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.
- 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Stream raises $38M as its chat and activity feed APIs power communications for 1B users – TechCrunch
A lot of our communication these days with each other is digital, and today one of the companies enabling that — with APIs to build chat experiences into apps — is announcing a round of funding on the back of some very strong growth.
Stream, which lets developers build chat and activity streams into apps and other services by way of a few lines of code, has raised $38 million, funding that it will be using to continue building out its existing business as well as to work on new features.
Stream started out with APIs for activity feeds, and then it expanded to chat, which today can be integrated into apps built on a variety of platforms. Currently, its customers integrate third-party chatbots and use Dolby for video and audio within Stream, but over time, these are all areas where Stream itself would like to do more.
“End-to-end cryption, chatbots: we want to take as many components as we can,” said Thierry Schellenbach, the CEO who co-founded the startup with the startup’s CTO Tommaso Barbugli in Amsterdam in 2015 (the startup still has a substantial team in Amsterdam headed by Barbugli, but its headquarters is now in Boulder, Colorado, where Schellenbach eventually moved).
The company already has amassed a list of notable customers, including Ikea-owned TaskRabbit, NBC Sports, Unilever, Delivery Hero, Gojek, eToro and Stanford University, as well as a number of others that it’s not disclosing across healthcare, education, finance, virtual events, dating, gaming and social. Together, the apps Stream powers cover more than 1 billion users.
This Series B round is being led by Felicis Ventures’ Aydin Senkut, with previous backers GGV Capital and 01 Advisors (the fund co-founded by Twitter’s former CEO and COO, Dick Costolo and Adam Bain) also participating.
Alongside them, a mix of previous and new individual and smaller investors also participated: Olivier Pomel, CEO of Datadog; Tom Preston-Werner, co-founder of GitHub; Amsterdam-based Knight Capital; Johnny Boufarhat, founder and CEO of Hopin; and Selcuk Atli, co-founder and CEO of social gaming app Bunch (itself having raised a notable round of $20 million led by General Catalyst not long ago).
That list is a notable indicator of what kinds of startups are also quietly working with Stream.
The company is not disclosing its valuation but Schellenbach hints that it is “6x its chat revenues.”
Indeed, the Series B speaks of a moment of opportunity: it is coming only about six months after the startup raised a Series A of $15 million, and in fact Stream wasn’t looking to raise right now.
“We were not planning to raise funding until later this year but then Aydin reached out to us and made it hard to say no,” Schellenbach said.
“More than anything else, they are building on the platforms in the tech that matters,” Senkut added in an interview, noting that its users were attesting to a strong return on investment. “It’s rare to see a product so critical to customers and scaling well. It’s just uncapped capability… and we want to be a part of the story.”
That moment of opportunity is not one that Stream is pursuing on its own.
Some of the more significant of the many players in the world of API-based communications services like messaging, activity streams — those consolidated updates you get in apps that tell you when people have responded to a post of yours or new content has landed that is relevant to you, or that you have a message, and so on — and chat include SendBird, Agora, PubNub, Twilio and Sinch, all of which have variously raised substantial funding, found a lot of traction with customers, or are positioning themselves as consolidators.
That may speak of competition, but it also points to the vast market there for the tapping.
Indeed, one of the reasons companies like Stream are doing so well right now is because of what they have built and the market demand for it.
Communications services like Stream’s might be best compared to what companies like Adyen (another major tech force out of Amsterdam), Stripe, Rapyd, Mambu and others are doing in the world of fintech.
As with something like payments, the mechanics of building, for example, chat functionality can be complex, usually requiring the knitting together of an array of services and platforms that do not naturally speak to each other.
At the same time, something like an activity feed or a messaging feature is central to how a lot of apps work, even if they are not the core feature of the product itself. One good example of how that works are food ordering and delivery apps: they are not by their nature “chat apps” but they need to have a chat option in them for when you do need to communicate with a driver or a restaurant.
Putting those forces together, it’s pretty logical that we’d see the emergence of a range of tech companies that both have done the hard work of building the mechanics of, say, a chat service, and making that accessible by way of an API to those who want to use it, with APIs being one of the more central and standard building blocks in apps today; and a surge of developers keen to get their hands on those APIs to build that functionality into their apps.
What Stream is working on is not to be confused with the customer-service focused services that companies like Zendesk or Intercom are building when they talk about chat for apps. Those can be specialized features in themselves that link in with CRM systems and customer services teams and other products for marketing analytics and so on. Instead, Stream’s focus are services for consumers to talk to other consumers.
What is a trend worth watching is whether easy-to-integrate services like Stream’s might signal the proliferation of more social apps over time.
There is already at least one key customer — which I am now allowed to name — that is a steadily growing, still young social app, which has built the core of its service on Stream’s API.
