If you think you need some extra motivation to get fit, Samsung and Adidas think they have the answer – a mobile phone with a personal trainer built in.

The Samsung F110 miCoach, a sliderphone developed with Adidas, is designed with personal coaching right at the heart of the phone’s functionality.

The other workout must-have – a music player – is also fully integrated with the miCoach software, a sophisticated onboard voice-guided coaching system that monitors your performance and charts your progress.

Store your training data online

Other sports-orientated phones have come and gone, but the Samsung/Adidas effort is something entirely different, and more advanced than any similar systems on mainstream consumer gadgets, such as the Nike+ iPod set-up or Nokia 5500 Sport.

As well as having a dedicated user interface in the phone, the miCoach phone can sync up with the miCoach website (www.micoach.com) on a PC to record your running performances, track key data on a graph – and develop a personalised coaching regime for you, based on your fitness levels and your training goals.

This can then be downloaded into the phone’s miCoach calendar to lay down a detailed running regime – whether you’re looking just to get fit, dump some fat, or run a marathon.

The onboard system will then coach you and give you feedback during runs, based on information from the supplied heart rate monitor and stride sensor.

Impressive accessories

Aside from the personal-trainer-in-your-pocket, the debut phone for the miCoach system has a decent features line up.

It lacks high-speed 3G connectivity, relying instead on quad-band GPRS/EDGE, so doesn’t have all the latest multimedia goodies. However, it has a good quality music player onboard, which benefits from 1GB of internal memory – although there is no memory card support, so you can’t expand it further.

There’s an FM radio included, a standard 2-megapixel camera with video capture facility, and the regular run down of messaging, email and organiser functions you’d expect from a mid-priced Samsung handset.

The accessories supplied with the full miCoach kit are impressive. There’s the heart rate monitor and stride sensor, an armband phone holder, plus you get a fine set of in-ear phones with ear loops. This is far from a token effort at a sports phone…

Nice to handle

The sliderphone design of the Samsung F110 miCoach is well considered and good to handle. Available in a range of colours, including the tasteful black of our review sample, it has a textured rubber-feel casing and a large, roughened navigation pad to give it good traction for sweaty fingers.

It’s a lightweight 80g, despite average-sized dimensions of 101.5(h) x 45(w) x 14.5(d) mm, so is good to run with. Its slider keypad is neatly engineered, with number buttons large enough, and well separated with subtle grooves between rows.

The controls on the closed slider work well, too, with prominent keys for launching the miCoach workout application and music player flanking the central navigation D-pad. The phone uses a typically intuitive menu system, based on a icon-grid main menu with various sub-menu lists as you click through options.

The display on this phone is a bit disappointing. It’s a 2-inch 262K-colour TFT LCD, with 176x220 pixels resolution – less detailed than most Samsung phones at this sort of price level. You’ll notice it more with viewing images and mobile internet sites than with general menu operation.

Surprisingly, there’s only a small amount of low-key Adidas branding on the phone, with a logo below the display an on the rear.

Create a coaching plan with Adidas

Although it does have a reasonably good set of features for a mid-range 2.5G phone, the key element of the buying decision will revolve around the specialist miCoach system; if you’re serious about getting fit or improving your running, and you like the idea of having some help from your handset, then it’s certainly recommended.

The miCoach training system enables you to assess your fitness level via an initial run, using the stride sensor and heart rate monitor, in conjunction with age and weight details you’ve tapped in.

Every run is recorded into the phone’s memory, for you to sync whne it suits you using downloaded miCoach PC sync software and the supplied USB cable (note, though, there’s no Mac software option currently available). You can set up your workouts from the phone, selecting from criteria such as time, distance, pace, calories and so on, and schedule in your personal plan.

However, online, you can easily create a more detailed personalised long-term coaching plan by selecting the goals you require; you can choose your own targets, whether it’s learning to run, getting fit, losing weight, running a race, improving race time or boosting speed.

The system will calculate a schedule that suits your training availability, and then download it to your phone’s miCoach calendar. 

An encouraging system

Every time you run, performance data is recorded which can be synced to your personal miCoach account. You can view graphs of your performances based on this data, presented in minute detail – you can check your heart rate or pace at any point in any run.

The system is well constructed; your in-phone coach gives you vocal instructions as you go along, including when to up your effort levels or ease back according to the particular workout you’re doing. By double-tapping the screen as you’re running, you can also get information updates on your progress, heart rate, distance and so on.

For Joe Average who isn’t aware of the most effective ways to train, this is extremely useful stuff, and we found the system really did encourage us to reach for our running shoes as our schedule demanded.

The miCoach use interface itself is easy to follow; it’s based on a carousel menu system, enabling you to choose to start a workout, plan one, check your calendar, adjust the settings you require and so on. It’s got a photo section too, if you want to archive your running snaps, and you can attach pics to separate workouts.

