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Behind the Scenes at Polar’s Headquarters

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On Monday I made a slight detour off of my previously planned journey from France to North America to visit the headquarters of Polar Electro, well known maker of heart-rate focused sport devices.  By ‘slight detour’, I mean an approximately 1,500 mile detour (one-way).  Polar’s headquarters is located in Oulu, Finland – which is just shy of the Arctic Circle in Northern Finland.  Here’s a quick refresher on your Finnish geography:

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The goal of the trip was primarily to sit down with the different product teams working on the V800, V650 and other products to get clear updates on the slew of previously announced updates.  While it’s one thing to have a conference call, it’s another to sit in a room with the product leads for 6-7 hours to understand the ‘why’ behind the decisions they’ve made.

At the same time, I’d also take the opportunity to provide a small behind the scenes of the headquarters.  As is often the case, I generally have free reign to take photos of what I want – though like others there were a few places where photography isn’t permitted (primarily related to production tooling facilities).  And finally, like all my other behind the scenes, I pay for my own travel costs, so your support of the blog is always appreciated to make stuff like this happen.

A Tour of Polar Headquarters:

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Polar’s Headquarters is located just a few kilometers away from the commercial airport in Oulu, right along the roadway headed to ‘downtown’ Oulu.  Though, technically the facility sits in the city of Kempele.

The complex is a bit of a hodgepodge of buildings that were strung together over time, now accessible through what is at times a bewildering set of corridors and keycard entry systems.  Said differently, it would be an awesome place to play hide and seek.

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They’ve got a parking garage with a helicopter pad affixed to it – in the event you prefer methods of transportation involving rotors.  Regrettably, my arrival was via conventional taxi.  Uber Helicopter has not yet made it to Northern Finland.

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Though, while nobody could remember the last time the helicopter pad was actually used, it is maintained.

In the event you prefer two wheeled operations, they have ample bike parking only a dozen meters off a main bike trail.

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While there were many bikes outside, there were just as many bikes in hallways, offices and any other nook and cranny you could think of.

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Meanwhile back outside, all day long a little robotic lawn mower went bumbling around the grounds doing its job.  There’s quite a bit of grass to cut and it’ll simply just roam around and then when needed it goes back to its home and recharges before going back out again.

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Heading inside the main entrance to the right side they have a small display showing the history of consumer focused Polar products starting from their first heart rate monitor.

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They then iterate through each decade – illuminating the 1980’s and 1990’s in all their glory:

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These then transition into the most recent products including the Polar Loop and Polar V800.  There was this gigantic V800 available there as well, in the event the smaller ones just don’t do it for you.

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On the other side of the reception area is a focus primarily on the team, education and gym systems, which I’ll dive into a bit later.

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Once past reception, the main corridors aren’t terribly unlike other office buildings.  Like most companies, they have promotional materials floating around.

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From what I saw, virtually all employees had their own offices (or shared offices).  I didn’t see any vast cubicle farms.

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As I’ve seen with other European companies, there’s a much higher focus on an in-house cafeteria.  While in many US companies that has slowly evaporated, it’s still strong in Europe and Finland as well.

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All of the food is made onsite, including a number different types of breads that are baked each morning.  And, as I can attest at lunch, the food was quite good.

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Interestingly, they cook slightly more food than required for lunch each day.  This allows employees to pickup ready-made dinners for themselves or their families on the way home from work.  So one could have gotten a family-sized box of the chicken stew along with rice to-go later in the evening when headed home.

In the event you arrived via bicycle (or, cross-country skies in the winter), you’d have an assigned full-height locker in the locker room.  All the employees do.

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They even have this fancy drying machine that you simply hang your clothes up in, and by evening they’re dry again:

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There are multiple locker rooms in the building, including a number of saunas.  Saunas are extremely popular in Finland, with the vast majority of the population having them also built into their homes.  Companies having them built into offices is also quite normal.

