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Polar’s recently released A360 super smart band is a highly credible contender in the increasingly crowded market for sports-focussed activity trackers.
Polar’s heritage as a company is for accurate sports devices. The A360 IS a sports device as well as a 24×7 activity tracker.
It is a great device for its market space. However we need to be very clear what that space is.
If you are looking for a rather pretty wrist based device that can track your sleep, steps and HR then this is for you. You can even go swimming with it and still record your heart rate.
HOWEVER like nearly all optical heart rate devices it will NOT be accurate at high levels of exertion/movement. This may well not bother you in the slightest. But if you consider yourself to be an aspiring athlete who is interested in recording ‘every beat’ then you would need an additional device to record the high intensity (Z4/Z5) activities. If you have no idea what Z4/Z5 is then the Polar A360 may well be perfect for you.
- It’s very pretty and very well made. Unlike very, very many activity trackers this one is actually wearable. It is about as far from a cheap piece of plastic tat as you can get. I am certainly NOT ashamed to wear it. I like the aesthetics a LOT.
- OK I’ll stop sitting on the fence with my opinions and also say that the free app and web service are very good too.
- Quality, high-resolution colour touchscreen (13x27mm, 80x160px) . It even worked in the pool (WR30) for me…
- It has smart activity monitoring; in that it assigns different levels of intensity different ‘scores’. It is then smart about telling you what you need to do to achieve your target. This is the CORRECT way to interpret activity. Garmin, MIO and others also do this but very many companies do not.
- I’m easily getting over 5 days of usage on one battery charge with daily sports activities (official: 2 weeks@24×7, 1 hour sport/day)
- Full smartphone text notifications including full SMS text message details.
- ‘Permanently on’ HR display – (newly added through firmware)
- The unit is well made and feels well made; a very much superior ‘metal’ to the plastic of most other devices.
- HR accuracy is generally good (see below)
- Can be easily charged with a standard micro USB cable. No need for a special cradle or cable.
- Caller ID, push notifications from smartphone apps and SMS notifications supported.
- Supports 2 calorie expenditure calculation mechanisms
- Supports >100 sports activity profiles (you select 6 or so profiles to be stored to the A360 eg Walk+Pilates+Weights+Run+Swim+MTB)
- Resting Fitness Test to give Polar OWNIndex Score.
- It is very light (31.7g) and hardly noticeable to wear.
- Some gesture support eg turn your wrist and the time is displayed.
Negatives: These need to be included for balance but would not stop me using this device by any means
- General OPTICAL HR accuracy varies from person-to-person and from one usage scenario to another.
- Whilst normally good for me, the HR recording was sporadic at fairly high levels when cycling.
- Sometimes the A360’s HR can take a few seconds to catch up with reality for other exercise types. For steady-state activity and class/gym use this is not relevant IMO. Polar WILL improve this in Q1/Q2.2016 through firmware.
- I don’t like the fastening mechanism on the strap – personal opinion.
- Doesn’t seem to do distance calculations from steps. Doesn’t bother me but that will bother some people.
- It’s a bit fiddly plugging the USB cable into the USB charging port.
- The USB cover seems to keep water out perfectly well but in the long term I would worry about both losing the cover and about its ability to keep water out.
- Smartphone pairing was patchy. I had difficulties pairing with an old Samsung S3 and a new iPhone 6. It was fine on an old iPAD and on newer Samsungs. Compatibility is stated as >Android 4.3 and >iOS7.
- A little care is required to ensure that the A360 is properly in the rubber strap and properly on your strip. It is possible for the device to pop out of the strap otherwise.
- Does not have automatic/periodic HR readings. This can be done manually. Personally I don’t see any benefit in taking periodic resting heart rate readings during the day unless for medical reasons (it’s not a medical device). That would be a nice feature to have, however, during sleep to measure sleep quality but like most devices sleep time and quality is estimated by movement to extend battery life.
- There is no GPS – the inclusion of this would significantly reduce battery life to about one day rather than the current 2 weeks. If you have to charge a device every day then it’s not a 24×7 activity tracker IMO. If you want GPS then buy a sports watch.
- No alternative watch faces at present (current one is fine for me)
Comments: If you are doing serious exercise like an IronMan then this device patently is not designed for that job. However if you are an IronMan athlete and want a highly wearable low-intensity tracker and sleep tracker TO COMPLEMENT YOUR SPORTS WATCH then this is a great device. For example this device VERY nicely complements a Polar V800.
If you are a gym/class/pilates-type user this is a GREAT device for full and proper 24×7 usage.
If you JUST want to track simple steps then the A360 is more than up to that job too. It’s probably a nice looking over-kill (but so what!) and you could also consider cheaper alternatives for these relatively straightforward requirements.
FYI: This is the only activity tracker that I have tested that I would consider wearing/using. I don’t wear activity trackers as a rule. I suppose you can take that as a recommendation.
Alternatives: There are many alternatives in this space (smart BAND with optical HR) including the Microsoft Band, Garmin VIVOSMART HR, Fitbit Charge HR and Samsung Gear Fit. Whichever option you look at, IMO, the Polar is either cheaper, better and/or better looking.
At this price point you would chose the A360.
Detailed Review: to follow
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