We are a geeky family. We love technology and all the fun gadgets that are out there. We also love being active and staying fit. Put the two together and you have a plethora of fun things to play with!
Neither Mr. Geek nor myself are strangers to fitness monitors. My first foray into step counters/activity monitors was through FitBit but found the device lacking in both wearing options and the phone app’s user interface. After washing and losing a FitBit One and Zip, I moved onto the UP band by Jawbone. This band was worn around my wrist and I loved the application and website, much more user friendly than the FitBit site, in my opinion. But sooner or later I lost interest and stopped wearing it. The band was starting to get dirty and even with washing it, I couldn’t help but feel gross wearing it day in and day out so close against my skin.
Mr. Geek was also an UP band wearer but ran into problems with his band, too. He wore it into the shower a time or two and this compromised the band’s ability to charge and after having it only a short while, he was unable to get the band to hold a charge or to show any signs of life. This band is a good product but doesn’t have the ability to withstand water damage it would seem.
For a month or so we both stopped wearing our bands. I was disappointed to be missing all the data that wearing a tracker can give you but didn’t feel like any of the activity monitors out there would totally fit the bill.
Then Christmas came and Mr. Geek surprised me with a new UP24 band by Jawbone, the next iteration of the band we originally wore. He was already sporting a new monitor, the Shine, and I hadn’t taken as much of a liking to it as he had so he got me a replacement band but the next generation. Sadly, that band never synced to my phone no matter WHAT we did. And I’m married to an IT guy! It didn’t matter if we charged it, reset the app, turned off the phone, deleted the app and reinstalled. Nothing. No syncing. Or if it did, it wasn’t consistent and would lose connectivity not long after. I was sooo disappointed. I was like that kid that got a toy for Christmas they had been wanting forever only to find out it needs batteries and you don’t have the right batteries for it. Booooo!
With my first UP band, I knew there were some kinks to it but I bought it anyway and crossed my fingers. I had no problems with it and it lasted longer than the average UP band per the reviews. So I guess I had worn out my luck by the time I started with the new UP24 because after we couldn’t get it to work on our own, we sought out help from forums and Jawbone but read a lot of disparaging things. Seems the UP band is a good products but with lots of glitches. I figured I got lucky with my first band and the common issues with it never happened with me but it would turn out that I wouldn’t be so lucky again.
A few days after we returned to Best Buy to exchange that band for another hoping the second one would work. But they were all out of my size. While my husband exchanged it for store credit, I wandered about the fitness toy isle to see what was new and what options there were. That’s when I saw it, a Polar Loop!
Well I’m a Polar girl. I’ve worn a Polar HRM since Little Geek was an even littler geek. And the options for this band to sync with my Polar chest strap was a big plus. So we bought one for me and took it home to give it a whirl.
This is a new product of Polar. Polar is known for it’s calorie tracking heart rate monitors and watches. As someone who has used a Polar in the past and known it’s reliability to be pretty spot on, I was excited to try it out even if it was only the first attempt at an activity tracker for Polar. I tend to shy away from inaugural events or products due to the amount of glitches and issues that tend to occur. I like to give something time to mature and become a better product.
First, the band itself. It’s a thick black band with a digital scrolling face that shows you your daily activity goal bar, calories, steps and time. My band goes in this order and if I push the small button on the right it will flick through each category in that order each time. The activity bar fills up over time and gives you suggestions to meet that goal like jogging for X amount of time or walking for X amount of time. Then with calories you get your complete burn from just being alive for that day. If you exercise or move more, you burn more calories so this number will change from day to day and your end number will always be different depending on the activity level of the day. Your step counter tracks the number of steps you take. I haven’t tests this number against a pedometer but I doubt it’s highly actuate because while I was driving home one day I noticed it tracked some steps that were not possible.
The structure of the band is thicker on the top where the screen is and flexible around the wrist band. There is a large silver clasp on the bottom to open and close the band to slip it off. When you first get your band, you have to cut it to make it fit. Then you piece it back together and have your band sized for your wrist. There is a small button design on the front to the right of the screen that allows you to flip through your counter and clock. I’m not fond of this button. It’s very unreliable. To charge, you plug in the specially made USB cable to this outlet on the inside of the monitor. It’s an odd setup but I find while I’m driving to and from work makes the most optional time to charge it since I’m not moving much.
The Good: I like the options of seeing your activity through goal, calories, and steps. Some days, my steps are what matter to me most. Others, I like seeing how far I filled up my bar. I like that it acts as a watch, too. It’s nice to have that extra functionality.
The Bad: Firstly, the button to turn on the monitor sucks pretty badly. There are times I have to mash in the button to get it to register, other times I can brush up against something and it’ll flip through everything. It’s not reliable and completely needs to be rethought. I understand that the band is made to be wearable in the pool to track swimming and I can see this being the reason there isn’t an actual clickable button on the band, less crevasses for water to seep into. But a real button that worked like it should would be excellent. Also, cutting the band to make it fit seems like a bad idea. What if you cut it too short? Or what if you lose a piece to the clasp while you are cutting? There is too much room for human error when it comes to fitting the band. For me, my band is too loose. But my husband recut it two or three times AFTER we followed their measurement instructions so it’s not a perfect process and I could see people getting frustrated and dropping a pin or taking one snip too much.
Now for the app, Polar Flow. It’s for free and syncs to your band by Bluetooth (not my #1 choice for connectivity). It gives you the option of viewing your days as a watch face or a type of pie chart where your activity levels circle the outside of the face. Then you can look down the front page and see what you would need to do to reach your goal and for how many minutes. There is even a little section to put in how you feel (happy, awesome, bad) and a place where it shows how many inactivity alarms you’ve had. There is also an area on a side bar that allows you to sync your Polar HRM chest band and to record a workout but this isn’t reliable either. I rarely get it to work and it usually starts tracking once I’m done.
The Good: I love the clock face option for your activity break down! It shows you that day by minutes and gives you your daily activity as it happened over a period of time. The other option just shows your activity in chunks of time over the whole day and while that’s great, showing it with the time in the center and which portions of the day were more active is my favorite way to view it. I also love the section that tells you how you can reach your goal. Their options range from running, swimming, jumping rope, tai chi, all these great suggestions.
The Bad: I don’t have a lot of gripes because I feel like the app is very user friendly and gives a lot of data. What I don’t like is the app and band relying on Bluetooth so much. I just don’t feel confident in Bluetooth technology and I feel like I get left in the dust because it won’t sync or recognize each other. I also wish that the inactivity alarm would buzz my band or light it up, telling me to move. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t. I’ll sign on at the end of the day and be surprised that I got one because it doesn’t alert you via the band. I would think that the purpose of the alert would be to get you up and moving if you’ve been sitting too long but if you aren’t on your phone how would you know? Polar, make my band light up or buzz instead of just logging it on my phone, k?
The website counterpart to this whole shebang is pretty cool too, especially if you are using another Polar product. I love the calendar on there and seeing my overall calorie burn per week. It’s amazing to see all that data.
So my big issues: Bluetooth connectivity, no inactivity alert on the band itself, and the unreliable button on the band face. These are some pretty serious issues so if you are new to wearing a monitor, I’d look into something else until Polar gets a generation two out there and with hopefully some much needed revising. But if you are a Polar wearer (heart rate monitor or watch or both) it’s nice to have all your bits under one name. I like that if I run it’s on my band AND on the site showing my activity levels and my heart rate. But I think there is A LOT of room for improvement.