Workout wearables usually live on the wrist or the chest, and we've lost count the amount of devices that promise a tie-in with 7 Minute Workout or feature open workout tracking.
Essential reading: Jabra Sport Coach Special Edition review
The Coach takes a different approach, dispensing with a heart rate monitor in favour of a motion tracking accelerometer – and big price saving. The Jabra Sport Coach retails for a more wallet friendly $149.99.
Jabra Smart Coach: Design and features
The Jabra Sport Coach is made up of two in-ear buds, connected by a single wire. It connects to your device by Bluetooth, which means no annoying connecting wires between your phone and ears, and you can hook them up to a smartwatch for music on the go.
The pairing process is easy. You press and hold the button on the module, and a voice will tell you the Jabra Sport Coach headphones are now in pairing mode. Just go to the Bluetooth menu on the phone or wearable to complete the process.
The only complaint is that the Jabra's require constant pairing, which means 'forgetting' the device from the phone and then repairing – which gets old fast. That can be mitigated by using NFC pairing, if you have a handset that supports the technology.
Once paired the Jabra Sport Coach fulfils two roles: a pair of wireless headphones, obviously, and a fitness coach via the Jabra Sport app. The app features a number of workouts, which make use of the built in accelerometer to differing degrees.
But how does it fare in comparison to the plethora of other fitness apps on the market? We took it out and got sweaty.
Jabra Smart Coach: Activity tracking
When it comes to getting fit the Jabra Sport Coach features an impressive line-up of workouts. However, rather than being a simple tracker like the Fitbit Surge, which keeps tabs on pretty much any workout you choose, the Coach does as its name suggests: offering guided exercise routines which you follow from the phone app via the headphones.
In the app you select the type of workout from the list, and then the voice coach will take you through, telling you which exercise is next. There are loads to choose from, and they're all customisable, if you want to ramp up the difficulty or weed out the moves that require kettle bells, for example.
Of course, the Jabra Sport Coach isn't unique in this respect, and we've seen other wearables offer similar services. The Wahoo Tickr X has a 7 Minute Workout mode, as does Moov, which also features its own brilliant running and cycling coaching.
When it comes to running Moov beats the Jabra Smart Coach hands down, but for workouts, the Jabra app is one of the best we've seen – mostly because you can put your phone away and concentrate with getting on with your routine.
The only slightly confusing part of this is that the headphones actually play very little part in any of the workouts. Most are timed, e.g. 30 seconds of high knees running, but reps aren't counted using the built-in motion sensor, and you have to tell the app when you're done them by pressing a button on the left earpiece.
As the app is free to download, you could do most of the exercises with any pair of headphones, not the Sport Coach. We asked the Jabra CEO René Tune-Svendsen about this in a recent interview, and he hinted that more integration with the built in accelerometer was on the way, but for now it's a bit of a let down.
The exception is in running training where the Jabra Smart Coach's motion sensor is used to track cadence. The whole running system was extremely effective, and accurately tracked time, pace and distance as well as your steps per minute. The results were extremely accurate against GPS watches, and more importantly, consistent over a number of runs too – although there's little difference between the results and that of Strava or RunKeeper.
The app itself is easy to use and features all the metrics you'd expect. There's also zero bells and whistles other than coaching and tracking – with no social challenges or achievements on offer.
Jabra Smart Coach: Sound quality
As a pair of headphones first and foremost sound quality is important, but the Jabra Sport Coach doesn't ace in this respect. Music and voice is clear, yet bass is slightly lacking and you need to turn them right up to get an adequate volume.
However, they are a serious step up from the headphones supplied with any smartphone, so if you're looking for a first upgrade they do enough to impress. However, audiophiles will need to look elsewhere.
Jabra Smart Coach: Battery life
Battery life is a big disappointment, and we found that the Jabra Sport Coach was rarely able to last a full day's use. That's a huge issue as most people will use the headphones as part of their daily lives – not just for workouts.
The quoted battery length is 5.5 hours of talk-time and 10 days of standby. We found battery life was decimated by an hour commute, and any listening at our desks would mean a charge was required before heading home for the evening. And of course, nightly charging is essential too.
In terms of a workout the Jabra Sport Coach should last the length of most long distance running events, although a full marathon would likely test the limits.
The only positive is that the headphones recharge by Micro USB, which means it's simple to power up when you arrive at your desk – but slightly more difficult to do on a 35 mile ultra marathon.
- Great selection of workouts
- Good run tracking
- Decent sound quality
- Minimal battery life
- Very little integration from headphones
- Needs constant pairing