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The penthouse sauna seen above (and later in the end of the post) was adjoined by a large executive meeting area that could double as a reception room, complete with a pool table and a foosball table of sorts.

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Or, you could just head out to lounge in the semi-open air deck that overlooks the rest of the grounds and a small sliver of the sea off in the distance.

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With an overview of the facility complete, let’s dive into the company a bit.

The Organization at Large:

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While I was visiting their headquarters, the 300 employees located there are less than a quarter of their 1,300 employees worldwide.  These employees create and manage products that end up in 35,000 retail outlets and generate €150M each year in sales.  Over five million Polar devices are sold each year.  Of course, due to the nature of Polar’s products in the marketplace, that’s not all watches, but rather a combination of sensors (like heart rate straps) and watches.

These products are primarily sold in Europe, which accounts for 63% of sales.  The Americas make up another 32% (the vast majority being US/Canada), and then the remainder of the world makes up 5%.  They noted that they struggle in penetrating a number of the Asian markets, specifically Japan, China, and Korea where consumers largely demand that the products be localized in their native languages.  You’re seeing Polar start to focus more and more on adding language support for those regions – a common theme I hear across the industry.

From an organization standpoint, Polar is broken up into three major areas:

Polar Consumer: This is what the majority of readers of this blog are likely familiar with.  This is the segment that makes products like GPS watches and multicolored heart rate monitors and straps.  Activity monitors fit into this category as well, such as the Polar Loop.  Essentially, if being sold to an end consumer, it’s coming from this division.

Polar Solutions: This division is responsible for looking after gyms/clubs, pro sports teams, and education.  This group generates holistic software and hardware solutions that appeal to organizations wanting to track groups of people.  While not always as visible to you the end consumer, these have a substantial following in the organized sports world, as I’ll discuss a bit later.

Polar Technologies: This division is primarily focused on the sale of sensors to gym equipment manufactures (not the gym’s themselves).  For example, 9 out of 10 equipment manufactures use Polar heart rate technology in their products (even if never branded as such).  You know those hand-held heart rate sensors on the treadmill?  Yup, likely Polar.  That’s formally called “contact heart rate”, in case you were curious.

These groups collectively generate hundreds of patents and products, which are proudly displayed in a hallway (with another few rows still to be installed).

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Some of those patents are for what is clearly a full product, such as Polar’s chain-based power meter:

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While others are merely small components in a larger cog, such as this patent that covers what is ultimately the measurement of heart rate of someone swimming, seen in some of Polar’s higher end products.

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Yet it was interesting to me that the first slide of the day started with a statement that noted that while Polar invented the wireless heart rate monitor in 1977, they couldn’t “lean on it”.  They expanded that there was clearly a period in the not too distant past where Polar had set a course that ignored the greater technology trends (such as GPS included directly in watches).  I think over the last 12-18 months or so we’ve seen that renewed innovation, starting with the Polar Beat app, but then moving into Polar Loop (activity monitor), and now the V800 and V650.  But more on that in a few sections.

Consumer Product Design:

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First up is a look at how products make it from ideas to production.  For that there’s two pieces.  The first is determining what a product will do.  Meaning, the features and functionality.  That typically happens in standard meeting rooms with lots of PowerPoint presentations – not unlike the ones I got while there:

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Once the spec’s are determined, the Industrial Design team gets involved.  These folks sit up in what’s kinda like a bit of a tiny lighthouse over the building:

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They first start by creating design boards.  These boards include everything from moods to colors to feelings that a given product wants to evoke.

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They often include many iterations of a product’s external look and feel.  For example, above and below, ones from Polar Loop.

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Next, they go through the process of deciding on different color options.  In the past, Polar has kinda gone a bit crazy with product SKU’s and colors.  I think you’re seeing them reign that in a bit (both in terms of color options and products, especially in the lower end markets).

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At the same time, they’re also iterating through 3D printed prototypes, some of which are merged with actual componentry to make up working units.

