Polar are about to officially announce, in detail, their new optical offering to an expectant world. Well www.zitasport.com (Spanish Language site) and me are expectant at any rate!
The announcement was already heralded by UK MD Malcolm Douglas back in April (link).
Whilst we can see the product features in the image at the top; the devil, as always, will be in the detail. Clearly it’s a wrist-based activity tracker/sports watch with a Optical Heart Rate Monitor (oHRM).
When looking at this and speculating we need to understand that Polar have a HEART RATE MEASUREMENT heritage. They REALLY want to do the oHRM properly. So the A360 is testing the water with users who probably will not spend too much time at high heart rates – the zones where other oHRMs have struggled.
Yet the end goal is achievable. We’ve seen this week’s announcement of the TomTom Runner 2/SPARK and some of the tests I (and others) have performed with that show that HRs above 165bpm can be measured reasonably accurately with oHRM, as it can too with the Scosche RHYTHM.
The Devil and The Detail
So the devil is the accuracy of the oHRM. I would almost bet money that Polar do this well. At first glances, below, the sensor array looks a bit like the MIO Link (it WILL NOT be the same one) There seems to be a reasonable spread of the lights away from each other and it looks like there are at least 4 (?) light sources from two areas (a similar approach has come from the LifeQ sensor in the TomTom)
We should also revel in the glory of what looks to be a pretty good colour touchscreen screen (no buttons). We all liked the appearance (if nothing else) of the Samsung Gear and this is a similarly nice looking product – perhaps more of a watch than a band? Whilst nice looking it also looks to have a comfortable band – of which criticism was a criticism against the Microsoft BAND.
The battery life looks good and so do the features (except lack of GPS?); at least at the high level described.
I hope that Polar will have a stab at measuring HR at night to give true insights into sleep patterns and indeed periodically throughout the day too to assess our activity and stress level from a general wellbeing perspective.
I think they will do that. Here’s why.
If you look at Polar Flow it’s actually a pretty good web platform; and so it should be from the former market leader with aspirations to regain its crown. But what Polar already do WHICH VIRTUALLY NO-ONE ELSE DOES is to get a holistic view of your training load and/or your activity load.
Counting steps is a bit silly, although harmless. Measuring load is great, but difficult.
For example, after 5000 regular walking steps in a day Polar already tells you that to complete your daily goal you need to do, say, 3000 steps OR 20 minutes of skateboarding OR 10 minutes of running. IE they KNOW that different activities are harder (more load) than others.
More Detail and More Devils
The devil is ALSO in the detail of practicality. If it’s is a big watch that accommodates all the tech, then that’s fine, but many smaller-wristed people – many women, for example – simply won’t wear one.
If it looks cheap, people simply won’t wear one 24×7. It does look GREAT and I would wear it based on the picture although probably in black/grey/taupe or some other boring colour 🙂 ! However many photoshopped images do not reflect the reality of the real product. Let’s see.
In conclusion I will add some more speculative points 🙂
Polar are making a concerted effort at the lower-priced end of the mass market. We’ve seen that with the M400 and the M450 both of which are great products and ones that I’d probably recommend over and above the Garmin equivalent.
If the A360 can just tweak a few things that the Microsoft BAND (in my opinion) almost perfected then it will be a REAL winner in the smart activity tracker market.
I was writing yesterday (not yet published) about the M450 and lamenting the boringness of the activity tracking market with rubbish, over-priced products that will not be worn for much more than a week. Well, the A360 has re-energised my interest in that market. It might be the first product that does the job properly AND that people like – the MS Band DID do the job properly but lots of people don’t like Microsoft.
Exciting times for the financial controller at Polar.Fi – s/he may have to buy a new calculator to add up all those new sales numbers.