You might not know about Polar, but you’re about to. The company hails from Finland with a long and well-respected history in fitness devices and heart rate monitors going back to 1977. They operate globally – their products are in sale in some 35,000 retailers around the world, and they’re coming (back) to Australia.
Polar (or to give the company its full name, Polar Electro) products have been seen on Australian shelves before, but their relationship with our market has mainly been through a distributor. That’s changing now, with the company announcing its own entry into the local market and opening a Syndey office, employing some 35 people.
Today’s announcement included the company’s first retail partner. A-Mart Sports will be bringing Polar products to their customers nationwide. Drew Oryszczyn, Polar’s Australian MD, teased that there’ll be more announcements of retail partners – along with education and sports partners – in the coming weeks.
Polar is a proud company with a history of technical achievements and firsts, including the first heart rate monitor and the first activity tracker. They’re happy to point out that there’s a lot of athletes at the Olympic Games right now wearing their devices. Their existing products range from individual fitness trackers with a wide lifestyle focus through to trackers aimed at the cycling market and even scales up to whole-team solutions that gather data and present it in a unified view – something useful for team coaches, managers and more. Their range also includes highly specialised products that cater to athletes with specific needs – for example, triathletes.
With local staff and local knowledge, the company is looking to launch itself properly into the Australian fitness space and today they brought their brand new M600 Android Wear watch for the ride.
M600 – Android Wear with a focus on sports
Polar’s M600 watch is a square-face watch built as a “core” unit that can be slipped into / out of a soft silicon sports band. The design of the core unit is pretty square with chrome left/right edges and a ‘Polar’ logo on the front that’s a little more prominent than I’d really like it to be. The face of the unit is reinforced with Corning Gorilla Glass 3, so it can definitely take a bump, and it’s also waterproof.
The interchangeable bands are set to be available in white and black at launch, with a red option available later in the year. There’s a dual latch fastener on the band, and with a large number of holes spaced close together it should fit any wrist comfortably.
There’s a button below the face of the watch that is configured to launch the Android Wear Polar Flow app, and a smaller button on the bottom left edge of the watch that performs Android Wear’s usual button duties (screen on/off, settings, power, etc).
The M600’s standout features are its onboard GPS and GLONASS (only the second Android Wear watch to feature such), and a 6-LED heart rate monitor. Polar’s especially proud of the heart rate monitor, and says that it gives a more accurate reading of your heart rate.
It also holds a larger battery than most Android Wear devices, clocking in at 500 mAh. Polar says this is good enough to go 48 hours between charges (if you’re connecting the watch to an iOS device this is said to be halved), and with GPS on it’s 8-10 hours.
You’ll need to set up the Polar Flow app on your phone to make the most of the tracking app that’s shipped on board the watch. Polar’s Smart Coach function bears particular mention here – the company prides itself on making fitness data useful to their users. They don’t just want to report the number of steps you’ve taken, but rather train you for a fitness goal – one example they gave was to train for a marathon coming up in a few weeks, where the Polar Flow app will tell you what you should be achieving in each workout and track whether you’re on target.
Polar wants you to think in terms of workload (the quality of your exercise) rather than just quantity, so your goal might not always be 10,000 steps. The company says that its targets are set according to WHO standards, and you’ll get visual indicators during the day to help you along.
Besides the built in Polar Flow app, the M600 also has also a few watch faces that take advantage of Polar’s activity tracking, and the watch features standard Android Wear features like 4GB built in storage and Bluetooth music playback support.
Like many other Android Wear watches, the M600 charges from a custom USB cable with a magnetic adapter that attaches to a circular area on the back of the core unit, just below the heart rate monitor. Polar staff indicated that you would be able to buy extra charging cables if needed.
The M600 is coming to Australian retail on September 5 at AU$499, although prices for replacement bands aren’t yet available. It’ll also be available online directly from Polar at their Australian site where you can currently find it available for pre-order.