Activity Trackers: Polar Loop activity tracker review

We review the new Polar Loop to see how it stacks up against the other new activity trackers released in 2014

The Polar Loop is the latest in a series of activity trackers designed to be worn all day on your wrist, following on from the success of Nike’s Nike+ FuelBand. It gets closer than most to mimicking Nike’s features for a significantly lower price – but it has its own weaknesses too. What an in-depth review? You’ve come to the right place.

One of the Loop’s biggest strengths is that you don’t have to be tied to a particular brand of smartphone as you do with the iOS-exclusive FuelBand – you can simply strap it on and go, although it will play nicely with an iPhone if you have one. It also becomes much more useful once you create an account on Polar’s website.

Getting started

Apart from the device itself, all you get with the Loop is a wristband adjustment tool and a USB recharging cable.

Polar Loop

The Loop is only available in one size and has to be cut to fit your wrist. This involves taking the clasp off using the supplied tool, then measuring your wrist with the paper guide and cutting the wristband to the relevant size. It sounds like a hassle but it’s well worth it since it ensures a perfect fit so the Loop won’t rub or irritate your wrist when on the move. The stainless steel clasp securely locks the Loop to your wrist, and never came loose during our testing. The wristband itself is light but also rather rigid – you’ll certainly feel it if you roll on to your arm in your sleep.

You don’t have to disassemble the Loop to charge it – the magnetic connector is built into the wristband. The cable is held firmly in place by the magnet and the screen lights up to indicate it is charging, so you can always be sure you’ve connected it properly.

Polar has opted for a proprietary charging connector, which makes it difficult to charge when you’re out and about. Nike’s FuelBands have a convenient built-in USB plug, and other rivals such as the Withings Pulse use a micro-USB port which will work with just about any (non-iOS) smartphone charger.

Once it’s charged, you can strap on the Loop and it automatically begins tracking every step you take. According to Polar, the Loop will last for five days on a full charge, but in our experience we were down to 10% of a full charge in less than four. You won’t want to leave the house with a low charge, unless you bring the USB cable with you, although we found that it does charge quickly. It went from 20% to 90% in under 15 minutes, which is more than enough for a day’s use.

Polar Loop Activity Tracker

Worn on your wrist, tracks your activity 24/7 and provides guidance and motivation to reach your activity goals; Shows daily activity, calories burned, steps taken, time of day and activity feedback ...

Made by: Polar, Available: In stock

How does it work?

Like most other activity trackers, the Loop uses an accelerometer to track movement. It logs every step you take, estimating calories burned based on your movements. With no altimeter the Loop can’t track elevation, but it at least works out how intensive your movement is at any given time – although it does label anything above a gentle stroll as ‘very active’.

The rubber wristband is water-sealed, so you won’t need to take off the Loop when taking a shower or going for a swim. It can’t tell the difference between walking and swimming, though, so your swim will simply count as very active movement.

Where the Loop sets itself apart from other fitness trackers such as the Fitbit Flex is with its red LED display. It has four modes: Steps, Time, Calories burned and Activity. The first three display your numbers for the current day, while the Activity mode gradually fills up a bar to indicate your progress towards your daily goal, which is calculated using the data you add when registering the Loop. The LEDs are brightly lit and we had no trouble reading the display under bright lights or when outdoors.

For more detailed information about your daily progress, you sync the Loop to a PC, Mac or smartphone and use the Polar Flow website.

Syncing your data

To download and keep track of your data, you need to create a Polar Flow account. It’s a quick, simple, and most importantly free process, where you’re asked for your age, height and weight, which are used to calculate your BMI. Unfortunately there’s no way to enter your stride length, so the Loop won’t differentiate between small and large builds.

Polar Loop

Once you’re registered and have installed the Flow Sync software for either Windows or Mac OS X, connecting the Loop to your computer will automatically sync the device and open your web browser to the Polar Flow website.

The online Polar Flow portal is still in beta at the time of writing and it’s very much a work in progress, with no way to enter training sessions manually. You’ll need to use the Polar Beat app to track your runs, otherwise you’re limited to the Diary view. Here, you can chart your daily activity using a visual diary which displays the time you spent lying down, sitting, standing, walking and running. It counts the number of hours you slept per night, but gives no advice on improving your sleep patterns. Inactivity alerts are displayed here, showing you when you had been sitting still for an extended period of time.

Polar Loop

The wristband doesn’t vibrate to remind you to take a break from your desk, which would have been much more useful than a notification you’ll only see at the end of the day. You can’t set yourself specific targets like walking a certain number of steps or burning a set number of calories, either.

Unfortunately there’s no way to add other training or gym sessions to the diary without the optional heart rate monitor. This uses the LED display to show your actual heart rate, as well as let you know when you’re in the right heart rate zone for fitness or burning fat. However, this adds an extra £44 to the cost of the Loop, and is another gadget you’ll have to wear while exercising.

There’s an in-depth social aspect, which plots the rough locations of other Polar users on a map and generates visual routes of their runs using Google Maps and StreetView, but again only for those using at least one Polar smartphone app or the heart rate monitor – by itself, the Loop is solely a fitness tracker.

Polar Loop

There’s an app for that

You don’t need to be tied to a computer to synchronise your data – as long as you’re an iOS user. The Polar Flow app is free to download and can sync the Loop to your Flow account, but there’s currently no Android alternative. Anyone with an Android device can of course still sync through their PC, but it’s an extra step, something that Polar should remedy in the future.

