Polar adds ANT+ Support

I never thought I would write this but here goes…

Polar adds ANT+ Support

 

 

I should probably write something insightful but the phrase ” TA DA! ” springs to mind instead.

There are probably lots of sports people, who use the odd gadget or two, who have no idea what that means. But I’m guessing that everyone reading this particular post knows exactly what it means AND what some of the implications are.

What’s Happened?

Polar’s two current HRMs now support ANT+ as well as BLE for the transmission of heart rate data. The two HRMs are the Polar H10 chest strap and the Polar OH1 armband HR strap.

The OH1 now includes a clip for swimming use which enables the OH1 to read HR from the temple by clipping onto the strap on your goggles. This is, sort of, a new product and is sold as the “Polar OH1 + product package“.

How & When Do I get the Update?

The H10 and OH1 are both firmware updatable via the latest version of the Polar Beat app. Note: it really is the BEAT app and not the FLOW app that you need to use. Both HRMs are paired within the Polar BEAT app rather than via your smartphone’s Bluetooth settings.

The OH1 can also be updated over the PC-based FLOWSYNC software.

You should be able to get these updates “soon”. Currently the OH1 firmware is v1.0.9 and the new version will be at least v2.0.8. The latter, newer version IS of the new hardware.

Are there any other interesting functionalities?

The H10 and OH1 are great devices and always were. They have some great functionalities such as caching and the H10 is able to simultaneously pair and broadcast to two BLE devices as well as over the 5KHz gymlink frequency. By adding ANT+ this must make the H10 the most connectable HRM ever made. For more information on existing functionality see the full reviews below

Existing functionality appears to be unchanged with the ability to pair by ANT+ added to both Polar HRMs. And of course, once you transmit by ANT+ then multiple devices can receive that signal.

The H10 can cache and then later sync back to the Polar Beat app. This will not be impacted by ANT+ support as ANT+ has nothing to do with the smartphone link. Admittedly some smartphones do support ANT+, so if anyone has those working over ANT+, please let me know.

The OH1 can cache data and then upload via FLOWSYNC to Polar FLOW on the net. This is unaffected.

Wahoo Tickr Fit Review - Polar OH1Scosche Rhythm+Opinion

As we all know, Polar’s HRMs have always been held in high regard by sports and medical researchers.

In itself, this announcement does not amount too much. Sure it will help people like me who need to frequently pair to several different kinds of devices but there probably aren’t too many of us.

However, this opens up the larger market of ANT+ compatible products to those of you buying or replacing a chest strap. Garmin has always had competition for that. Yet,  probably, it was only WAHOO who posed credible competition even though many lesser brands could often do a good enough job.

For those of you interested in arm band sensors then this move clearly helps the OH1 play catchup with WAHOO’s TICKR Fit and with Scosche’s comparable bands. However the new SWIMMING CLIP could be argued to give Polar’s OH1 an edge.

FWIW: I nearly always use a Polar OH1 as one of my sources of oHR when testing oHR on wrist devices. That’s partly because of the great accuracy and, perversely, because I know that the OH1 will not accidentally pair to another of the devices involved in my test. Now it might!

Looking at the wider world of extended functionality on HRMs, this also signals that Polar is starting to expand on the functionality that we knew the H10 was always capable of. For example, the H10 also has an onboard motion sensor so will probably one day end up supporting running dynamics for Polar watches or maybe even Garmin watches.

The Elephant in the Room

This move obviously signals that Polar has a wider interest in ANT+. And we can only speculate that this capability will spread to the Polar Vantage series of sports watches and maybe to the Polar M460, Polar V650 or the latter’s successor.

More importantly, however, this announcement simply signals that Polar want to be open. For someone not as well-informed as you and I, it just makes that buying decision so much easier without having to worry about and research compatibility.

In some ways, Polar didn’t need to make this move as many higher-end devices, such as power meters, support both ANT+ and BLE. So your polar watch or bike computer will almost certainly pair to most new sensors from higher-end brands. However with the growth of interest in Zwift-like platforms then it becomes necessary to be able to make at least 2 connections from any one sensor, sure you can make 2 conenctions if you get your Bluetooth SMART implementation just right (eg H10) but it just gives the user flexibility to have ANT+.

Take-Out: A good move with no obvious downside except, maybe, battery life.

 

▷ Polar H10 Review (2019 update) & Comparisons, Polar’s Greatest HRM

 

 

Polar OH1 Review (2019 Update) | Optical HR Sensor, Arm-Worn

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12 thoughts on “Polar adds ANT+ Support

  1. “Soon”. Today? 🙂

    I was hours away from switching from Polar to Garmin because the H10 doesn’t connect to my Garmin Edge 820…

  2. ***Warning off-topic rant

    Polar seems to be in such an odd situation. Maybe now they have regained the title of best heart rate monitors (in a world where external HR sensors are less and less important), but their wearables and bike gps are not on par with rival Garmin offerings, and they know it.

    They proved they can make a really compelling Google Watch and almost three years later it’s still the only WearOS watch I would remotely consider purchasing. I am not sure if they’ve abandoned that project (I know their product cycle is much slower than others), but building on the Android platform can completely blow Garmin’s app ecosystem out of the water. With newer chips, advances in battery life (let’s be honest, not many of us are doing anything more than iron-distance events anyway, so it only needs to max out at 15h gps run time even for slower athletes), and their FLOW fitness platform they could build the ultimate wearable, and make something that would undeniably crush the competition. Maybe the m600 didn’t sell as well as they had hoped, but I feel like if Polar are not making a predecessor they are being as stubborn about WearOS as they were for the last decade about ANT+.

