Polar brings forth the A360 as a challenge to other companies on what a Fitness Watch can look and feel like. They may be missing a few of key elements of other all-day Heart Rate (HR) trackers like the FitBit Charge 2, but they make up for it in other ways. This is a long term review of the Polar A360. The testers at Athletic Tech Review (ATR) have been wearing and using this fitness watch for 4 months straight. We will look at some of the important elements of fitness watches and then compare those elements to other competitors on our Compare Equipment page. You can click on that link and see how all of these watches stack up to each other.
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In this review, we are going to look at what makes the Polar A360 unique compared to it’s competitors. We will also look at where we think it falls short for certain users. Let’s be honest here for a second, there are a lot of options out there. Today’s market and fitness watches is complex. This isn’t about finding the best watch your money can buy, but finding the best watch for YOU that your money can buy. The Polar A360 will be perfect for some of you. Let me show you why.
Below are the five main strengths of the Polar A360. This is Polar is doing things that nobody else is doing right now and we like these features a lot. Some of these strengths will also create weaknesses. You will need to decide what is and isn’t important to you, before purchasing a fitness watch.
The Polar A360 comes with a 80 x 160 pixel Red Green Blue (RGB) display. It was not only vibrant, but a breathe of fresh air for fitness trackers. Most of us are used to the OLED or monochromatic displays. So, to have a bit of color in your watch was a huge plus! Look at the video below, and you can see just how vibrant the A360 is. ATR felt like Polar was upping the game in the screen display department. Anything that appeals to the eye, is a huge plus to give you that extra motivation.
My personal preference for battery life is 7 days. I don’t want to charge my watch every day (Apple Watches) or even every 5 days (FitBit/Garmin). I want to charge my watch at the same time every week. The Polar A360 gives you that option. This watch was good out to 14 days under normal use conditions. Under heavy use, we had to charge every 10 days. The reason the A360 can go so long on a charge? This watch does not do all day HR tracking. That’s right folks! If you want 24/7 HR tracking, this might not be your watch. Let’s talk about that real quick.
I don’t really care for all day HR tracking. I’ve used it before on the FitBit, and I personally don’t get much out of it besides Resting HR. Having 24/7 HR data is cool at first, but it just becomes one of those metrics you really don’t use much later on. What are the benifits of all day HR, and tracking your Resting HR? I can see a few things with all day HR tracking. I can see when I am overtraining, and I can see when I am about to get sick. This is useful if you are a serious athlete and really stressing your body. Resting HR can help you identify issues before they come up. I’m not a serious athlete. I am a fitness enthusiast, so Resting HR isn’t a big priority for me.
This is where Polar takes a leap and really changes up the way we look at fitness. I really, really like where they are going with this. How do you measure fitness? With other fitness watches it is as simple as tracking steps. Is tracking steps a real measurement of fitness? Does getting 10k in steps mean that you are fit? We don’t think so and neither does Polar.
Polar uses step tracking as only one, of many metrics they use to track your daily goals. You could hit 10k steps in one day and still only achieve 75% of your daily goal. However, hit 10k in steps and go for a 20 minute jog and you hit 115% of your daily goal. The watch also gives you suggestions on activities you could do to hit your daily goals (see video above). Nobody else does that! What this means, is you can use your watch to suggest what exercises you could do before the end of the day to hit your goals. It is all on your watch. Matter of fact, we found ourselves using the Polar App less because all of the important data was displayed on the watch face.
Nobody can deny the fact that FitBit makes one of the most attractive and user friendly companion Apps on the market. However, there are things that Polar is doing that really peaked my interest. For one, they are catering to the athlete with heart rate zone color coding. That means heart rate zones are color coding according to intensity level. That is a huge plus in my book. You sort of get those same color codes graphed out with FitBit, but not to the detail an athlete would like them.