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Next, they head downstairs into their small scale production facility.  This facility allows them to create and utilize the same tooling that they do in their full scale manufacturing facility.  Due to some projects going on inside the room at the time, they couldn’t permit photos inside.

This facility though is more than just spitting out a handful of dodgy prototypes to float around the office.  Rather, the goal is to do small scale production runs of final units.  This allows them to scale into the hundreds of units onsite, rather than having to iterate with a large manufacturing facility elsewhere on the globe (which increases time and costs).

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From there they finalize the tooling and equipment used to make the different units.  For example, you can see some of the different V800 components below, each requiring a separate tool to manufacture and integrate.

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When it comes time to manufacture at scale, Polar owns (end to end) a manufacturing facility in Guangzhou, China.  Owning the entire facility is a key differentiator between someone like Polar (and Garmin and Suunto), and a smaller player like Soleus.  It enables them and other companies to typically drive higher levels of integration, and usually to own the timelines a bit more.  Of course, such a sizable investment only really happens at the biggest volumes.

From there, the raw units are shipped to two distribution centers.  One in Hong Kong, and the other in the Netherlands.  Once they arrive at those two locations they’re merged with the actual box packaging and manuals for their end destinations.  This lowers the costs with respect to air shipping volume (especially to Europe), and also allows them more flexibility on regional demand (different packaging).

Finally, the two distribution centers then forward the packaged units onto their respective regions.  For Europe, they depart from the Netherlands.  For the rest of the world, they come from Hong Kong.  And a few days later, they arrive in your retailer’s hands.

Team/Gym Systems:

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Next I had a chance to check out their team and gym products. These products fall into two different camps.  First is the Polar Team System platform, which looks a bit like an Xbox from afar:

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This product is heavily used by many professional sports teams globally, though, in most cases larger sponsorship agreements supersede Polar’s ability to advertise as such.  For example, 75% of English Premier League teams (soccer for Americans) utilize the system or other Polar products as a standard across the team.  So do 80% of US MLS teams (Major League Soccer).  It’s also popular with football, basketball, hockey and rugby teams.  Essentially, traditional team sports played on a field/court of some sort.

The reason the field/court aspect is important is that it’s constantly monitoring the athletes, so something like a cycling team spread over hundreds of kilometers is more difficult.  The platform uses legacy Bluetooth, but with a long-range twist so that a single unit can cover an entire football pitch.  Though, the platform can also handle buffering in case a player gets out of range.  This particular system can scale up to tracking 80 athletes concurrently.

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Interestingly, both UEFA and FIFA officials groups heavily leverages Polar heart rate files from referees to determine if refs are fit for duty.  They analyze the fatigue over the course of the game, by reasoning that if the referee is struggling towards the end of the match (fitness-wise), then they’re more than likely to make poor calls.  Hence why you’ll often see referees wearing Polar watches during matches.

Also of note is that for many top-tier pro athletes (especially in soccer) they’ll have clauses in their contracts about whether or not their Polar HR data history is actually included in the transfer between teams.  This is not terribly unlike how cycling teams often look heavily at historical power meter data in making decisions there as well.

However, most people aren’t professional athletes.  For that, Polar has the Polar Club app, which is aimed primarily at gyms and various class settings.  This system is based on iOS and has different components from a participant check-in component to an instructor piece.  The system does however require participants utilize a Polar branded Bluetooth Smart strap, such as the H6 or H7.

To start, this iPad is typically mounted outside a given room, or at the reception.  An athlete then check’s in to a class, selecting from the ones at the right.  They’re then able to pair to their specific heart rate strap, which is saved for future classes.  All of this is tied into the user’s existing Polar Flow account, so the data is automatically saved to the person’s normal account at the end of the session.

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Alternatively, if they lack a strap, you’ll see an option to ‘Borrow Sensor’, which allows them to simply pickup a numbered sensor for a temporary loaner.

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Meanwhile, the instructor is able to create full class schedules in the app, including workout components.