    Let me ask it this way, if they could make a WearOS watch with 72 hour smart watch / 15 hour GPS battery life, and all the smart features, professional apps (vs Garmin’s mostly rag-tag apps), mapping, talk to text, Google asst., music, etc. that comes with WearOS (without having to put any programming resources into that side of the house), that is as capable at athletics and multisport as the Vantage series, what would compel someone to buy a Fenix (or any other WearOS device for that matter) besides maybe looks?

    Polar made a 48hr smart watch / 8 hour GPS 3 years ago. I think all of us in the fitness world have agreed screen brilliance isn’t the most important thing (look at sales of Garmin for proof). It wouldn’t need to compete with Apple Watch (or other wearOS devices) for screen looks. Why not focus on hardware, put their world-class HRM into a device optimized for sport, and they would only need to worry about fitness software (an area where they actually are quite competitive vs Garmin)?

    Maybe I am naive and the tech is not there yet to support the battery life I would hope for (must be close though), and I know Polar said when they released the m600 that future watches would not be all android (they didn’t say that none would be). My feeling though, not only do I selfishly hope Polar is still working on an m6-next (VantageWearOS, PolarWear, whatever), but I think I think for them to stay viable and competitive their future may depend on it (similarly, I fully expect Suunto to be gone within the next couple of years barring major innovation).

    **Off-topic rant concluded.

    • rants always welcomed here
      good points, well put.
      here are some of my comments in return
      I reckon people want looks and/or features. Garmin buyers are skewed towards the latter – even if they never use all the available features
      I think it’s the software development that is a killer for polar. expensive and time-consuming. no waycan polar match what garmin do here. that’s the superficial attraction of WearOS as much of it is already done..
      suunto: ultiamtely polar and suunto will go under as the giants of wearable tech spread their products throughout the market. I would say fitbit and garmin will also eventually go bankrupt. the only way to survive longterm is high volme and low margin (mass market) or low volume and high margin (niche). the problem in this market is that the companies who do the high volume stuff can relatively easily tinker with their products
      to ostensibly make it a more expensive product.
      maybe garmin will survive as a niche player? sounds hard to believe but come back in 10 years and when you look at your Apple Watch 14 or Google Pixel Watch 7 you will wonder whay you ever used a garmin.

      • I totally agree, especially regarding a 10 year look back with Apple/Google. Polar has (maybe had) a chance to get out in front of a Pixel offering though. They could have positioned themselves as the manufacturer of choice for WearOS, especially for fitness/sport related variants. As of now there is no Pixel Watch. Polar was there 3 years ago, and built a product so good, it is still the best WearOS fitness watch. This is their opportunity to stay relevant.

        They can’t match Garmin’s overwhelming feature offering, they can’t match Fitbit’s marketshare/distribution/ubiquitisness, and they can’t match Google’s smartwatch ecosystem. Polar’s best bet to be a player in the wearables world is to build a more sport focused WearOS device than Google will (because I bet a gen 1 Pixel watch will in no way be good enough for most serious athletes) OR try to make a deal to co-brand (a-la Nike Apple Watch) with either Apple (guessing they may have an exlusive with Nike though) or Google for a fitness variant of their future Pixel Watch (Polar Pixel?). Although, the Polar name may not have the cache of Nike, if they can get Google to realize that they need a company like Polar who already has the fitness stuff figured out, it might work, and give Google the boost it needs to build something better than the Apple Watch, instead of playing catch-up.

        • polar IS positioned as the manufacturer of choice for SPORT variants…just that it probably hasn’t done them that much good! ie the market is maybe not so big (defined by the tech)
          pixel watch will come (could be a fitness variant). even then it won’t be a sport watch

          I agree polar/suunto’s strategy needs to be niche(s) focussed in some way (eg run with power or ultrarun or whatever). but ultimately that strategy will have garmin overrunning any short-term advantage they might capture in a specific market segment. then the phase after that some chinese company or apple take over where garmin left off.
          PLUS the Western markets are approaching maturity/peak…so where does that leave Polar’s regional strategy when APAC is the place to be to build some market share.

          DCR’s comment ‘death by a thousand cuts’ (in reference to features) is a key one. But Apple/Google own several machettes.

          …something like that

  3. Does this move mean they’re going to start supporting the .fit file format now?
    Both Suunto and obviously Garmin already support it.

    • now that’s a good question that I saw you ask dcr.I would imagine that Polar are working on many aspects of the connectivity of their platform. But what does FIT file compatability mean? does it mean that you can import fit files? or that the full compatability is provided eg for running dynamics, structured workout files and 3rd party ciq data. And then is the conenctivity for such DATA also supported between platforms via automated links?
      to implement that and full ANT+ compatability is a BIG task. My guess would be that they are moving in that general direction and that we will see things released on a drip-by-drip basis.

      sorry, i asked you more questions than I answered. 🙂

      • These are all pretty good questions, remember that ANT+ and fit files are related: (https://www.thisisant.com/resources/fit/). Right now fit files are the only ones supporting things like HRV data, or temperature.
        Obviously they don’t have as many developers as Garmin, so supporting things like running dynamics or structured workout files in a way interoperable with Garmin is a dream right now.
        But my question is, are they opening up in the same way that Suunto is hoping to do with their new API and platform, or are they just trying to focus on Flow as their main differentiator?
        I mean Suunto seems to have given up competing on a web platform, so they hope to rely on partners using their devices as tools. What’s Polar strategy?

        • My guess would be that Polar have the ‘core’ of their offering in place and that it will be opened up progressively over time and expanded in scope over time.

          ask me again in 6 months 😉

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