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First look: TomTom Spark, the GPS watch that plays music

TomTom’s newest GPS fitness watch, the Spark, is hitting Canadian stores this November

TomTom SparkThe Dutch navigation company has rolled out its fourth generation running-oriented timepiece and it comes with significant upgrades from the Cardio, last year’s very good, budget-conscious unit.

The biggest innovation in the Spark is the watch’s ability to play music. TomTom is responding to the fact that about 70 per cent of runners drag along an iPod or smartphone to listen to music. The Spark features 3 gigs of music storage, or about 500 songs. It connects to any Bluetooth player, including headphones or a speaker, so that you’re free to move around wirelessly on a run.

The Spark has a few other notable improvements from the Cardio (which we liked): the look and feel is more crisp and less toy-like, with a sharper monochrome screen that sports a large, easy-to-read layout. TomTom wisely decided to release two strap sizes after the Cardio’s overly large band struggled to appeal to those with smaller wrists.

In terms of functionality, TomTom has wisely made the Spark 3-party friendly, meaning that you can drag and drop iTunes playlists onto the watch with ease, and also upload workouts to Strava and other fitness tracker sites. Speaking of fitness trackers, the Spark can also double as a 24-7 device, keeping tabs on steps, workouts and even sleep. It can also track swimming, cycling and your output at the gym.

When working solely as a watch, the Spark can operate for four weeks on a charge. It gets about two weeks with activity tracking on, and about five hours of continuous GPS and music playback, which is great for just about any type of marathoner.

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The Spark comes in three options: the $200 GPS-only model, a $250 unit with its new music player feature and a deluxe $300 Spark that also has a heart rate monitor built-in.

The 25-year-old company first got into the fitness market through a partnership with Nike back in 2011, building the Nike+ GPS watch. Since then, TomTom has gone on its own, producing a series of affordable yet highly function running watches. Unsurprisingly, the core GPS tracking capabilities of the Spark appear to be quite comparable to their main competitor and industry leader, Garmin.

We’ll have an in depth review of the Spark after some extensive testing.