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The system then concurrently collects the participant’s heart rate data and displays the zone information by color coded information, unique to the user based on the pre-defined zones.

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This information is then typically displayed on a large screen using Airplay, as was the case here.  The platform can support up to 40 concurrent users in a single class, and can support multiple classes at once.

Additionally, there are controls on the instructions screen not seen on the big screen.  For example, they can create and save playlists, and control them via dropdown menu.

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It was definitely interesting to see this side of the business, as it’s not something I’m typically exposed to.  I was even more surprised to hear the licensing scheme here only costs a gym 99€/$137.50/month.  Meaning, no matter how many classes or students are offered, that’s it.  Of course, you do need a Polar Bluetooth Smart heart rate sensor, but, gyms can loan those out pretty cheaply as well.

Updates on Flow, the V800 & the V650:

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Of course, for many of you here, you’re probably interested in updates coming to Polar’s flagship lineup of products, including their multisport watch the V800, their upcoming cycling unit the V650, and the web platform pulling it all together – Polar Flow.

V800: 2014 Firmware Update Plan

When it comes to announcing plans, Polar was put in the position of really having to identify a clear schedule for future firmware updates to the V800.  That’s because while the hardware has been solid and very technically capable, the firmware hasn’t been terribly competitive in the marketplace.  Thus, the features haven’t been as competitive.  Polar had laid out a plan for firmware updates taking it to the end of the year, and is working towards hitting those goals.  Here’s the current plan:

V800 Firmware 1.1 Release – End of September/1st Week of October

– Adds power meter support for Bluetooth Smart power meters (see this for full details)
– Adds stride sensor improvements, including improvements in auto calibration and tweaks for manual calibration
– Adds ability to set pace/distance source as the internal GPS, or an attached footpod (a huge and welcomed change)
– Adds Interval Timer on watch for time and distance based intervals, including ability to set warm-up/cool-down – all from wrist, no computer required
– Touch TAP usability improvements, including ability to set as ‘off’ from the wrist (no computer required), as well as ability to set/change sensitivities
– Significant improvements in 3rd party sensor support
– Minor bug and usability tweaks

I wanted to call out the 3rd party sensor one specifically and talk to that a bit.  This was one area that I took Polar to task to in the review, due to the non-compatibility with pretty much all the major Bluetooth Smart fitness sensors in the market.  As a result of that we’ve had several discussions about the topic.  In doing so they’ve come up with a list of sensors that they’ve determined are non-compliant with the official Bluetooth Smart specifications.  Some of these I’ve been able to independently validate as well as being non-compliant.  They’re grouping these into three specific groups:

No spec issues: 4iiii’s Viiiiva.  They’ll be supporting this as-is in the 1.1 release, though they won’t yet have implemented power or footpod support via Viiiiva.  But, they are working on that.

Minor spec issues: Wahoo RPM V1/V2, Wahoo TICKR RUN, Adidas Footpod, TomTom Speed/Cadence sensor, 60beat Speed/Cadence sensors.

In some cases, these are due to the vendors adding additional features beyond the spec that the V800 didn’t understand.  In others, it’s due to improperly adding such features.  For example, on the Wahoo RPM, it technically shows as a speed/cadence combo sensor and delivers a null speed value.  For all of these, Polar will be implementing fixes to make them work.

Major spec issues: Topeak HR strap, Topeak Speed/Cadence sensor, Pyle Footpod.

I’ve actually been able to confirm a few of these myself using other devices/apps.  In these cases, the devices are so far afoul of the standards that Polar won’t be trying to fix these.

Now, the unfortunate thing here for consumers is these non-certified devices are slowly going to wreak havoc on the Bluetooth Smart sport/fitness ecosystem as more devices try and use these.  For example, I’m already seeing some similar issues with the Suunto Ambit3 and various 3rd party sensors.