With just a handful of companies — led by Facebook, but also including ByteDance/TikTok, Tencent, Twitter, Snap, Google (via YouTube) and some others depending on the region — holding an outsized grip on social interactions, easier, platform-agnostic access to core communications tools like chat could potentially help more of these, with different takes on “social” business models, find their way into the world.
“Stream’s technology addresses a common problem in product development by offering an easy-to-integrate and scalable messaging solution,” said Dick Costolo of 01 Advisors, and the former Twitter CEO, in a statement. “Beyond that, their team and clear vision set them apart, and we ardently back their mission.”
TikTok launches ‘TikTok Q&A,’ a new feature for creators to engage with viewers’ questions – TechCrunch
Earlier this year, TikTok was spotted testing a new Q&A feature that would allow creators to more directly respond to their audience’s questions using either text or video. Today, the company has announced the feature is now available to all users globally. With the release of TikTok Q&A, as the feature is officially called, creators will be able to designate their comments as Q&A questions, respond to questions with either text comments or video replies, and add a Q&A profile link to their bios, among other things. The feature also works with live videos.
TikTok Q&A grew out of a way that creators were already using the video platform to interact with viewers. Often, after posting a video, viewers would have follow-up questions about the content. Creators would then either respond to those questions in the comments section or, if the response was more involved, they might post a second video instead.
The Q&A feature essentially formalizes this process by making it easier for creators — particularly those with a lot of fans — to identify and answer the most interesting questions.
To use Q&A, viewers will first designate their comment as a Q&A question using a new commenting option. To do so, they’ll tap the Q&A icon to the right side of the text entry field in comments. This will also label their comment with the icon and text that says “Asked by” followed by the username of the person asking the question. This makes it easier for creators to see when scanning through a long list of comments on their video.
The feature will also feed the question into the creator’s new Q&A page where all questions and answers are aggregated. Users can browse this page to see all the earlier questions and answers that have already been posted or add a new question of their own.
Creators will respond to a Q&A question with either text or video replies, just as they did before — so there isn’t much new to learn here, in terms of process.
They can also add Q&A comments as stickers in their responses where the new video will link back to the original, where the question was first asked, similar to how they’re using comment stickers today.
The feature will also be available in TikTok LIVE, making it easier for creators to see the incoming questions in the stream’s chat from a separate panel.
As a part of this launch, a Q&A profile link can be added to creators’ Profile bios, which directs users to the Q&A page where everything is organized.
During tests, the feature was only made available to creators with public accounts that had more than 10,000 followers and who opted in. Today, TikTok says its available to all users with Creator Accounts.
To enable the feature on your own profile, you’ll go to the privacy page under Settings, then select “Creator,” tap “Q&A” and then “Turn on Q&A.” (If users don’t already have a Creator account, they can enable it for themselves under settings.)
The feature is rolling out to users worldwide in the latest version of the TikTok app now, the company says.
@tiktokYou can now ask and answer any questions on LIVE with the new Q&A feature. Check it out now!
♬ original sound – TikTok
WhatsApp rolls out voice and video calls to desktop app – TechCrunch
WhatsApp is rolling out support for voice and video calling to its desktop app, the Facebook-owned messaging service said Thursday, providing relief to countless people sitting in front of computers who have had to reach for their phone every time their WhatsApp rang.
For now, WhatsApp said its nearly five-year-old desktop app for Mac and Windows will only support one-to-one calls for now, but that it will be expanding this feature to include group voice and video calls “in the future.”
Video calls work “seamlessly” for both portrait and landscape orientation, and the desktop client is “set to be always on top so you never lose your video chats in a browser tab or stack of open windows,” it said.
Speaking of which, support for voice and video calls is not being extended to WhatsApp Web, the browser version of the service, at the moment, a spokesperson told TechCrunch. (Facebook launched dedicated desktop app for its Messenger service last year, which supports group video calls.)
The new feature support should come in handy to millions of people who use WhatsApp’s desktop client everyday and have had to use Zoom or Google Meet for one-to-one video calls on desktop partly because of convenience.
WhatsApp, used by over 2 billion people, hasn’t shared how popular video and voice calls are on its platform, but said it processed over 1.4 billion calls on New Year’s Eve — the day usage tends to peak on the Facebook-owned platform.
Like the 100 billion messages WhatsApp processes on its platform each day, voice and video calls are also end-to-end encrypted, it said.
Once known for taking quarters to push a feature improvement to its app, WhatsApp has visibly grown more aggressive with adding new features in the past year. In late January, Facebook added opt-in biometric fingerprint, face, or iris scan authentication for WhatsApp on desktop and the web, an additional protection layer that makes more sense after today’s update.
It rolled out ephemeral messages, photos, and videos that disappear after seven days late last year, and also rolled out its payments service in India, its biggest market by users.
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