The diagram on the right indicates the future of sports monitoring. I’m not an Apple fan but there you are numbers don’t lie.
If you use Polar and you have an iPhone 4S or iPhone 5 then Christmas 2013 has arrived early for you.
For free or next-to-nothing you can get the Polar Beat App.
That has to be the bargain of the year.
If you have an iPhone already and want any old sports watch (and are comfortable wearing an iPhone to run) then you won’t go far wrong with this app.
Even at £50 this still compares favourably to, say, a Garmin strap at £35. Because with the Garmin you would traditionally have had to spend >>£100 as well on a watch. Maybe even £300 for a top of the range watch.
So still good value and it makes good use of the iPhone that you don’t really use too much (hmmm!)
At these prices and with the obvious popularity of the iPhone it is clear that Polar are going for the volume market. Putting my views aside on the future of Android and Windows 8 devices and comparative products by other vendors; let’s continue.
Is the app any good?
Specifically does it give you a decent display while you are exercising and does it give you decent stats afterwards?
Before we go any further: You have to have the H7 Bluetooth strap, you have to have an iphone. No other straps, no WIND sensors, No ANT+ sensors, no Andriod or Blackberry devices. Glad we got that cleared up.
On the positive side the strap works with my really old Polar s720 so it’s probably backwardly compatible with many other Polar watches too. But again, just to be clear, your old Polar straps will not work with the iPhone. It has to be Bluetooth.
- Buy it (the app)
- Wear it (the strap and app)
- Pair it (the app and strap)
- Do basic setup stuff like saying if you are male and female
- Let the app know if you want to tell the twittershpere and facebooksphere all about what you’ve been getting up to.
Use of the app:
You can choose lots of sports from skiing to jogging or cycling. I chose running.
You can choose free training or set a target based on distance, duration or calories.
You’re beeped off to start and then sensible metrics including heart rate and pace and distance are displayed VERY clearly. This is the beauty of the large iPhone display compared to a watch.
Then again, I never thought a GPS watch would help my running and now I use them all the time. So this map feature will no doubt soon be being used by many runners worldwide!
Click STOP. End of !
It was a novelty for me running with the display on my upper arm. I had to twist it round a bit but that was not a problem at all. Let’s face it we probably have to do a similar thing with a wrist based device.
Q: So how accurate was it?
A:It seemed pretty accurate to me. When we use our sports watches we moan about 50m here and there over a 5km run. It’s probably less accurate than that but it seemed good enough for me for the longer runs.
Now there are lots of end-of-exercise screens (some are shown to the right). These types of screen are NOT for me. Years ago I got a Nokia phone that linked to my Polar watch by Infrared (IR). I think I did the post-exercise show-your-mates-the-data once. The IR was a bit of a faff. With the new Polar app, however, the data is just there to analyse and very clearly visible – instantly.
Now, I personally would never use the data in this scenario. I haughtily consider myself to be too ‘good’ for this sort of thing and would only analyse data on my trusty computer at home. But that’s just me…doesn’t mean to say I’m right.
Having said that. If YOU are the sort of person that likes the post-exercise data then it IS RATHER IMPRESSIVE and rather useful.
You get a high level summary, followed by: times in HR-zones; routes taken on a map; time in speed zones; and a HR track overlaid onto the map at various points. All good stuff and lots of it. None of it new in the sense of some magical new sports metric BUT the presentation of it is great and the overall cost of getting it is potentially low. That is what is new and good about this.
And then you can tweet it. I’m not even going to go there, I’m too old. But for the younger social media savvy ones amongst you (actually I am media savvy really) then it’s a pretty good little touch at the end.
Integration with Other stuff:
Well the ‘other stuff’ will be ‘Polar Personal Trainer’ and that’s it. Free but fine. Certainly not a state of the art analysis software but more than good enough for the beginner or improver.
Problems: The iPhone’s battery life with GPS on is limited. But that’s not Polar’s fault.
I was prepared to be full of disdain for this. But it is actually a quantum leap forward in sports monitoring equipment IMHO. It’s not targetted at me or people like me who consider themselves ‘serious’ when it comes to athletic training – but it is very, very impressive.
It’s an amazingly sleek interface that is easy to use. It could be a bit more configurable for my liking but it is great if you are a committed but casual runner.
You’ll have issues in the gym. It will still record your heart rate track but that will be it.
But, unlike Garmin, most of the gyms that I go to only read Polar HR pods and so gym equipment will more likely work with the H& unit too (it works with my really old Polar watch so I am sure it will work with Polar compatible equipment in the gym).
The strap will work under the water in your local pool. And the iphone might even pick up a signal before it dies a non-waterproof death (wife’s iphone so I didn’t dare try it in a pool…don’t).
It’s bluetooth compatible…but I can’t see why. There is another brand of bluetooth strap (Wahoo…same price, so buy Polar) that will work with it..but why do Polar want to encourage bluetooth? They aren’t making any money out of the app. They might be able to flog a bike power, speed and cadence sensors…but not too many I would wager (Wahoo also do those). So all the profit has to come from the straps.
I guess the reason for Bluetooth compatibility was to enable use by mobile devices which apparently is the future of the world. But when you go down that route you HAVE to go for a volume business model. I’m not sure the volume is there. But then who would have thought tablet computers would have taken off as they have 5 years ago?
Nevertheless, economics withstanding, Well done Polar an awesome app. I even like the strap. I wouldn’t use it myself but I certainly WOULD recommend it.
Please bear in mind that I genuinely was impressed with this app. However I have had virtually no exposure to the competing offerings by other vendors which superficially look similar. So for me it was a real eye opener compared to the wrist based solutions I am used to.
- Garmin 910XT – Heart Rates Spikes, Dropouts & Straps & Stuff (the5krunner.com)
- Runware – the iPhone App that’s all heart (latestgadgets.co.uk)