The Loop uses the low-power Bluetooth Smart standard, so once you’ve installed the app and paired it to the wristband it will be constantly connected to your phone, beaming updates to the app so it’s always up to date when you open it. The app shows almost all the same information as the web portal, so you may not need to use a PC at all – at least until Polar adds more features to its website, anyway.

Verdict

A proprietary charging connector and lack of an altimeter means the Polar Flow isn’t the perfect fitness tracker. Although the built-in display is a major positive point, as is the very reasonable £80 price, it’s an almost entirely passive device; with no way to set goals and no Android support at the time of writing, it’s clear to see why Nike’s FuelBand SE commands a £50 price premium.

Score: 7/10

Polar H7 Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate Sensor
Start from: $66.95

Make the most out of every training session with the Polar H7 Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate Sensor. It provides real-time heart rate to compatible mobile training apps, including Polar Beat and Polar Flow, via low energy Bluetooth Smart technology. Also connects with the majority of Polar heart rate...

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Received the Polar H7 today. I have a Motorola Droid RAZR, running Ice Cream Sandwich. I wanted to use this device with Noom Cardiotrainer app, but it would not recognize the Polar H7, even after pairing the device with my phone in the Bluetooth settings. Thought I was doing something wrong, so I followed the instructions to a T -- I wet the section of the strap where the electrodes were located, I applied Buh-Bump electrode conductive cream to the strap... nothing.I searched for some time around the Internet and found other users having the same problem. Tried a few different apps - Endomondo, HRNavi, etc. Nothing worked. I tried searching the forums on Polar's website (which I have other issues with, by the way) and found nothing. A bunch of other users with the exact-same problem.So, I searched Google Play until I found an app that finally worked - MapMyRun. Its heart rate monitor settings picked up the H7 the first time with no issues. Then, I found that the developer that created MapMyRun had also created a set of apps such as MapMyWalk, MapMyFitness, MapMyHike, etc. They ALL work with the H7. So, I fired up a Shaun T Insanity video, strapped on the H7, launched MapMyFitness, and the app tracked my peak heartrate during my workout, the average heartrate, and even a calculation of calories burned. Worked flawlessly.So, the issue is not my phone. The issue is not the H7. The issue is the apps that are not fully compatible with the H7. If you check the Google Play descriptions for the apps I tried above, they all say to use their apps with the Polar Wearlink+, not the Polar H7. Funny... it would have been nice to find this information BEFORE completing my purchase. But, you know...Read more ›
August 22, 2012
Once I managed to hack my way into the package (I hate those plastic packages that everything comes in now) I had it synced up and working with Strava on a iPhone 4s in just a few seconds. Also worked fine with Endomondo app. Used it while cycling with iPhone in back jersey pocket - not problem staying connected and supplying the app with heart rate info during the ride. The battery life of the iPhone wasnt impacted - I get about 4hrs while using a GPS tracking app.I've got about 150 miles in with this strap - no issues with connectivity, battery life or comfort. The strap connector is a small metal hook that fastens into an elastic loop. I haven't had any issue with it, but in general its not as nice as some other straps that I have used that had a more robust belt-like plastic buckle.The native support, no dongle or anything else to plug into the phone, makes this really nice.UPDATE: Bluetooth connection remains after you are done with your work-out. After stopping the recording of Strava or Endomondo, the Bluetooth connection remains b/t your phone (iPhone 4s in my case) and the HRM. I burned one battery before I figured out what was going on. When I'm done now I try to remember to actually kill the app.UPDATE2: I have had a lot of trouble getting this thing to sync with my iPhones. I ran across a review that said you need to wear it for a few minutes without the battery in it to fully reset it. That worked wonders. I also think that when its really sweaty/wet after a workout its worth unclipping it to get the unit to shut off sooner and save the batter
May 29, 2012
I bought this unit to work with my new Ipod Nano 7th generation. I tried very hard to get it to be recognized by the Ipod. I could not do it. I called Apple and they said they did not know how to make it work with the Polar Unit but they advertise it wll; JUST LIKE POLAR does! So we did a conference call with Polar who then said they DO NOT KNOW HOW to make it work with the Ipod either. I was amazed that all the marketing says they will sync with each other but neither company know how to do it! I was then referred to the head of U.S. marketing for Polar and he didn't know how to use it either so he contacted GLOBAL marketing for Polar. Today I received instructions on how to sync it. Here they are: Below are detailed instructions that our global help desk provided on using the H7 transmitter with the 7th generation iPod:- Wear the Polar H7 hear rate sensor- Go to iPod Nano Settings and check that Bluetooth is On. Note! iPod does not show H7 in Devices list.- Enter Fitness Nike+ application and tab the "i" icon.- Enter Nike+ iPod Sprot Kit and choose Heart Rate Monitor- Check that Heart Rate Monitor is ON- Choose Link from the list and tab the heart symbol.Now the application starts to link the H7 sensor. When the sensor is linked press the iPod button to return.- Enter Fitness Nike+ application and choose Sport (e.g. Run)- Choose Heart Rate from the List- Scroll to choose your sport and press Done- Choose None (or other settings)- Now you will see a heart symbol until iPod has found your heart rate signal.- When heart rate signal is found, iPod will automatically change the display info. Now you can see your heart rate and you can Start the exercise recording.Read more ›
January 8, 2013
Activity Trackers: Polar Loop activity tracker review
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