V800 Firmware 1.2 Release – End of October

– Add Indoor Swim Metric Support (stroke recognition for free, breast, butterfly, back, other), distance based on pool length, pace while swimming, stroke count, SWOLF.
– Add Daily activity user interface in wrist: Will show steps, active time, distance from steps, and active calories.  Will also allow steps to scale beyond 100% (bar graph).  Note, the time/home screen will show your percentage of goal, but not steps.
– Add Speed/Pace Zones for workout targets. Heart rate was already there, and power would be added in previous 1.1 release.
– Add Inactivity alerts on V800.  On-watch notification at 50-minutes, then inactivity marker recorded at 60-minutes.
– Add activity goals to V800 (similar to Polar Loop). Flow will also enable this for V800-only users (today requires Polar Loop)
– Minor bug and usability fixes

The big focus here is really on swim metrics and activity monitoring.  They decided to split up the swim pieces and get the indoor features out sooner, and then follow-up with the openwater swim support in the next update, knowing that with the exception of the folks Down Under, most would appreciate indoor that time of year over openwater.

V800 Firmware 1.3 Release – TBD Q4 (by end of year)

– Add Openwater Swim Metric support
– Add Android V800 Flow App support (specifically December 2014)
– Additional TBD & TBA fixes/tweaks/features

The exact date for the above is still in flux, but it’ll be out by the end of the year.  Additionally, the exact features are in flux, and there are a few unannounced things that’ll hit that firmware update as well.

Note, I’ve covered stuff like export, etc… in the below Polar Flow section.

Finally, for lack of anywhere else to stick it, we did discuss smart notifications (i.e. missed call notifications).  It’s something they’re working on but don’t have a specific date.  It seemed as though it’d become commonplace in their devices, but they noted that the implementations may vary.  For example, they said how that would enumerate itself onto devices such as the Polar Loop would depend a bit on more testing.  Said differently, no device specific promises yet there.

Oh, and speaking of random notes without a proper heading, about that GPS update on Tuesday.  As many V800 owners noticed, the GPS functionality essentially broke on all V800’s the previous Friday.  The workaround was to reboot the unit.  Tuesday’s firmware update addresses the problem.  The specific root cause was that there was a line of code that broke the GPS search piece after 46 days since the last reset of the unit.  A firmware update effectively triggers such a reset.  Thus, the 46 days corresponded to the last firmware update you did, and, exactly when the last update was released.  The reason they didn’t catch this in testing is that like most companies they are constantly updating to the latest test versions, 46 days on a development build in the tech world is an eternity.  I’ve encouraged them to consider posting a bit more detail for this incident and future incidents, à la Strava’s Engineering blog.

Polar Flow: 2014 Update Plan

The Polar Flow side is getting what amounts to roughly monthly feature releases till the end of the year.  I’m able to share the September through November components below.

September Flow Release:

– Add Power Meter Analysis Components
– Add Power based targets for workout creator
– Add Data Export (GPX/TCX)
– Add RR recording (including out of activity testing) analysis on Flow, and export of raw unfiltered data

On the RR recording, I got a demo of that and it’s pretty darn cool what they’re doing both on the Polar Flow analysis side, as well as the open 3rd party export capabilities.  They showed me using some industry standard tools (i.e. Kubios) for doing RR/HRV analysis using the files straight from Polar Flow.  They noted that they went with a bare-bones and most-compliant approach, hoping that’ll minimize issues with 3rd party tools by just focusing on providing the raw unfiltered data, rather than some Polar-fied approach to it.

First, here’s a screenshot of the demo I got showing the RR analysis on Polar Flow:

RR recording result

And then here’s a screenshot showing the same thing from Kubios (3rd party app), using the exported file from Flow:

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For the GPX/TCX data export, they are testing with a number of 3rd party sites, including Strava, Training Peaks and others.  In the event you can’t wait a few more weeks for activity export, you can use some of the 3rd party Polar Flow export tools available here.  Polar is aware of them, but at this point doesn’t see any good reason to block them.  Obviously, if they somehow lead to system instability or issues down the road things might change.

