Jun 012012
 

We are continuing on our  journey to learn more about heart rate monitors, and the best way to choose the right one. Today we are reviewing the Polar Wearlink+ Bluetooth heart rate monitor. The Wearlink+ Bluetooth is made to work with Android phones. If you are looking for a Polar heart rate monitor that works with the iPhone 4S, check out our review of the Polar H7 Bluetooth Low Energy Heart Rate Monitor In-Depth Review.

 

Before we get started, we should tell you a little bit about us and how we perform product evaluations. We have a group of 4 people who do the evaluations of all of the stuff. One person is the lead on a piece of gear, but everyone gets a chance to evaluate the product. We have 2 guys and 2 ladies, so it’s a good mix of people. It gives us better insight, and we get a better review overall. Everyone has an input to the review, and if there is a major disagreement, we will note it in the review. If you want to know who these people are, check out our About Us page. Four of us are seasoned triathletes, and 2 of us are are also full time Pilates instructors. Jennifer Lynn, who is a guest blogger, is a full time Pilates/spinning instructor. All swim, bike, run, do Pilates and Yoga, and use all of the gear on a daily basis. Many of you have read the FitnessElectronicsBlog disclaimer, but here it is in case this is your first time reading one of our reviews. For the record,  we are in no way connected with Polar any of the companies whose gear we review. We remain disconnected, in large part, because we love playing with the latest technology, and we couldn’t keep our hands off this stuff if we tried.  No give-us-gear for a favorable review, or anything like that. We call ‘em as we see ‘em. It keeps us honest. Typically, if we like the product, we will buy it to have around, use, and be able to check out software updates and answer questions.  So, enough with the babble. Let’s get to the review.

We thought we would give a little background on all of the heart rate monitor straps that Polar makes, and what products each HRM strap works with. First of all, Polar makes heart rate monitors that use different frequencies and different protocols. Polar makes heart rate monitors that use a low frequency 5 kHz connection method. They also make a 2.4 GHz high frequency proprietary protocol called W.I.N.D. Finally, they also make two models of Bluetooth HRM straps; Bluetooth (Bluetooth 2.0, or normally just called Bluetooth), and Bluetooth Smart (Sometimes called Bluetooth Low Energy or Bluetooth 4.0).  So if you check out the Polar site, and look under accessories, you will find eight different heart rate monitors (plus 2 replacement straps). If you don’t care about the differences in HRM straps, and only care about the Polar WearLink+ Bluetooth review, skip down to the Getting Started section, which is where the review starts.

So, eight straps? Wow! Why all of the different straps? Well, first of all, lets group the straps into three different groups.

The first group is Straps that work with current Polar HRM watches and bike computers:

  • T31
  • T31 coded
  • WearLink+
  • WearLink+ W.I.N.D
HRM’s that work with other watches and devices:
  • WearLink+ Nike
Bluetooth HRM’s that work with smart phones:
  • WearLink+ with Bluetooth
  • H7 Bluetooth Smart
You can see that the Wearlink+ Bluetooth and the H7 models work with smartphones. The WearLink+ Bluetooth works with Android phones. It does not work with any of the Polar HRM watches or bike computers. The H7 Bluetooth Low Energy  works with iPhone 4S (not earlier iPhone models), but it does have a 5 kHz transmitter that allows it to work with most Polar products. The complete list of compatible Polar products is listed in the review.

For your convenience, I have copied specs and compatibility chart from the other Polar heart rate monitor straps below, directly from their site for reference purposes. This may be helpful comparing the differences between the HRM’s. Here they are:

WearLink+ Heart Rate Monitor Straps

It not only measures your heart rate but also seamlessly adapts to your body shapes so you feel as if it’s not even there. The transmitter consists of an electrode strap and a connector, and with its new side-clip mechanism, it’s just as quick to put on as it is to take off.

  • Soft fabric material feels like clothing on the skin
  • Ergonomically designed to feel like it’s a part of you
  • Removable and machine washable textile strap
  • Anti-Bacterial
  • User replaceable battery
  • Sizes XS-S, M-XXL
  • Retail price $59.95
Compatible with:
  • CS100
  • Cs200cad
  • CS300
  • FT1
  • FT2
  • FT4
  • FT40
  • FT60
  • FT80
  • RCX5
  • RCX5 Tour de France
  • RS100
  • RS400
Wearlink+ W.I.N.D  Heart Rate Monitor Strap

With a soft fabric chest strap it’s the latest generation of Polar’s proprietary heart rate sensing and transmission technology.

  • Polar W.I.N.D. technology eliminates interference from external influences such as power lines
  • Anti-Bacterial
  • User replaceable battery
  • Sizes: XS-S, M-XXL
  • Retail price $69.95

Compatible with:

  • CS500+
  • CS500X
  • RCX5
  • RCX5 Tour de France
  • RS800X
  • RS800CX Multisport GPS pack
Polar Wearlink+ Nike+ Heart Rate Monitor Strap

Polar WearLink+ transmitter Nike+ picks up your heart’s signals and transfers that data into the Nike+ system. The soft fabric chest strap seamlessly adapts to your body shape, bringing full freedom of movement to your training. With its hook mechanism, transmitter is just as quick to put on as it is to take off.

  • Provides heart rate information to nikeplus.com web service with compatible Nike+ devices
  • Uses coded 5 kHz transmission, ensuring that your Polar training computer finds your heart rate signal
  • Washable fabric strap
  • Water-resistant connector
  • User replaceable battery
  • Size: M-XXL
  • Retail price $69.95
Compatible with:
  • CS100
  • Cs200cad
  • CS300
  • FT1
  • FT2
  • FT4
  • FT40
  • FT60
  • FT80
  • RS100
  • RS400
Wearlink+ Hybrid Heart Rate Monitor Strap
The WearLink®+ Hybrid transmitter picks up your heart’s signals and transfers that data into a compatible Polar training computer. The soft fabric chest strap seamlessly adapts to your body shape, bringing full freedom of movement to your training. With its hook mechanism, the transmitter is just as quick to put on as it is to take off.
  • Uses both 5kHz and 2.4GHz W.I.N.D. transmission, ensuring that your heart rate signal is found at all times
  • Transfers heart rate information while swimming
  • Machine washable fabric strap
  • User replaceable battery
  • Sizes: XS-S, M-XXL
  • Retail price $69.95

Compatible with:

  • CS100
  • Cs200cad
  • CS300
  • CS500+
  • CS600x
  • FT1
  • FT2
  • FT4
  • FT40
  • FT60
  • FT80
  • RCX5
  • RCX5 Tour de France
  • RS100
  • RS800CX
H7 Bluetooth Low Energy Heart Rate Monitor Strap (see our in depth review here)

The Polar H7 heart rate sensor provides live heart rate on your mobile training application, so you can make the most of every session. In addition to low energy Bluetooth smart technology, the H7 heart rate sensor uses coded 5 kHz transmission to connect with the majority of Polar training computers on the market and with compatible gym equipment. The soft fabric chest strap seamlessly adapts to your body shape, bringing full freedom of movement to your training.

  • Uses Bluetooth smart technology and coded 5 kHz transmission, providing ECG-accurate heart rate to any Bluetooth smart ready device and compatible Polar training computers
  • Makes it quick and easy to add heart rate to your smartphone
  • Long transmission range (~10m)
  • User replaceable battery
  • Includes a soft and comfortable hand washable fabric chest strap
  • Retail price $79.95
Compatible Phones:
  • iPhone 4S
Compatible with:
  • CS100
  • Cs200cad
  • CS300
  • CS600x
  • FT1
  • FT2
  • FT4
  • FT40
  • FT60
  • FT80
  • RCX5
  • RCX5 Tour de France
  • RS100
  • RS400

The Polar Wearlink+ Bluetooth – Getting Started

What’s in the box?

Here is the product box:

Here’s what’s inside:

So what are the features and specs?

The Polar WearLink®+ transmitter with Bluetooth® wireless technology picks up your heart’s signals and transfers that data into a compatible mobile training application. The soft fabric chest strap seamlessly adapts to your body shape, bringing full freedom of movement to your training. With its hook mechanism, the transmitter is just as quick to put on as it is to take off.

  • Provides heart rate information to compatible mobile training applications
  • Uses Bluetooth transmission, ensuring that the mobile device finds your heart rate signal
  • Washable fabric strap
  • Water-resistant connector
  • User replaceable battery
  • Anti bacterial
  • Size: M-XXL
  • Retail price $79.95

Recommended Android phone compatibility:

  • HTC Wildfire S, Desire S, Sensation XE
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace, Galaxy Mini, Galaxy Gio, Galaxy i9000
  • LG Thrill

Compatible with the following apps:

 

Using the HRM strap:

Here is the WearLink+ Bluetooth after a quick run. We wore it all day to check out the comfort. It is very comfortable, and feels good.

Here is the transmitter:

On the back, you can see the replaceable battery compartment. To turn the unit on and off, you just disconnect it from the strap:

Here is a pic of James testing the WearLink+ Bluetooth:

To start using the WearLink+ Bluetooth with our phones, we first needed to pair the device. Make sure Bluetooth is turned on, and scan for devices. You can see that Polar IWL shows up.

Clicking on Polar IWL took me to the pairing screen. I entered 0000, and I was ready to go:

Next, I opened Endomondo (or whatever app you want to use), selected sensors, and chose the Polar IWL. Choosing and enabling the sensor is different for different apps, so you may need to play around with this:

Once we were in the app, we checked Bluetooth connection distances. We could walk into the next room and still keep the heart rate monitor display on the phone working. We never had any issue with connection. We tried placing the phone in a shorts pocket, and reception was fine. Moving it around, and placing it behind us in a fanny pack didn’t cause any issues. Don’t expect to swim with it and still pick up a heart rate. The WearLink+ is waterproof, but Bluetooth doesn’t transmit well through water. It’s not the HRM’s fault; it has to do with the frequency of Bluetooth and the transmitted power level.

So, off for a run! The device works well, and works as well as any of the Polar HRM straps. Data was alway consistent on our Anroid phone display.

Thoughts, Opinions and Summary:

Since the strap and case on the WearLink+ Bluetooth is identical to the Polar H7 that we evaluated earlier, our opinions on the comfort and design are identical. We did perform the same tests, with identical outcomes. As is typical, I wore the strap for the day to gauge its comfort. I also used it during workouts, and it definitely felt as comfortable as any strap on the market. The Bluetooth connection was great, with no signal or dropout issues noticed in my data. The device paired easily, with no signal issues at all. Our office, with all of the test gear, has many Bluetooth devices running, and we did not have one issue. The hardware seems to be well built, and the strap should hold up well if our other Polar straps are any indication. We have not found any specifications on battery life, but we would expect it to be pretty good. The transmitter uses a CR2025 coin cell, and is user replaceable. Since typical battery life is 1 year on products like these, we would expect similar results.

Pros:

  • The connection was great.
  • The strap was soft and comfortable.
  • Seamless operation.

Cons:

  • I wish it had a 5 kHz transmitter to allow it to work with other Polar devices
  • As with any phone application, all of the data that is based on GPS location information, such as speed and distance, is only as good as the GPS capabilities of the phone. Bottom line, your phone’s GPS performance may vary, but this has nothing to do with the WearLink+ HRM.
So would I recommend the WearLink+ Bluetooth HRM? Definitely yes. We consider it every bit as good as the H7 (except for the lack of a 5 kHz transmitter to work with other Polar devices), but built for Android phones.  The retail price of the Polar WearLink+ Bluetooth is $79.95.

