It's apps need some work, but the Polar Loop is cheap and packed full of features
Pedometer: Yes, Heart-rate monitor: Yes (optional), Display: Yes (LCD touchscreen), Battery life: 6 days
Polar Flow app
The Loop syncs with Polar’s new Flow online portal and smartphone app. This is a very different platform from the Polar Personal Trainer site that has been the companion portal for Polar devices for some years now. The Polar Flow portal is still in Beta phase, so it’s very much a work in progress. You need to download and install the Polar Flow app onto your computer – both Mac and Windows versions are available. Then whenever you hook the Loop up to charge, it will sync all your data and transfer it to the Flow portal.
As well as logging your activities, you can also schedule in future training targets using the diary. Your feed will show you proper exercise sessions, letting you analyse your heart rate throughout the session and the heart rate zones that you were training in. The Polar Flow portal also lets you stalk other Loop users from all over the world. You can literally spy on anyone and examine their training sessions – you can even save specific sessions and try them yourself. If it sounds a bit voyeuristic, it is, and we did feel a bit uncomfortable spying on other Polar users and what they’ve been doing.
The Polar Flow smartphone app provides a very different experience to the online portal. The main display is presented as a 24-hour clock, with an indication of how active you’ve been throughout the day running around the clock face. Below the clock is an iconographic breakdown of your day, telling you how long you’ve been laying down, sitting, standing, walking and running. The Loop does give you a pretty good approximation of your daily activity, but before you get too disheartened about the amount of time it says you’ve been lazing around, just remember that it’s counting the hours you were asleep from midnight onwards.
To sync your data from the Loop you have to open the app and then press the button on the Loop. You have to wait until the display on the Loop has disappeared, then the synchronisation should begin on the app. We say should because the syncing seems to be a bit hit and miss, so it may take a few tries. What really surprised us, though, was that you have to do anything at all to initiate the sync. Given that the Loop uses Bluetooth 4.0, it really should sync automatically whenever you open the app, which is what the Jawbone UP24, Fitbit Flex and Nike+ FuelBand SE all do.
There’s no supplemental functionality in the app either. There’s no food tracking, weight tracking, and no simple way to share your activity feed with chosen friends. It’s also worth noting that the Polar Flow app doesn’t integrate with other apps, services or platforms like the Jawbone UP app, or the Withings Health Mate app. Polar is far from alone in having a somewhat closed system for its activity tracker, but it’s still a shame that you can’t import data from elsewhere, or export Loop data to other apps you might be using.
The Polar Flow app, much like the online portal feels like a beta build, which is potentially a good thing, since it probably means that Polar will be adding new functionality to it over time, hopefully bringing it in line with the best apps and portals offered by the competition.
The Polar Loop has a lot going for it, not least the ability to pair with a heart rate sensor. The fact that it’s fully waterproof is another plus point that the majority of the competition don’t boast. But it’s also not without its issues. The need to physically cut the Loop to size will be a bit scary for many it was for us. The lack of automatic syncing via the smartphone app is also a bit disappointing, as is the limited functionality of the app itself.
The Loop makes up for its shortcomings when you factor in the price. With an MSRP of £85, the Loop is pretty reasonably priced considering its extensive feature set. But you can actually find the Loop online for far less than that, with Amazon offering it for only £66! If you’re looking for an activity tracker that you can take to the swimming pool, and track your heart rate in the gym, the Loop definitely fits the bill. And while the app and portal don’t quite feel like finished products just yet, the bargain price makes the Loop quite an attractive option, although the benefit of not having to cut the strap to size makes the Garmin Vivofit a slightly better choice.
|Yes (LCD touchscreen)
|Android 4.3+, iPhone 5+
|Price including VAT