October Flow Release:

– Add Swimming Analysis support

November Flow Release:

— Add Speed/Pace based targets for workout creator (power/HR alread there)

There’s more coming down the road beyond November, but this is where they are today on being ready to release plans.

Q4 Release (exact dates will vary):

There’s also items coming by the end of the year, but don’t have a specific date on them.  These include:

– Ability to fix errors/values/delete sections of activities on Flow (i.e. forgetting to turn off unit for drive home)
– Ability to automatically merge in your online diary a planned activity (target) with the actual completed activity.
– Adding ProTrainer 5 (PT5) and PolarPersonalTrainer.com (PPT) training history migration to Polar Flow
– PPT: Adding ability to select certain activities to migrate, or, to select a larger timeframe
– PT5: Adding ability to transfer training history. Not all fields will exactly match, for example, if you created custom sports, they have to align to Polar’s predefined sports, so you’ll be prompted to choose a best match.  They’re doing this to improve calorie estimations based on different sports.
– Adding ability for older PPT device users to use Flow. This is for Websync and Weblink synchronization users, whereby it’ll allow you to push to Flow.

Right now they’re looking at the PPT data migration piece and determining how far back to enable data migration.  Currently they’re thinking of 1 year’s worth of data, but they’re interested in feedback on that.

V650 & Bluetooth Keo Pedals: Product Release and Update Plan

This hasn’t changed any in the last 7 days, so just for the sake of completeness, here it is from last week:

Polar V650 Head Unit Release Date: Currently the first week of October 2014
Polar V650 Power Meter Support: 3-4 weeks later, by the end of October 2014
Polar Look Keo Bluetooth variant (full system): October 2014
Polar Look Keo Essential system (left-side): October 2014

Overall, in looking at the firmware updates and using it on units during the workout noted below, I feel very confident in the September V800 firmware update.  I saw no obvious issues during that ride with the power meter support (that’s all I was focused on).  For the V650 one…I’m a bit less confident there based on what I saw.  They conceded throughout the day that had they known what the schedule slip would have looked like for the V650 back last January when they announced it, they would have held off until they were much closer.

I’ll be working over the next day or two to update the timelines (as required) within my Polar V800 In-Depth.

A Few Random Thoughts:

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(Why the bottles above? It’s random, and was in the conference room.  Given this section is titled ‘Random thoughts’, it seemed appropriate.)

As always, Polar is no doubt working on new products.  That’s true of any company that wants to remain in business.  And to that end, I do think in looking at their future pipeline that they have a good grasp on direction of what people want and the price points people want.  I think we’ll see less of a feature and pricing gap in the future, than we’ve seen in the past.  But, at this time Polar doesn’t have anything to announce or share new product wise.

When I look at the challenges facing Polar, I think the core uncertainties stem from how the major players like Apple and Samsung will approach the fitness watch marketplace, potentially as soon as next Monday.  To date, Samsung’s offerings in the market haven’t been competitive, and have largely been throwing mud against a wall to see if it sticks.  But, their most recent announcement last week of the Gear S starts to come incredibly close to the turfs of Polar and competitors in the space.  As I’ve said recently, these companies need to re-focus their thinking towards being competitive with Apple, Samsung, Google and potentially others.  Being competitive with the likes of Garmin, Timex, and Suunto will be the least of their concerns.

This point doesn’t appear to be lost on Polar.

The question is can they innovate and implement quickly enough to outpace these well funded entrants.  And it’s the second part that will be most difficult for Polar in particular.  While Polar understands very well the products that athletes want, its challenge to date has been in implementing those services on an efficient timeline.  In particular, on the web services side (Flow).  I would guess that by Silicon Valley standards, the Flow team is probably understaffed for the job they’ve got to do – in many ways similar to what I suspect is the case at Garmin and Suunto as well with Garmin Connect and Movescount.

