Polar have just announced their new Scosche RHYTM+ competitor. It’s called the Polar OH1. The Polar OH1 Review is here (link to: the5krunner.com) but here are some first thoughts.
IN A SENTENCE
Apart from the lack of ANT+ support, Polar appear to have nailed this sub-market with a VERY LARGE nail. Nice Job.
I first covered this a few months ago (here) when it was officially registered with the FCC but now I’ve updated that info with some of the new stuff that’s come to light and, yet again, added an opinion or two of my own. Feel free to share your views too, below.
Polar have decided to re-use the high-end, 6-LED sensor found in the M430 and M600. But they are integrating it into a waterproof, arm-worn band. There are similarities in functionality to Polar’s excellent new chest strap, the Polar H10 ie workout caching and firmware-upgradeability via Polar’s BEAT app.
Polar OH1 Review – In Detail
Click the image below to read the actual review! This page was written as ‘commentary’ when the OH1 was announced.
- Accuracy – proof will be in detailed testing. But I’ve used the same Polar sensor a lot and it’s been one of the more accurate optical sensors for me.
- Comfort and position – Polar are focussing on the wearability on the arm and recommending wearing on the lower and upper arm. It will be OK on the wrist too but those other parts of the arm are MUCH more likely to get more accurate results, even for gym work.
- At 12 hours the battery life is good enough and real-life usage should be pretty close to that as it only really has one job to do.
- BLE/Bluetooth compatibility – OK this is great for apps and for supporting Polar/Suunto sports watches but, once again, Polar are missing a large chunk of the Garmin-related market by not including ANT+. I’ve said it before. I’ll no doubt say it again. So, basically, it is primarily designed to work with the Polar BEAT app but will work with any Bluetooth smart compatible app or device.
- Charging is pretty cool. It looks a little ungainly, but the cradle plugs STRAIGHT into a USB port (like the M200)….no need for a cable
- It caches up to 200 hours of workout data – although this needs clarification. The Polar H10 has a similar storage capacity but can only store one file…(Edit: info is unclear, see comments below, but suggests multiple files can be saved with the OH1)
- Waterproofing to 30m means that it can cache swim data. Polar V800 users will have to wait for a firmware update if it is to work with their watch; it currently only will cache data for Polar’s BEAT app – that WILL sync to your FLOW account though. It would be nice if FLOW can merge 2 lots of data from the same session (I don’t think it can???)
- It’s priced at £/$80, which is probably about right. VERY surprisingly that comes in at LESS/SAME than the current AMAZON prices of £99/$80 for the Scosche. Polar will be hoping more for the larger ‘gym/class’ market, whereas I suspect that the Scosche is designed probably more for people like me (and you!). That’s prat of the problem, the target market won’t all read blogs like this (although some of their friends might), so Polar have a more expensive, more traditional marketing campaign to run.
- In Polar’s press release they also talk about future new functionality introduced by firmware, which is good as it will need some tweaking to reach new markets.
Well. I suppose it’s ‘Let’s continue with yet more opinions’. A bit more general now though. Despite the lack of ANT+ this device has potential. oHR whilst swimming (Garmin can’t do it) must be a relatively small market in itself but there are plenty more markets:
- SCOSCHE: The Scosche is not as pretty as the Polar. The Scosche has 8 hours of battery life and not the 12 of the Polar. The Scosche doesn’t cache data. Those are three MEGA factors for the target markets – many of whom will use apps (at the side of a gym room). Scosche might pay the price of failing to invest in their product over the years of success it has enjoyed.
- MIO Link – I think the MIO link has had it’s day. It’s day was good but the world has moved on. Again the MIO can’t cache data and effectively can only be worn on the wrist, leading to potential inaccuracy.
- Pure swimming: Yes we’ve alluded to that already. The other benefit of the upper arm location is that the speed of the water in that area is probably not so great as to flip the sensor when moving or when pushing off. That latter assertion will need validating but most swim chest straps need to be worn tight to avoid flipping when pushing off hard eg HRM-TRI, Suunto SMARTBELT and Polar H10. And the HRM-SWIM I just find uncomfortable. this is less of an issue for those who wear costumes/tri-suits of some sort as the chest strap is covered. so BRING ON the non-costume wearing mass number of swimmers who wouldn’t be seen dead (normally) wearing a chest strap in the pool
- Runners – yes why not? Just like the Scosche. Except you can leave the Beat app at home if you like.
- Cycling – Yes! Polar’s marketing is actively targeting this, rightly so.The upper arm will be a good location. Wrist-based oHR suffers lots of motion artefact issues and I’ve found that, for example, the new Garmin Fenix 5 range struggles to get continuously good HR readings in that location. But this will be no different to the Scosche. A nice companion for the newish Polar M460 bike computer nevertheless.
- GYM CLASSES – this will be a key market. The caching will be important in cases where the smart phone or other device is left in the bag at the side of the room ie in a position wher enormally it could get disconnected. Scosche can’t do that. Many gym classes also have exercises that involve rigorous wrist movement, again favouring the Polar’s upper arm position.
- GYMLINK – This is NOT available with the OH1. This signal is the one that transmits underwater as well as being compatible with some gym equipment. With the H10 (which can support simultaneous BLE and GYMLINK) then there is the scope to record (app) and link to a device (V800) – we will start to find other uses where multiple connections will be required where, for example, cyclists want to record data on strava and on a head unit. AND where, for example, runners on Zwift might want to do similar “Bluetooth plus something else for simultaneous recording will be important”…just look at what is happening with bike power meters as evidence. POLAR TAKE NOTE. This is more problematic with Bluetooth for Polar as to solve the problem then need dual Bluetooth or Bluetooth+Gymlink (partially) or Bluetooth+ANT+…and the latter probably isn’t going to happen.
- 24×7 HR tracking – yes, why not. Much more viable than a chest strap. There IS scope for nighttime HRV at low HR rates (yes it is possible and has been achieved by WHOOP and others) and super-proper recovery stats for proper athletes. This could be a first….but that will need new firmware.
- Triathlon and 2018’s replacement for the V800 – don’t get excited here. Yes the product would work with the V800 replacement but I would be surprised if the V800 replacement did not have inbuilt optical HR.( If the replacement V800 does NOT have oHR then I think Polar have made a mistake as the OWS scenario does not probably lend itself to an upper-arm worn oHRM.)
- Weights – again a similar argument to cycling against wrist-based sensors. The Polar should be good here because of the wering position..
- Team sports EXAMPLE: when you play soccer you shouldn’t wear jewellery ie a watch – it’s dangerous. Polar already have a TEAM solution based on the H10. The OH1 could just give another wear-location option to people who don’t like those pesky HR straps. Team sports usually require CACHING if you think about it, the OH1 has it but this may NOT be the intended market.
I see swimming and team sports as relatively small markets, I could be wrong. So the OH1 is very much an accompanying caching device for Polar’s BEAT app. That’s a large potential market. Does that market NEED super accuracy? Probably not. But we all seem to want and prefer at least the illusion of accuracy.
Of course there will be lots of people who use it for other things than we have just discussed but I don’t think they will be the main target markets.
CAVEATS: If you read the above link for TEAM SPORTS (also here), you will see that GPS capability possibly COULD be enabled later in the OH1 if the hardware is viable for that. If you also read through the H10’s capabilities then you will see it DOES have an accelerometer, albeit currently not enabled. So IF the OH1 also has either an accelerometer, GPS capability or some other sensor(s) then the target markets could be different again (ie more target markets)
Happy Days!! I Iike heart rate monitors for some strange reason that I’m not quite sure of myself.
Oh yes. The answer to the question in the title was: ‘Oh WOW!’
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