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Coros Vertix GPS adventure watch review: Long battery life, high end specs, and spinning digital knob Review

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Are we prepared for GPS’ mass rollover?
Tonya Hall asks John Clark, president and CEO of Masterclock, about how prepared the industry is for a mass rollover that affects all GPS timestamps.

While wandering around the Showstoppers event at CES in 2018 I discovered the Coros booth, primarily because of my interest in its Coros bone-conduction helmet that could initiate a text to an emergency contact if you crashed. I also saw that Coros had the Pace GPS sports watch and discovered it offered quite a bit for someone looking for a watch that had a very long battery life and affordable price.

A couple of weeks ago Coros sent along its new Vertix GPS adventure watch that is designed for high-altitude explorers or those of us who run, bike, swim, and workout at lower elevations. The Vertix is focused on providing very long battery life, high quality build for durability, and altitude acclimation data for those taking outdoor adventures to the extreme. I took it for a day hike on Mt. Rainier in Washington State, but didn’t quite reach the 8000 feet minimum for automatic acclimation activation.

See also: Coros PACE GPS multisport watch review: Newcomers challenge Garmin, Suunto, and Polar with affordable offerings

In addition to my day hike, I’ve been biking, running, sleeping, and commuting with the Coros Vertix and have to say that long battery life can be a game changer when you can go all week with some workouts and 24/7 tracking with no charging required. It may not have all the extras like offline music, watch-based payments, or advanced smartphone connectivity, but the Vertix gets the essentials done and is a great option for those athletes looking for a durable, reliable GPS sports watch.

Specifications

  • Display: 1.2 inch 64-color display, 240×240 pixels, sapphire glass with diamond-like coating
  • Materials: Titanium bezel and high-grade fiber watch body with silicone quick release 22mm watch band
  • Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, ANT+, and GLONASS/GPS (Galileo and Beidou with future update)/li>
  • Sensors: Optical pulse oximeter, optical heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, thermometer/li>
  • Water resistance: 15 ATM waterproof rating (150 meters)
  • Battery life: Up to 45 days in watch mode, up to 60 hours in GPS mode, and up to 150 hours in UltraMax mode
  • Dimensions: 48.74 x 48.74 x 16.75 mm and 76 grams
  • Color options: Dark Rock (black), Fire Dragon (silver/orange), Mountain Hunter (copper/green), and Ice Breaker (blue/clear)

The Coros Vertix is available now for $599.99 with the unique Ice Breaker color (primarily an azure blue color with transparent fiber elements) priced at $699.99. The comparable Garmin Fenix 5, without music, is priced $100 less at $499.99 and that is really where I think Coros should be with the Vertix in order to establish itself as a true option for Garmin, Suunto, and Polar athletes.

Hardware

The Coros Vertix is a big watch, but if you have made it this far into the review you must have some interest and understanding that this watch is feature packed and not meant for those with small wrists. There are two buttons and a rotating crown button (aka digital knob) all positioned on one side of the watch. One button is for the light and the other is labeled back/lap. The large digital knob spins while also pushing in to serve as a selection button. The great thing about the Vertix is that Coros lets you setup the watch to have the buttons and knob on the left or right side so it can be made to work with either wrist and whatever preference you desire. I’ve been wearing it on my left wrist with the buttons and knob on the right side.

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The digital knob is quite large and has grooves on the end to help you spin it and move the screens up and down on the display. Given that high mountain hikers and climbers may be using gloves, I put gloves on and was able to easily navigate the Vertix with the digital knob and buttons. Thankfully, Coros did not release the Vertix with a touchscreen interface, which I personally hate for a watch designed for outdoor activities.

The display is nothing like a vibrant Apple Watch or Galaxy Watch OLED, but it is a color display. It is very visible outside, but when using it inside my aging eyes require the light to be on most of the time. The light can be enabled when you lift up your wrist or by pushing the light button.

The sapphire glass is flawless and after running, biking, and hiking it remains as pristine as the day I started using it. The titanium bezel and fiber body also are attractive and give the watch a great high-end look and feel. There is an opening for the barometric sensor, and possibly the thermometer, on the side opposite the buttons.

