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.
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, H9 and OH1 are all 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. Adding ANT+ must make the H10 the most connectable HRM ever made.
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.
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 connections 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.
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