Review: Motionize Paddle Edge

Update: I posted an update to this review here.

Summary: If I were you, I’d hold off buying it until they can work out some of the problems.

So they started talking about the Motionize device last year some time, and I was really excited. The idea was that it would put sensors on your boat and paddle and a phone app that would tell you exactly what your paddle stroke was doing, and give you advice on how to make it better. Sort of like an extra pair of “eyes” on your technique. But the device they announced as the first product was an all-singing, all-dancing do-everything monster device with built in phone charging, bluetooth speakers, all in a massive case that you’d somehow have to lash down to your kayak or surfski. And because it attempted to do everything, it cost way too much. It seemed like something you’d want to buy as a club and pass around from paddler to paddler to get some feedback, go off and work on it, and then borrow it back every few weeks to see how you were improving. A few months ago, they announced a stripped down version called the “Paddle Edge” – it just had the sensors, and a mount that you could put your phone into, but it would be up to you to provide a waterproof case for your phone and keep it charged up. And so not only did it fit better on a surfski, it also fit better in your budget. I jumped at the chance.

I’ve been paddling with it for a few weeks, and while it does offer some good advice and coaching, I have a few complaints that I feel really need to be addressed.

  • Probably the most important complaint is that the app freezes up. Probably 25% of the time, it freezes soon after I get on the water. If I’m lucky, I’m in a position to return to the dock and get out and fiddle with the phone to kill the app and restart it, but sometimes I just end up paddling with a useless frozen display staring at me for the whole session.
  • The thing will chew down your phone battery in no time flat. I find the most interesting screen is the one that shows a “top view” of your paddle travelling through the water in real time, indicating if your catch or withdrawal is outside of the recommended zone. But that screen will completely drain my phone’s battery – today it went from 85% to 5% in 75 minutes. This ranks right up there with the freezing problem as reason not to buy until they do something about it.
  • The display of where your paddle goes in and out of the water is really sensitive to boat tilt and other factors. I was doing intervals today up and down the canal and every time I did a 180 degree turn the display would show my paddle moving at 90 degrees to the boat right through the middle of the cockpit for hundreds of meters beyond the turn. At other times it would show one side going way too long and the other side way too short – I suspect the boat might have tilted a bit and it got confused about where the waterline is. This really cut into the usefulness of the info it gave me.
  • The device is capable of giving you a lot of information, but there isn’t much room on the screen. It would be really useful if, like a Garmin Forerunner, it could be configured to automatically cycle between two or three screens with more information on them (but not the map – I never need to see that). It would also be useful if there were a way to review some of the info afterwards. The summary you get on iOS is pretty minimal. I’ve seen what other people get on the Android version of the app and it’s better, but still not perfect.
  • Some of the coaching information it gives you is obviously not based on any sensor info – like when it tells you to remember to hydrate. The thing is, I don’t know if some of the other advice it gives you is somehow determined from sensors or not, like when it tells you to look forward rather than down or when it tells you to rotate at the hips. It should probably have some sort of indication which is which – even a simple color code would be helpful.
  • The push button on the paddle sensor is supposed to switch screens, and also if you double tap it it’s supposed to start or end a session. Switching screens works most of the time but not all the time, double tapping to pause and end a session works less than half the time, and I’ve never gotten double tapping to start a session to work.
  • When I was setting it up, I clicked the “Connect to Garmin” button, not realizing that was only for the Fenix not for the Forerunner 920XT, and now every time I startup the app it tries to connect to the ConnectIQ store to download something, only to tell me it’s not available for the 920XT. I haven’t figured out how to make it stop doing that.
  • Not really their fault, but I find it hard to see the screen in direct sunlight. I don’t know if it would help, but an option in the app to change it from white text on a dark background to dark text on a light background might help.

Not related to the list of complaints, but I needed to put my water bag under the front bungies on Friday, and when I tried to move the phone mount out of the way I overstressed the mount and broke it. I bought a more robust RAM suction mount and this thing looks bombproof. Highly recommended.

Also not a complaint, but a recommendation to Motionize: you guys should put a link on your page so people can order more of those sticky mounts to they can move the sensors to their other boats and paddles.

The thing is, I really want this thing to work for me, and for everybody else who bought them. So I’m making this offer to anybody from Motionize who wants to fix this issues – I’m willing to do anything you need to help. I could film the screen when it’s doing weird stuff (like it did today when I was doing 180 degree turns). I could install a debug version of the app to help you collect information – I’ve installed beta apps with mobile provisioning files before, so I’m familiar with the process. I could file bug reports or talk with your developers. Let me know what I can do to help.