A standard quick-release 22mm watch band mount is present and the leather band I bought for my Fenix 5 Plus work perfectly on the Vertix. I love having the ability to quickly and easily swap bands for work and play. The included silicone band is very malleable and comfortable, unlike some stiff bands I’ve tested in the past.

There are five areas on the back for the heart rate and pulse oximeter sensors with a three-prong charging port at one end. The charging cable looks like one of the newer Garmin cables, but Garmin uses four prongs to charge its watches so don’t try to connect a Garmin cable to the Vertix.

The Coros Vertix has a 15ATM (150 meters) waterproof rating and while very few people ever have the need, or qualifications, to dive that deep, this high level of waterproofing should translate into longer protection operating in lower depths of water or in rain, snow, or ice conditions. I don’t think the intent is for one to dive to great depths, but understand that their watch has a robust resistance to water intrusion.

See also: Coros Omni smart cycling helmet hands-on: Protection, music, and safety

Watch software

Unlike modern Garmin watches that can be a bit overwhelming with the number of features, widgets, and settings, the Coros Vertix offers a fairly streamlined user experience. When you first turn on your watch you will see a watch face that can be customized a bit from 21 watch face designs. I usually switch up every few days to try something new. There is no ability to create your own watch face or download others from an app store or anything.

On some watch faces you can press the back/lap button repeatedly to toggle through floors climbed, time of sunrise, time of sunset, active minutes, remaining battery percentage, and steps taken data that appear in various areas of a watch face. The top light button just toggles the light on and off.

Holding in on the back/lap button brings up a host of other options that are arranged around the outside of the watch face and activate when you spin the digital knob and press in on it to select it. Options that appear include mapping, navigation settings, UltraMax toggle, HR measurement, compass, alarm, do not disturb toggle, night mode toggle, watch face selector, timer, stopwatch, altitude performance, and system settings. Most are self-explanatory, but navigation settings is only valid if you have loaded courses onto the watch from the smartphone app.

System settings include a do not disturb toggle, workout interface selector, pair phone, pair ANT+ accessories, calibrate, turn off, reset all, device info, altitude alert toggle, GPS satellite location data, GPS mode, date/time, units, auto lock, tones, vibration, digital knob, wrist hand, backlight, watch face and theme color, and language.

Back starting on the watch face, rotating the digital knob takes you through the following screens: temperature, barometer, altitude, heart rate, and activity stats summary (calories burned, steps taken, floors climbed, and active time). Pressing in on the digital knob will bring up more details for some of these main widgets on the watch.

After using your connected smartphone to customize your workout interface, press in on the digital knob to choose the activity you want to track with the Vertix. Available options include run, indoor run, trail run, mountain climb, hike, bike, indoor bike, pool swim, open water swim, triathlon, gym cardio, and GPS cardio. There are also options to via the AI Trainer and selecting this shows your current stamina percentage, which shows how much you have left in the tank. For example, if you are well-recovered then you may show a stamina of 100%, but if you have been working out every day and are pushing the limits it may show 50%. This AI Trainer area also lets you scroll through recent recorded events and view the details of the data associated with those events.

Smartphone app

The Coros app is available for iOS and Android, with the same interface appearing across both platforms. The app is used to manage all Coros products, including the watches and connected helmets.

After adding your Vertix to the app you simply pull down to initiate a sync event with the watch. There are four main displays in the app for the Vertix: today screen with all of your data for the day on one long display that shows calories burned, active energy, exercise time, steps taken, heart rate, sleep, training load, fitness index, and fitness load. You can tap the calendar icon in the top left to see a ring summary of past dates (aka Apple Watch and Garmin) and choose to view the specific data from that date as well. There is no ability to view reports, such as your trends in steps over weeks or months and with no companion website this is one area I would like to see improved upon. The data is definitely there, but you need to go out to third parties to create reports and develop more analysis.

The next available display in the app shows your workouts. You can filter these by type of workout and then tap on a specific workout to view all the nitty gritty details. The details include a map, GPS track, distance, elapsed time, and calories burned with plots of speed, elevation, heart rate, heart rate zones, lap breakdown, training effect, and cadence. You can choose to share that data as an image, export in various standards, saved route, Facebook post, and more. You can also edit the specific workout name.

