After I wrote my review of the Basis B1 fitness-tracking wristband, the people at Polar reached out and asked me if I would like to try the Polar Loop. It's a relatively new, $99 device that tracks steps, calories, sleep, and other activities, as well as heart rate with an optional device such as Polar's H7 Heart Rate Sensor.
The Polar Loop competes with the Fitbit Force, the Jawbone UP and UP24 as well as the Withings Pulse and even the Basis B1, although the B1 is twice the price of the Polar Loop.
Is the Polar Loop the right fitness-tracking wristband for you?
Size and Feel
The Polar Loop is lightweight, comfortable and easy to wear. It is not easy to size, however. The wristband comes oversized with a paper measuring tape and a watchmaker's strap pin removal tool. To fit the band to your wrist, you must figure out how many plastic links to cut off and then attach the watch clasp. This must be done carefully; cutting off too many of the plastic links will yield a device that cannot be worn. Cutting off too few requires you to repeat the process. This is time consuming at best, and annoying to say the least.
Once you properly size the wristband, you don't have to make any other adjustments on the device. Just put on your Polar Loop and go about your day. The device will count your steps, estimate the number of calories you burn and give you a graphic indication of your general activity level throughout the day.
If you have an iPhone, you can pair the Polar Loop with it via Smart Bluetooth and have access to the companion app's dashboard. If you're an Android user, you must remove the device and sync it with a computer using the supplied USB cable. Polar says that an Android app is due out soon.
The center of your Polar Loop world is a dashboard flow.polar.com that displays your data in the context of how you spend your day. I like this feature.
On the day shown here, I walked 17,170 steps (which is great). But, sadly, I spent about 11 hours at my desk. The program knows that 11 hours at my desk is not good for me and it made a point of telling me so (See the graphic).
The Flow app has several coaching features that are helpful. The software not only tracks what you do, but pushes you to do more. It is a nice first step toward the kind of software that will use multiple data sets to anticipate your needs and keep you on track.
If you're not training, the external heart monitoring feature is not a plus and you will not use it. I can't imagine strapping on a Polar H7 just to see how my heart is beating during the day. It's awesome while running or skiing or doing anything where you need to get your heart into the target zone and keep it there. That said, you won't get zone information; you're going to have to know what your target zones are and pay attention to the numbers. Remember, information is not knowledge, it's just information. When you put it into context, you translate information into knowledge.
Pros and Cons
If you're looking for a $99 fitness-tracking wristband with a display, you will like the Polar Loop. It will give you the basic information you need to quantify your day. And if you are training, adding a heart rate monitor to the package makes the system more useful (and $60-$100 more expensive).
The Polar Loop just works. That is a huge plus. Also, it's water resistant and easy to use.
The downsides are worth noting. The Polar Loop is aesthetically unpleasing. The button works about 50 percent of the time, so you'll find yourself pressing it, tapping it, rubbing it, tapping it again and thinking you're doing something wrong. You're not. The button works about 50 percent of the time. Sizing the band is a chore. Finally, until the Android app arrives, which the company claims will be sometime soon, the Polar Loop is only compatible with iOS devices or it will sync with a PC.
Should You Buy One?
If you are training but not ready for a Garmin or another GPS hardcore tracking device, the Polar Loop at $99 may be perfect for you. Its heart rate monitoring feature makes it one step up from the Fitbit Force and the Jawbone UP, but if you're just trying to count steps and calories, you have lots of other choices.
Shelly Palmer is Fox 5 New York's On-air Tech Expert (WNYW-TV) and the host of Fox Television's monthly show Shelly Palmer Digital Living. He also hosts United Stations Radio Network's, Shelly Palmer Digital Living Daily, a daily syndicated radio report that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment. He is Managing Director of Advanced Media Ventures Group, LLC an industry-leading advisory and business development firm and a member of the Executive Committee of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (the organization that bestows the coveted Emmy® Awards). Palmer is the author of Television Disrupted: The Transition from Network to Networked TV 2nd Edition (York House Press, 2008) the seminal book about the technological, economic, and sociological forces that are changing everything, Overcoming The Digital Divide: How to use Social Media and Digital Tools to Reinvent Yourself and Your Career; (York House Press, 2011) and Digital Wisdom: Thought Leadership for a Connected World (York House Press, 2013). For more information, visit shellypalmer.com.
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