August 24, 2016
Functionality between smart watches and fitness trackers increasingly overlaps these days. If you have a watch with the various sensors to pick up your step counts and Bluetooth to send the data to a phone, it is not that far of a leap to blow things out to a full smart watch suite. With the advent of the Android Wear ecosystem, that has definitely become a lot easier to accomplish. The latest entry for that would be the just-announced Polar M600. I’m definitely not in the camp of everyday (or even casual) smart watch users, but the fitness spin on the Polar M600 speaks to me.
While I would not go so far as to say that workout gear and gadgets motivate me to get to the gym, they certainly can make things more interesting. The big thing in that regard that the Polar M600 brings to the table – at least for how I use things – is the heart rate, right on the wrist. Currently, I’ve got a watch and chest strap setup that I use. Now, this is accurate and it works; trying out something that is all-in-one, though, that has some appeal, for sure.
Unlike my current workout partner, the Polar M600 is using the Android Wear operating system, as I mentioned before. This means that there is a whole world of apps to interact with on the touchscreen of the device, as well as the ability build on how the device talks to your phone (an Android-based one, in my case). I have been paying more attention to these lately, and there seems to be quite a few clever apps that would augment and automate some things at the gym.
The styling of the Polar M600 is a sleek, modern take on what a fitness watch can be. The Gorilla glass screen is embedded into the silicone strap, making what looks to be a very smooth and seamless transition. In other words, there are not any sharp edges to get caught on things, whether it be the cables of a weight machine or branches on a trail. The sleek design would help in another area that I’ve come to rely on my Fitbit for – sleep tracking and alarms. Much like with my workouts, I do not have a particular need to have the metrics on my sleep patterns. It can be nice to quantify, though, why I may be feeling particularly energetic – or need so much coffee – based on the prior night. The bigger win in this functionality, though, are the silent alarms. I have found that they are very effective for getting me up in the early morning (and off to the gym) without waking anyone else.
While this is a function not listed out in the specs, I did guess that it was there, with the aforementioned sleep tracking and a vibration motor, so I specifically inquired about it. Apparently, when an alarm goes off, the Polar M600 displays a card on its screen and vibrates. A swipe to the right, and you’ve shut the alarm off. Need a few more minutes? Swipe to the left, and you’ve snoozed the alarm, a definite upgrade over my Fitbit alarm cycle. While this is a minor thing in terms of all the functionality of the Polar M600, I personally find it invaluable, and could not imagine going back to a standard alarm clock for waking.
Given that the Polar M600 is positioned as a watch that you have with you all the time (and can track swimming performance), I was a little surprised to see the water-resistance was only at 10m. Fine enough for a pool swim, but I would feel more comfortable if they hit 100m. Then again, that may be tricky with needing to charge the Polar M600 (unless you went inductive). Yup, the major drawback to smart watches is still present here on the Polar M600 – you need to charge them up. Fortunately, the brand is estimating battery life at around two days when connected to an Android phone, so you won’t be worried that the watch will die on you at the end of the day.
I’ve focused on a lot of things other than the primary purpose of the Polar M600 – tracking and improving your fitness levels. If I were to pick one of these up, those are more of the icing on the cake, really. I’m a newbie runner, but the GPS inclusion certainly will help track the mileage, and they have a feature that they call “Smart Coaching” that will help guide you to things to help improve your performance. You can, of course, extend that with your own apps of choice, but for someone like me, I think starting with the stock stuff is as good a starting point as any.
Finally, I do rather like the price of the Polar M600. It’s currently up for pre-order at an MSRP of $329.95. For a fitness tracker alone, yeah, that would be expensive. For a sports and fitness watch that is also a full-fledged smart watch, though, the pricing seems right. You get a lot of functionality here in the compact package. I know others will likely have their own favorites when it comes to helping, say, train for a race, but for a general fitness guy like myself, the Polar M600 has a lot going for it, particularly if you are also in the market for a smart watch. No, it would not replace the mechanical on my wrist, but it certainly is one I could see heading to the gym with. Oh, one last thing – I did note that this is up for pre-order. While the delivery date has not been set yet, it’s anticipated that the Polar M600 will be shipping before the end of the year. polar.com
Feature List from Polar
Tech Specs from Polar