The third smartphone display is a profile display with some basic stats on you and various totals you have achieved in various events. There are also medals you can earn that will appear on this page. Below the medals are options to access settings, 3rd party apps, favorite routes, account link, FAQs, feedback, and about. Third party app options include Strava, TrainingPeaks, RQ, HealthKit, and WeRun. As a Strava user I found this useful since I can then use Strava to run historical reports and help me track improvements. HealthKit integration lets you transfer cycling distance, heart rate, steps, swimming distance, and walking/running distance from the Vertix to your Apple Health account.

The last display on the smartphone app is where you manage the Vertix. The coolest feature is the ability to setup the five available displays for each workout type so you can see what you want when exercising. You can choose to have from one to five types of data on one to five displays. Data options include time of day, total time, workout time, distance, laps, cadence, stride length, pace, speed, heart rate, and many more. I haven’t found one piece of data missing from what I want to track.

Other options on this page include My Route, watch face settings, altitude performance, GPS satellite data, and firmware update.

Daily usage experiences and summary

I owned a Fenix 5 Plus for about a year and enjoyed using it, but then moved on to the lighter and smaller Forerunner 945. The Coros Vertix is 10 grams lighter than the Fenix 5 Plus I owned and still feels just fine on my wrist. It’s not the best watch to wear for sleep tracking, but sleep stats are not a major focus for the Vertix so its safe to leave off at night.

The extremely long battery life is a game changer and when you can go for more than a month just wearing the watch 24/7 then that is something special. For my usage of wearing it 24/7 and running two to three times a week I can easily go a couple of weeks between charging the watch. That might not seem like much, but when you can rely on your watch to just work every day it changes your perspective on wearables.

Last year I tested out and became a fan of running power as tracked by the Stryd device. The Coros Vertix connects to the Stryd, but there is not yet any data field to have power appear on the watch. I read a discussion post on the Stryd website that support for Coros was coming and given the active work by Coros developers (check out the current release notes) I foresee Stryd support soon. When that happens, I may indeed be picking up my own Coros Vertix or Apex.

Given the similar watch faces and basic form factor, it is natural to compare the Coros Vertix with the Garmin Fenix 5 or 5 Plus. Both are large watches about 48mm in diameter, both have quick release 22mm bands, titanium and sapphire glass materials are used, the charging port is similar, and some software elements are nearly the same. That said, Garmin’s watches use a five button navigation system while Coros has a rotating digital knob and two buttons. This may not mean that much to the bike/run athlete that I am, but high altitude athletes will greatly appreciate rotating the digital knob with gloves, having the watch work in extreme temperatures, and having their pulse oximeter tracking their health automatically when high in the clouds.

The Coros Vertix also has stunning battery life ratings that at least double Garmin’s battery life. Ultra long distance runners will also appreciate being able to run for many hours, or a few days, with GPS tracking enabled. I like that you can customize your workout screens for the Vertix on your smartphone and then sync over to the watch while Garmin displays are customized on the watch itself. The Vertix lacks onboard maps, offline music, and Garmin Pay so if these features are important to you then the Vertix is not a candidate for your GPS watch needs.

The sapphire and titanium version of Fenix 5 Plus is priced at $749.99, which is $150 more than the Coros Vertix. That version of the Fenix also lacks a pulse oximeter so you would need the large 5X Plus with no titanium frame for $749.99 or the titanium model for $1,049.99 to match what Coros is offering. Yes, there are less expensive Fenix 5 and 5 Plus models, with some additional features, but I don’t think $599.99 is ridiculous for the Vertix if you are the type of adventure athlete it is targeted for. If you are a runner or cyclist, then the Vertix is likely overkill for your needs and you can look at the much less expensive Coros Apex or Pace.

Although I like to hike, I’m not a high altitude adventurer. However, I love the look, feel, design, and functionality of the Coros Vertix and have my eye on that cool Ice Breaker and the Mountain Hunter models. Coros has demonstrated a good track record of updates too, which is something other companies have been lacking. The Coros Vertix is an excellent entry into the GPS sports watch market and I look forward to future Coros releases.