Motivational music

Usefully, too, the onboard music player is integrated into the training system – something MP3-player carrying runners will be pleased about.

As well as a variety of regular categories under which tunes are stored (artists, albums, playlists, genres, composers, etc.), there are running specific ones. A ‘motivation songs’ category enables you to put your favourite adrenaline-boosting tunes under one section; if you’re lagging mid-run, a long press of the central navigation key immediately calls up one of these tunes to get you going again. It’s a nice touch.

Other categories include ‘tempo’ – you can categorise tracks  (slow, medium or fast) using Samsung’s PC suite Multimedia Manager software before copying them from a PC – and ‘stride’, which are pace-setting tunes you can download from the miCoach site.

In addition, the music player categories offer quick access to your favourite FM radio stations – a useful free music service the F110 miCoach also offers. You can also sync up tunes easily with Windows Media Player 11 on a PC, copy over using Samsung’s software, or simply drag and drop in mass storage mode.

There’s a separate music player fast access key on the control panel to activate it when you’re taking it easy too. The user interface is again intuitive and attractively presented, while the audio performance is impressive. The in-box round-ear headset produces good quality sound, with its ear buds blocking out background noise.

Awkward connectivity

Although good for running (albeit with a bit of adjustment to fit tightly), you may want something more discreet when wandering around.

Usefully, the headset is a two-piece affair, so you can swap the earphones for any regular iPod-style set or better quality headphones by plugging them in to the mid-line microphone/remote control unit. You’ll up the sound performance with a quality set of headphone, so it’s worth exploring to get the most out of the music player.

The socket into the phone – on the upper side of the F110 – is not ideal however, as it means the connector can get caught in your pocket, and makes it awkward to get the phone in and out of its armband while you’re running.

There is a loudspeaker but, as usual with mobiles, it’s no great shakes for tune listening. On the other end of the spectrum, stereo Bluetooth is supported for high quality wireless headphones.

It is a shame, though, that you can’t expand the phone’s 1GB memory. While it’s sufficient for a few hundred tunes, it would have been good to have the option of memory card expansion to increase this further for not much cash.

Decent quality camera

The 2-megapixel camera on the F110 is reasonable quality, and can produce decent snaps, but isn’t the finest available on Samung cameraphones. There’s no flash for low-light shooting and no autofocus.

It does take acceptable snaps however, particularly in bright conditions, and colour reproduction is generally good. Detail is limited if you’re thinking of high quality printing, and shots in very low light suffer from picture noise. Nonetheless, the user interface is nicely set up, with a dedicated camera button on the side, and there are a fair few settings you can tweak, plus picture editing tools to adjust shots too.

Video shooting is average quality for a phone, with a top resolution of 176x144 pixels that’s not particularly impressive.

Onboard browser

Naturally, Samsung has included a mobile internet browser here, a NetFront v3.4 which does a decent job within its GPRS/EDGE speed limits.

Other standard features include a selection of organiser functions – a separate non-miCoach calendar, notes and memos - and office-style applications – voice recorder, world clock, convertor and calculator.

The usual set of alarms, timers and stopwatch gadgetry are included too, plus a selection of full Java games and demo versions to try out.

Modest battery life

The battery performance quoted by Samsung for the F110 miCoach is a middleweight 2.5 hours of talktime or up to 250 hours standby – relatively modest compared to optimum power performances quoted by the likes of Sony Ericsson and Nokia for their recent 3G handsets. Samsung also reckons you can get around 10 hours’ playback from the music player.

In our real-usage trials, the phone required charging every two to three days, after a couple of workouts and a bit of music playing, as well as average amounts of voice calling. This figure would fall further if you used the music player extensively, but we found it acceptable if you’re not using the phone heavily.

Voice calling quality is as reliable as you’d wish for in a mobile, with no problems experienced with taking and making calls. Audio quality was high too, and volume could be cranked up sufficiently loudly.

A high quality phone

We expect to see more of the miCoach brand on other Samsung products - including standalone MP3 players as well as phones - in the near future.

It’s great to have such a sophisticated training system accessible in such a mainstream consumer product; to get a similarly comprehensive standalone running package you’d have to visit a specialist sports store.

The Samsung F110 miCoach Adidas collaboration is based around a high quality coaching system that’s convenient, simple to use and compelling to follow. Tracking your progress and performance levels can be quite addictive (in a good way).

This decent phone has a fine quality music player, too, that’s well integrated with the coaching software. It does have its limitations, with its average camera, lack of memory card expansion and data connectivity speeds - but this isn’t aimed at being a do-everything handset.

For a convenient training companion in your mobile phone that will get you running, improve your performance and keep you motivated, the Samsung F110 miCoach Adidas phone is a definite winner.

Network Availability: O2, Orange   
Looks: 3.5/5
Ease of use: 4/5
Features: 3.5/5
Call quality: 4.5/5
Value: 4/5