For those of you just joining us, we are on a continuing journey to learn more about heart rate monitors, and the best way to choose the right one. Our website covers all types of electronics and tech stuff, but overwhelmingly, triathletes and runners come to our site to check out heart rate monitors and GPS watches. We have so many questions about how to choose the right heart rate monitor, we thought we would put together a series of posts covering all of the details. Today, we are discussing widely available heart rate monitor strap options that work with smartphones.
And don’t forget - We also have other continuing blog posts from Jennifer on How to Train With a Heart Rate Monitor, and from James on High Intensity Training…Will It Lead To Higher Performance?
Back in part 2, we covered a few simple ways that heart rate can be measured. The two options that most people choose when buying a heart rate monitor are to buy a HRM watch (maybe with GPS), or they will buy a heart rate monitor strap that works with a smartphone. If you buy a HRM watch , you are typically limited to the software and analysis tools that the manufacturer supplies, or a few third party apps. If you decide to buy a HRM strap, and use your smartphone as the display, you may have more apps and analysis options to choose from. This doesn’t mean that the apps are better or higher quality; on the contrary, the big three watch manufacturers, Garmin, Suunto and Polar, make some pretty good software analysis tools. But if you want other app and logging options, or you really only want to spend money on a HRM strap and use your phone to display and log your workout, then this post about HRM strap options may be of some interest to you.
This post is meant to give you an idea about what HRM strap options are available. We will cover the the most popular heart rate monitor straps that work with the most popular smartphones. Remember, this is meant to be an overview, not a review. Reviews of these heart rate monitor straps and the apps that they work with with be the subject of future posts.
Here are some of the most popular and widely available HRM straps:
The Wahoo Run/Gym Pack for iPhone is a heart rate strap made to work with all iPhones. It uses an ANT+ dongle that plugs into the iPhone 30 pin connector. The unit is powered by a 3V replaceable coin cell. The Wahoo Run/Gym Pack works with over 83 iPhone apps. You can find the full listing here. The retail price is $119.99.
The Wahoo Fitness Blue HR heart rate strap is a Bluetooth Low Power heart rate strap made for the iPhone 4S. It is not compatible with earlier 3G and 4 iPhones. The unit is powered by a 3V replaceable coin cell, and the unit is waterproof up to 5 feet. The Wahoo heart rate strap works with over 83 iPhone apps. You can find the full listing here. The retail price is $79.00
The Sports Tracker Bluetooth heart rate monitor strap is a Bluetooth heart rate strap made to work with Android and Nokia Symbian phones. The unit is powered by a rechargeable battery, and a USB charger is included.The Sports Tracker HRM is compatible with the Sports Tracker Android app. The retail price is 69.90 euros.
The Zephyr HxM Bluetooth heart rate monitor is a Bluetooth heart rate strap that works with Android 2.0 and later phones. The unit is powered by a rechargeable Lithium Polymer battery that lasts 30 hours between charges.It comes with a USB charger cradle, and takes 3 hours to fully recharge the battery. The unit is compatible with Endomondo, Run GPS, Athlosoft, Bike Dashboard, SportsTrackLive, eCoach, and ZephysOpen software. The retail price is $99.00.
The Polar WearLink+ heart rate monitor with Bluetooth technology works with Android phones.. The unit is powered by a 3V replaceable coin cell, and is water resistant. The unit is compatible with Endomondo, Cardio TRAINER, SportsTrackLive, RunKeeper, Runtastic, i do Move, Sportypal, Run.GPS software. The retail price is $79.95.
The SmartHRM Bluetooth heart rate monitor strap for Android works with Android phones. The device can store data up to 7 days of data. It vibrates to let you know whether you are under or over your target heart rate zone.The unit is compatible with JogTracker, JogTracker Pro, Jogger, and SmartHRM Fitness apps. The retail price is $99.00.
The SmartHRM WiFi for iPhone heart rate monitor connects to iPhones via WiFi, not Bluetooth. Because of this, it works with all models of iPhones. The unit is compatible with SmartHRM Fitness, CardioMapper, and SportyPal software. The retail price is $129.00.
The wireless protocol that is used for the HRM straps listed above is ANT+, Bluetooth, and Bluetooth Low Power, also called Bluetooth 4.0. So what is the difference, and why is this important? Well, if you buy an HRM strap that is ANT+, you will probably need to connect an external dongle to your phone. The Wahoo Fitness Run/Gym Pack for iPhone works with all iPhones, but it requires a dongle that plugs in to the phone.
This can be an issue depending on how you carry your phone. To eliminate the dongle, Wahoo Fitness also makes the Bluetooth BlueHR, which uses the Bluetooth Low Power protocol, but it only works with the iPhone 4S (and probably new unreleased models). This is because Apple only supports Bluetooth Low Power in the 4S model.
SmartHRM WiFi uses WiFi to connect to all Apple iPhones via WiFi. This may limit the number of apps that work with the SmartHRM WiFi.
Sports Tracker, Zephyr and the SmartHRM Bluetooth all use the older Bluetooth standard, and only work with Android phones. They do not work with Apple phones.
So confused yet? Well, you should be. There are many different protocols out there. Do you get a HRM strap and use it with your phone, or do you buy a dedicated HRM watch? If you are in a hurry to buy, and know that you want a HRM strap to work with your phone, and are ready to pull the trigger, then “How do you choose?” Well, one way would be to choose a model above based on whether it works with your phone.If you decide on one, make sure to look at the compatible software apps. Many apps can be downloaded , and you can find more information about each at the software developers site. Research before you buy. Because of the sheer number, and their complexity, there is no way to quickly cover everything in one or two posts and do it justice. We will be covering individual HRM strap reviews, and also individual app reviews in future posts. One thing to note is that, if you have an iPhone, the Wahoo Fitness HRM straps are compatible with the most apps, 83 and growing. This gives you a lot of flexibility.
And last, to wrap things up for today, a few final things to consider. If you change phones often, make sure your HRM choice works with your phone choice going forward. If you are a die hard iPhone or Android user, and are going to stick with your current platform, you should be ok going forward. Otherwise, you may be buying new hardware in a year. Also, are you sure you want to carry your phone on every workout or run? Try carrying your phone with you on your workouts before going out and purchasing hardware. Check the display. Can you see it or hear it during your workout? After trying this out, you may change your mind. Also, remember that your phone is not waterproof; typically a HRM watch is.
That’s it for today. I will leave you with a few videos of the HRM straps, so that you can get more familiar with some of the HRM’s.
So for now,
Here is a video of the Wahoo Fitness Run/Gym Pack:
Here is a video of the Wahoo Fitness BlueHR:
Here is a video of the Sports Tracker:
Here is a video of the Polar Wearlink+ Bluetooth HRM:
Here is a video of the SmartHRM HRM:
Here is a video of the RunKeeper app software: