Before we get started, we should probably have a quick discussion about Bluetooth Low Energy. So what is Bluetooth Low Energy? Bluetooth Low Energy is a feature of the latest Bluetooth specification, Bluetooth 4.0. Different manufacturers call it by different names; Bluetooth Low Power, Bluetooth Low Energy, and Bluetooth 4.0. Thew advantages of Bluetooth Low Power is that they consume a fraction of the power of classic Bluetooth products. So why should you care? Because products that use this new Bluetooth protocol may not be compatible with old phones. As an example, the Polar H7, which uses Bluetooth Low Energy (which we will call BLE from now on), is only compatible with the iPhone 4S and the Motorola Razr Droid. So even though all other smart phones have built in Bluetooth, those phones are not compatible with the Polar H7. To solve this problem, Polar makes two versions of Bluetooth heart rate monitors. Polar makes the Polar H7, and the Polar Wearlink+ heart rate monitor straps. The main differences are shown below. This was taken directly from the Polar site:
You can see that the Polar Wearlink+ is compatible with Symbian, Blackberry, and Motorola Droid phones. This review will cover the Polar H7, connected to an Apple iPhone 4S.
What’s in the box?
Here is the product box:
Here’s what is inside the box:
The product includes the Bluetooth heart rate monitor strap, transmitter, manual, and box.
So what are the features and specs?
The Polar H7 heart rate sensor is designed to be used with a smart phone, or connected to one of the Polar training computers. The features are shown below:
- Compatible with iPhone 4S and Motorola Droid Razr
- Bluetooth Low Energy transmission
- Compatible with Polar training computers, including the FT series, RS100, RS200, RS300, RS400, CS100, CS200, CS300, and RCX5
- Also compatible with Polar compatible gym equipment using the 5 Khz coded protocol
- Can transmit up to 30 feet
- Battery life up to 350 hours
- User replaceable battery CR2025
- Soft, washable strap
Using the Polar H7
Before I could use the strap, I needed to decide what software I would use to log my workouts. I found that Endomondo and CardioMapper work, but I also found a trick on the internet that will get you up and running with Runkeeper. It seemed to work for me. Here is the video:
I used the Polar H7 with MapMyRun, RunKeeper, and Endomondo. It worked well with all three apps. I have included a few screen shots for fun:
The strap connected to all three apps, but to get it to work with RunKeeper, I needed to follow the video shown above. The strap felt great and worked well, with no dropouts or issues.
Thoughts, Opinions and Summary:
So, after using it for a while, what did I think of the hardware? The device paired easily, and the strap felt good. 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. I think as time goes on, more applications will support the Bluetooth Low Power heart rate monitors. Claimed battery life is better for the BLE heart rate straps than the standard Bluetooth HRM’s, but we have not verified the battery life of the Polar H7.
- The connection was great.
- The strap was soft and comfortable.
- Claimed battery life is excellent for a Bluetooth HRM.
- Works with other Polar training computers and gym equipment using the built in 5KHz radio.
- Not as many apps support BLE protocol yet.
- 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. The iPhone is pretty good, but not as good as a good GPS HRM watch.
Added May 14th, 2012
Last week, we reviewed the Polar H7 Bluetooth Low Energy heart rate monitor strap. This is a followup to that review. The review can be found here.
We have had many readers want more information on the Polar H7 Bluetooth Low Energy heart rate monitor strap. One of the biggest questions that readers have is, “Which iPhone apps work with the Polar H7?” So we set out to check all of the most popular apps that are out there. On the iPhone 4s, the apps that we test most often are:
- Endomondo Pro
- Jog Log
- Garmin Fit
So,…….the answer is………..all of them but SportsTracker and Garmin Fit. Of course, SportsTracker and Garmin Fit both sell their own hardware.
Here are images of all of the apps that work with the Polar H7. You can see the heart rate displayed on the screen for each app:
RunKeeper and WahooFitness
MapMyRun and MapMyRun+
runtastic and Runmeter
Jog Log and LogYourRun
To get RunKeeper to work, you will typically need to follow the instructions on the following video:
So the bottom line – I was pretty amazed that I could get all of these apps to work with the Polar H7.
If you have any other apps that you want us to try, just leave us a comment, or send us an email and we’ll check ‘em out.