Here is a video using the Polar WearLink+ and RunKeeper:

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  11 Responses to “Polar WearLink+ Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor In Depth Review”

  1. [...] Friday – Polar WearLink+ Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor In Depth Review [...]

  2. I have had a Polar Wearlink+ with Bluetooth for the past 2 weeks. So far, I’m unhappy with it. It is devouring batteries. I’ve already used 3. When not in use I keep the transmitter in one pouch in my gym bag and the band in another. I wash the band after every use and dampen it before each use as per the instruction manual.

    Today I talked to customer support at Polar and they told me that I have to either turn off my Bluetooth on my phone, or keep the phone 10 meters away from my phone. My place isn’t that big so even if I wanted to comply with the 10 meters, I couldn’t. Worse is the option of essentially having no Bluetooth on my phone because I’ve got their HRM.

    They have agreed to send me a new one but after speaking with them I doubt I will get any better results. Apparently the device doesn’t ever power off, even if you unsnap it from the band. That’s their words, not mine. I find this so unbelievable I still cannot get myself to accept it. However they warned me I may not have better results unless I turn off my Bluetooth or at least flash my Bluetooth. My phone, a droid bionic can handle up to 7 simultaneous Bluetooth connections. But according to polar I have to sever them all in order to comply with their protocols.

    This simply cannot be right. Either support was egregiously misinformed, or this is one horribly engineered device. I don’t know which at this point.

  3. Andrew,

    What I think you are seeing is correct. There are a couple of issues. One is that the Bluetooth transmitter in the strap still transmits after it is unsnapped. The second part of the equation is that on an Android phone, quitting out of the app doesn’t really close the app. For example, if you are in Endomondo, and click the home button, Endomondo is still running, and the Bluetooth is still connected. One way around this is to force quit the app when you are done working out, and then unsnap the Bluetooth transmitter. One way to force quit is to click on phone Settings, Applications, Manage applications, click on your workout program, and click Force stop. There are also apps out there that will do this for you. Just search in the Play Store for app or task killer, and you’ll find many. Most people use an app like this to keep battery life at a maximum on their phone.

    John

  4. Andrew,

    By the way, I ran mine all weekend right next to the phone, with the app killed. I just measured battery voltage, and it is fine.

    John

  5. The Bluetooth low energy devices are slightly different in that Apple forces the Bluetooth closed when another app is running.

    John

    • What HRM will work with multiple apps without Bluetooth shutting down on Android? I currently use Strava, Sports Tracker, Endomondo and MapMyRide. I find I like to interact with online communities with all four, and if one app crashes, I can import GPX files from another app.

  6. I always make sure endomondo is OFF when I’m done. I posted my same information on Amazon.com where I bought my Wearlink+. Someone from Polar replied. I also called customer service and they are shipping me a new one just in case. However if you follow the link to my review and read the conversation you’ll see that even though I’m going so far as to flash the bluetooth on my phone as per their directions the problem still occurs. Yesterday in a 1.5 hour session a half full battery was devoured and the unit went off 70 minutes into that session. That’s a 50% usage in 70 minutes. Obvioulsy something is wrong. I suspect it is because I also use a Motorola Bluetooth headset to listen to music while working out. Either way, the way I’m devouring batteries while in normal usage is unacceptable.

    Here is the link to my discussion with the guy from Polar:
    http://www.amazon.com/review/R17RXV2GDWB873

  7. [...] Polar WearLink+ Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor In Depth Review(fitnesselectronicsblog.com) [...]

  8. [...] Polar WearLink+ Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor In Depth Review(fitnesselectronicsblog.com) [...]

  9. can you listen to music on an android device while using the polar strap, cause i have bluetooth headphones also and i dont know if the phone supports two connections

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