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SAIC Mobility Robotaxi valued at $1B after $148M Series B – TechCrunch

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SAIC Mobility Robotaxi, an arm of state-owned Chinese automaker SAIC aiming to launch a commercial robotaxi service, raised $148 million (RMB 1 billion). The funds will be used to scale its robotaxi service in China, which it will operate in partnership with autonomous vehicle company Momenta.

SAIC Group led the Series B round that also saw participation from Momenta, Gaoheng Management Consulting and other institutions. The funding brought SAIC Mobility’s total valuation to more than $1 billion, according to the company.

SAIC Mobility’s robotaxis are powered using Momenta’s “Flywheel L4” technology, which is designed to use deep learning rather than a rules-based, machine learning approach. Momenta contends that the technology allows the robotaxis to quickly iterate and improve its algorithms.

The funding comes eight months since the two companies launched two 100-day trials in the cities of Shanghai and Suzhou. The pilot, which launched in December, tested a fleet of 60 vehicles, all of which had a safety driver behind the wheel at all times. SAIC says it reached a daily order volume of about 20 rides per vehicle, and that its overall user satisfaction rate was 98%. About 80% of riders used the service two or more times after their initial experience, according to the companies.

The next step is to advance SAIC’s trial in Shanghai and Suzhou into a service as SAIC Mobility gears up for eventual commercialization. Local regulations don’t support commercialization and SAIC wants to be ready when new regulations are released early next year, according to a SAIC spokesperson.

With Momenta on its side, SAIC Mobility has a good chance of scoring a commercial deployment permit in Suzhou. The company has a joint venture with the Suzhou branch of the state-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC), which has oversight of more than 100 large state-owned enterprises, to “scale up” robotaxi deployment in the city.

Launching in Shanghai will put SAIC Mobility in competition with other big players, like Baidu, which also has an autonomous ride-hailing service, Apollo Go, in the city. Baidu also recently got the green light to operate a commercial robotaxi service, without a human driver present, in Wuhan and Chongqing. Baidu is also operating Apollo Go commercially in Beijing, with a human safety operator present, alongside Pony.ai.

Momenta and SAIC have said in the past that they aim to deploy 200 vehicles across China by 2022. To reach this aim, the two companies will use the Series B to buy and develop more vehicles, more than doubling the current number in its fleet, and to continue to improve on both the ride-hailing app, as well as the autonomous capabilities of the vehicles, said the spokesperson.

“SAIC Mobility Robotaxi’s success is the organic combination of ‘operational experience’ and ‘leading autonomous driving technology,’” said Cao Xudong, CEO of Momenta, in a statement. “Our two companies together will continue to develop the technology, products and commercial implementation to meet the future and diverse travel needs of end users. We believe that this will become the industry benchmark for autonomous driving and in-depth cooperation between leading car companies and operating platforms, and the future of scalable [uncrewed] driving.”

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Pomelo exits stealth mode with $20M seed to rethink international money transfer – TechCrunch

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Eric Velasquez Frenkiel had a seemingly simple thought when visiting his family in the Philippines, impressed by the cashless economy that had formed. Instead of sending money to his family once a year – a costly, fee-heavy affair – why can’t he just leave his credit card there?

As with many things in fintech, it wasn’t that simple. But the seed of the idea made the former enterprise chief executive turn his career into a bet on one of fintech’s most elusive problems.

Pomelo, Frenkiel’s new startup launching out of stealth today, wants to make it easier to send remittance payments and conduct international money transfer, with a credit twist.

To execute on that vision, Pomelo has raised a $20 million seed round led by Keith Rabois at Founders Fund and Kevin Hartz at A* Capital, with participation from Afore Capital, Xfund, Josh Buckley and the Chainsmokers. The round also included a $50 million warehouse facility, which will allow Pomelo to give upfront cash to people who want to make transfers.

Venture investors are not the only cohort showing interest; over 120,000 people have joined Pomelo’s waitlist over six months, according to Frenkiel. (It’s important not to confuse this Pomelo with another Pomelo, a fintech-as-a-service platform for Latin America that has raised $9 million in funding). Oh, fintech.

Here’s how the startup works: if someone wants to send money overseas, they make a Pomelo account, which comes with up to four credit cards. The creator of the account – let’s just assume that they’re the one that is sending the money – can set limits, pause cards and view spending habits.

Pomelo’s key tweak is around credit. Senders can give cash, in the form of credit, to family members – which the startup thinks will help with instant access to funds, fraud and chargeback protection and, for potential immigrants that may use this to send money back home, a way to boost one’s credit score with more transaction history.

Challenges still await any fintech, whether traditional or scrappy upstart, that is betting its business on backing potentially risky individuals. For example, Pomelo doesn’t want to rely on credit score when deciding whether or not to trust a sender, because the metric historically leaves out those who don’t have a bounty of access to financial literacy or spending.

Image Credits: Pomelo

“If you do have a credit score and you have enough credit history, you would get up to $1,000 a month,” Frenkiel said. “But if you don’t have credit or wish to improve your credit, we give you a credit builder.” Customers are invited to supply a secure deposit, so that there’s a way to prove creditworthiness down the road, and Pomelo is able to “actually balance the need to extend credit but also ensure we stay in business long term.”

International money transfer continues to be an expensive affair for senders. Unsurprisingly, that pain point has led to a plethora of startups. Startups offer a sliding scale proposition, meaning it costs more to send more money, or a flat-fee value proposition, with a $5 fee for all transfers regardless of size. Per the World Bank, around 6% of a total check is removed via fees and exchange rate markups.

Rethinking remittance thus feels like a common pitch. Frenkiel says that Pomelo’s closest competitors are Xoom and Remitly, although he thinks they differentiate in two keys ways: the focus on credit, and a “fundamentally new revenue model.”

Pomelo doesn’t make money from senders via transfer fees, instead leaning its business on interchange fees paid by merchants. “You shouldn’t have to pay money to send money,” Frenkiel adds.

While interchange fees have their own slew of issues as a business model, let’s end with some insurance: both Visa and Mastercard were interested in partnering with the startup, but the latter won the deal.

“MasterCard allows us to work in more than 100 countries,” Frenkiel said. “Obviously, we’re starting off with a few, but the idea is that there’s far more endpoints to take MasterCard or Visa than having banking as a prerequisite to send money… we hope we can eventually deliver a product to wherever MasterCard is accepted around the world. ”

The startup is servicing the Philippines, but soon plans to expand to Mexico and India as well as other geographies.

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Watch NASA roll out the mega moon rocket Space Launch System ahead of launch – TechCrunch

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NASA engineers have completed final tests of the Space Launch System (SLS), clearing the way for the mega moon rocket to roll out to the launch pad today instead of Friday as originally planned.

The space agency was able to move up the date for the rollout — when a transporter-crawler moves the 322-foot-tall SLS from the Vehicle Assembly Building to launch pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center — because it completed key tests of the rocket’s flight termination system (FTS). The FTS is a critical series of components that ensure a rocket can be safely destroyed after launch in the case of a major failure. Testing of the FTS was “the final major activity” on NASA’s pre-launch to-do list, the agency said.

Image Credits: NASA

Testing and installing the FTS was last on the list because the system starts a proverbial “clock” of around 20 days for launch. If launch does not occur within this period, the system must be retested. This time frame is set by the U.S. Space Force and by the FTS’s own battery system. NASA was able to get an extension from Space Launch Delta 45, the USSF unit that has jurisdiction over launches on the east coast, from 20 days to 25 days.

That means NASA is on track for a first launch attempt of the Artemis I mission on August 29. Thanks to the extension, NASA can now make backup launch attempts on September 2 and September 5.

Artemis I is the first in a series of planned launches aimed at returning humans to the moon for the first time since the Apollo era. The primary goal is to test the Orion spacecraft and ensure it can safely carry humans. (SLS is not reusable, so while a successful launch will surely give engineers plenty of confidence about the rocket, it will not make a second flight.) During the mission, Orion will journey around the moon before conducting a reentry and splashdown back on Earth.

The next flight in the manifest, Artemis II, is scheduled for 2024. This mission will carry humans, though they won’t touch down on the moon. That privilege will go to the next cohort of astronauts, which will include the first woman and person of color to go to the moon, during the Artemis III mission scheduled to launch in the middle of the decade.

Today’s rollout is expected to take around 11 hours. Click on the video above to watch it live.

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