. Stay tuned!