The other thing I love is this 24 hour activity clock. It is groundbreaking and probably one of the best ways to display your 24 hour activity level. Other apps use a simple line graph over spread out over time, Polar takes it to a whole new level. It is attractive, easy to understand, and provides a depth of data that you won’t get in a line graph.
The last item that is a big plus with the Polar Flow App, is the ability to customize your workouts. You are not stuck with some generic workouts that are pre-programmed into this watch. There are literally 118 activities you can select from when you customize your watch. That means, when you want to hit your activity goal for the day, the A360 will only display how long you need to do your pre-selected activities to hit that goal.
Step tracking was exactly where it needed to be. That is one of my gripes with the FitBit watches; they are too sensitive. What do I mean? For instance, you can walk in place with a FitBit and that will count as steps. You can’t do that with the Polar A360, you have to be actually walking. The same thing happens for bike rides; the FitBit will give you credit for steps when you are actually riding your bike. The A360 is a bit more restrictive in that department. I like that personally.
In this next section we will talk about some of the shortfalls that we found in testing this watch compared to other watches. These are factors that can influence your decision to purchase the Polar A360. Again, with all fitness trackers, it is about deciding what is and isn’t important to you.
Heart Rate Tracking
The lack of 24/7 HR tracking is the biggest downfall for some users. This watch only tracks HR when you are doing an activity. You will not get a resting HR with this watch. For some people, that is enough to stay away. For other people like myself, I would much rather have the 14 day battery life than 24/7 HR tracking. You need to weigh that yourself.
We found the charge time of this watch to be longer than expected. I was hoping the re-charge rate of this watch would be under 2 hours. It takes anywhere from 3 to 4 hours to recharge the battery on this watch. Again, it isn’t a deal breaker for me, but I found it a bit annoying when I checked the watch 3 hours later and it still wasn’t charged fully. Charging the watch every 7 days takes about 2+ hours and charging it after you fully deplete the battery takes about 4 hours.
You do get some basic sleep tracking functions with this watch, but it isn’t anything groundbreaking or useful in my opinion. The Sleep tracking functions are not as good as the Fitbit App, and about on par with Garmin devices. Garmin does a better job of displaying sleep metrics in their App, while the A360 does a better job of tracking sleep consistently. Nobody can compete with FitBit Apps new sleep display at the moment. Fitbit is breaking some ground in this area, at least for displaying sleep patterns.
The watch band gets a plus and a minus all at the same time. We decided to put this in the shortfall section because it had one positive with two negatives. The watch band is sleek and comfortable; that is the positive. However, the watch band is difficult to adjust. I do not like the snap in design that Polar uses. It is very difficult with a new watch and gets slightly easier when you wear the holes down a bit. The second negative is the likelihood of the watch band to break. The band snaps in with plastic connectors and we broke one band just switching it out between testers. The band still functioned, but it was cracked on the inside connector. Polar needs to rethink those two contact points with the band design.
Next, we will take a look at the two main competitors and where each one is stronger/weaker compared to the Polar A360. These comparisons are here only to help you make a purchasing decision. We believe the Polar A360 will stand out stronger to it’s competitors in certain areas.
Fitbit Charge 2
The FitBit Charge 2 comes in near the same price as the Polar A360. However, the FitBit Charge 2 does a better job in the App department, it has all day HR tracking, and reports sleep metrics much better than A360. The A360 does a better job on battery life and screen display. The Charge 2 has a battery life of 5 days, where the A360 can last up to 14 days. Lastly, the Charge 2 caters to runners with a tracking option. You can sync and use your phones internal GPS to track outdoor activities.
Garmin Vivosmart HR
The Garmin VivoSmart HR is cheaper than the Polar A360, but it lacks in the style department. The Vivosmart HR is a bit more “Clunky and Chunky”. You do get the all day screen to look at with the VivoSmart HR, where the A360 needs to be rotated to display the time. The battery life for the Vivosmart HR is similar to the Charge 2, lasting only 5 days. Garmin users get an extra benefit with the Garmin Connect app. They can use a running watch to track running, and then switch out to the Vivosmart HR for step tracking. Garmin Connect lets you use multiple devices in their app. For you cyclists out there, the VivoSmart HR can broadcast to your cycling computers. These are all things to consider when making a decision.
Rating This Fitness Tracker
The last part of our review is rating this fitness device. Below are the categories we use for all of our fitness trackers. They will be rated on a scale of 0 to 5. You get a zero if the capability does not exist on the device but exists on others.
We rate this at 4.0 out of 5. It isn’t bad in the style department. Looking at the images in our article, you can see that the watch doesn’t sit up as high as the Garmin Vivosmart HR. Also, the band is very sleek and smooth. This all helps keep style points elevated.
We rate this at 4.0 out of 5. The watch band can be broken if you try to muscle the unit out of its band. This is a major element of the watch and we lose one full point here. We saw no adverse marks on the screen with use over time. They don’t use cheap plastic on the watch face, so that helps keep the scratches down.
We rate this at 4.5 out of 5. Battery life is better than expected with an average of 10 to 14 days for a charge. We take a way .5 points for the amount of time it takes to recharge this watch.
We rate this at 4.25 out of 5. This watch does a good job of tracking steps while not over reporting steps. However, you will lose steps if you are holding a shopping cart and your arm isn’t naturally swinging. This is a give and take scenario right now. Fitbit will report when you are holding a shopping cart but will also overreport in other situations. We also take away .25 points since we couldn’t find any built in stair climbing tracker. Everyone seems to have this except the A360.
We rate this at 4.0 out of 5. I still haven’t found a fitness watch that does a good job of tracking HR at the upper limits. Honestly, every fitness tracker I am testing right now does this.
Touch Screen Controls
We rate this at 4.0 out of 5. The touchscreen is fairly responsive. However, we lose a full point because you cannot tap on the screen to activate the watch. You can rotate the screen with your wrist to display the time, but we think the touchscreen option would work better.
We rate this at 3.0 out of 5. The watch does track sleep through motion detection. However, the information you have in the app is terribly basic.
We rate this at 3.5 out of 5. Polar does some very cool things with their app. The 24 hour activity wheel is a step in the right direction. However, we lose points for no sleep screen or graphic display, and being a bit too heavy on the use of graph bars. Using bars to track graphics in some areas are great, but there are so many more ways to display data instead of a bar chart. The person who created the 24 hour activity wheel needs to apply similar ideas to the other metrics.
We rate this at 4.0 out of 5. The watch does get a higher rating here because you can customize your watch display. It also receives a higher rating because you can customize activity types within the App that are then displayed on the watch. If we had more screens and more customization, the watch would be a lot closer to a 5.0.
We rate this at a 4.0 out of 5. The main elements that raise this rating up here is the solid screen used, the water rating of 30 meters, and the lack of scratches we put on the watch itself. The watch loses a whole point because the plastic used to connect the bands broke on our first change.
We give the Polar A360 an overall rating of 3.9 out of 5. This is a fair rating for this activity tracker. We know, with a few more App and watch improvements, this could be a premier fitness tracker.
Alright, now we get to the answers. Should I buy this? This is a great watch with a decent App. I would buy this watch if you don’t care about all day HR tracking, want something that is sleek on your wrist (doesn’t stick out), and like to customize your workout types. We feel it is a very good fitness tracker for the money. There are few things we would like to see improved. The main ones are the watch strap design. My watch strap is still functional with the crack at the connector, but I really don’t like the whole thing. It works and feels good on my wrist, but I just can’t help but to think it is over designed a bit.
App improvements are also big on my list. We need Polar going after more user experiences here within their App. They are doing some great things, but it feels like an unfinished product or an app that is about 3 years behind. I would love to see them rebuild their App experience form the ground up. Keep the things that make them unique, then rebuild the rest.
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