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I hope that Polar is going to have a good year with lots of new products in 2020. Clearly they don’t sell anywhere near as many products as Garmin but I think many of you would be surprised at their successes with the Polar IGNITE and Polar VANTAGE models in 2019. These successes have probably bolstered their R&D war chest and I think they will have some surprises in store for us in the first half of this year.
Here is their current range
- Polar OH1+ – ANT+/BLE oHR arm strap
- Polar H10 – ANT+/BLE chest strap
- Polar Stride – BLE Footpod
- Polar Vantage Series (M, V, Titan) – BLE Running/triathlon watches.
- Polar M200 – Entry-level running watch
- Polar M430 – Running watch
- Polar A370 – Fitness band
- Polar Ignite – Sporty smartwatch
- Polar M460 – Entry-level bike computer
- Polar V650 – Bikenav
- Polar M600 – Wear OS Sports Watch
You could argue that gaps in their range include: a more featured bikenav, ANT+ sport watches/bike computers, pretty much anything to do with more complex routing (V650 has no routable map), a pretty Wear OS with Amoled, an app store, richer platform links to other services, outdoor/hiking proof watches.
ALL of the following comments about new products are speculative.
Overall, Polar’s heritage comes from HEART RATE competency and I know that they aim to produce ACCURATE devices for HIGHER LEVEL ATHLETES that seek such accuracy – whether or not you think they achieve that is another matter entirely. Yet that will be part of their values that drive new developments.
So, that list of gaps in Polar’s range in the previous section, whilst not exhaustive, indicates that there are many ways forwards for Polar. Each route forwards requires resources and, in some case, very significant resources so let’s not forget that Polar’s resources DO have modest limits and they will approach any truly new venture with an awareness of the risks attached.
They might also want to leverage their existing customer base with refreshed products & platform features rather than new products per se.
Thus, bearing in mind COST and RISK, we could see ONE or TWO totally new products from Polar but that will be it. Most developments are likely to be extensions of existing functionalities and incremental replacement models. We might see some existing product areas fall by the wayside due to the costs of competing in those areas and the risks attached to a high degree of (cheap) competition
Without further ado, my view on what Polar might do in 2020 would be
- Triathlon/Running – Yes, Polar will definitely move forwards here, possibly NOT at the budget end, possibly not even with a new physical product. Stuff will happen.
- Cycling – I don’t know if Polar will stay in this market at all. My guess would be that they will leave this sector ‘on hold’
- Swimming – We won’t see anything new here from Polar. The OH1 is used by FORM for their goggles.
- Hiking/Adventure – This would be new for Polar. If they fancy integrating complex mapping and supporting a new, physical distribution chain to sell the products then, why not? The ‘Fenix’ market is huge and attracts everyone from Coros to Casio to Suunto…it’s a big party with one host. Will Polar accept the open invitation?
- Accessories – HRMs, footpods and scales. These are going to have long lifecycles of several years. The HRMs won’t be replaced but the STRIDE sensor could be replaced with a POWER POD (like STRYD), although I would not bet on it.
- Low tech fitness tracking – OH1 fits here as does the A370. I really like the A370 but I’m not sure we will ever see an A380 as there is just too much competing, cheap stuff out there in this space. If Polar have loyal upgraders who would ditch their A370 for an A380 then maybe it will happen. I suspect not.
- Smart Fitness – M600 and the Ignite both signal that Polar have always wanted to play here. Polar’s expertise with Wear OS was developed with the M600 yet the Ignite signalled a different, yet pretty, way forward. Wear OS is the obvious way to gain ALL of the key smart functionality NFC, maps, app store, music…it’s just that pesky battery life that gets in the way of an otherwise obvious ‘call’.
Polar 2020-2021: Here’s what I would bet on
- Incremental updates and continued investment in the FLOW platform
- A sensibly priced Wear OS watch that sits at the next price point up from Ignite
- Something a bit like Garmin’s Fenix.
- No new bike stuff or fitness bands
But I can just hear all the arguments against that screaming out at me even before I’ve pressed the POST button.
Thoughts? Please comment or have a vote in this poll and see what everyone else thinks. You can only vote for two per week; so choose wisely, young padawan.
REMEMBER – the poll is supposed to be what you predict not what you would like…of course you are free to vote on whatever basis you wish. I might add suggestions you make but things like ‘a watch that works properly’ will not be added, although that does have obvious comedic value. These polls normally get well over 100 people voting so it might be worth looking in again in a few weeks