I suspect that executive leadership at these companies doesn’t quite understand to the degree necessary how quick firms like Strava and their geographic friends at Google and Apple can innovate.  And it’s not just a case of sheer number of employees – but rather, fresh talent. Talent that might be hard to get in locations like Oulu, Finland and Olathe, Kansas.

On one hand Polar has seemingly acknowledged that divide by publically already signing up to feed data into Google’s health and fitness focused platform, Google Fit.  They’re also actively investigating the Apple equivalent of that, HealthKit.  But, those platforms will only take them so far.  They will be great data consolidators, but not likely anytime soon great at being the central configuration point of Polar devices (i.e. settings, workouts, etc…).

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For that, Polar (and really others in this space) must find ways to ensure that its own web platform is considered the ‘best experience’ for their devices.  Because once companies like Polar lose that ‘best experience’ status, they quickly lose the ability to retain a consumer to a different device.

Now, let me be crystal clear, this doesn’t mean to minimize API’s and the like.  No, far from it.  It means to open those API’s and let the users data flourish.  But, it also means to simply do a really damn good job at your web site and innovate in those services quickly.  People are no longer buying just a device, they’re buying a platform.

Out for a Ride:

With a day chock full of meetings complete, it was time to go for a bit of a ride.  I had brought with me my helmet and shoes, and they supplied a bike that had been relegated to indoor testing duties for half a decade.  It was time to set it free.

The bike had been outfitted with the new Bluetooth Smart Polar/Look Keo Power System.  Additionally, I had both a V800 and V650 with power meter support enabled on them.  Because Bluetooth Smart at this point on these devices can only support one connection to the pedals concurrently, I used the V800 for the outbound portion of the journey, and then stopped and switched to the V650 for the return.

Configuring and completing calibration in the bike parking area was just as easy as it is on any other power meter and associated head unit combo.

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The three of us then headed out on the bike paths behind Polar towards a bit of a peninsula.  It was great, the paths were empty, and the weather beautiful.  And the pace nice and brisk.

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In watching the V800, I didn’t seen any irregularities during the ride, and the power output felt about right.  Of course, my time was fairly limited.

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We soon transitioned from paths to desolate roads.  The surface was smooth, and the cars non-existent.  Seriously, not a single car passed us on the way out.

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Below, my escorts. Well, no, not in that way.  More like riding partners.  Great guys, and fun to ride with and have a chat with.

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We eventually cleared the trees and worked our way onto a little road that would ultimately be surrounded on both sides by water.  I’d point out that the wind turbines are there for a reason.  And, they were definitely spinning a bit this day.

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Our turnaround point would be the end of the road, well, in the summer anyway.  This time of year a short 20-minute ferry ride takes you to an island where you can continue with the awesome riding.  In the winter, it becomes an ice road.

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It’s here that we swapped head units and I went with the V650 for the ride back.  We got it all paired up to the pedals and calibrated.

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Now, as I noted up above, the V650 was a bit rougher than the V800 when it came to power.  Everything else was great, but power I was running into some sort of bug.  Which, is I suppose why it’s still about 60 days away from power meter support there, versus the V800’s at less than half of that.

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The ride would clock in at about 60 minutes on the dot, 30 minutes each way.  In true Finnish style, we wrapped up the day at the sauna inside the office:

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A perfect way to end the day, and to wrap-up my trip to Northern Finland.  Thanks again to the guys for the great riding, as well as to the larger Polar crew for letting me come up and poke and prod around the place for the day.

With that, thanks for reading!  If you want to check out all my other ‘Behind the Scenes’ posts, they can all be found here.  Enjoy!

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181 Comments

  1. Neil Carrington

    I loved your comment about the “desolate roads”. I’ve been to Finland. Perfectly maintained roads and hardly a car to be seen. Which makes it awesome for cycling, walking, and cross country ski training in summer (I’ve seen that). I can sort of say I’ve been to all of Finland. In 1999 I walked from the Northernmost point (Nourgam) to the Southernmost point (Hanko). The photo of the wind turbines brought back fond memories. I may have walked on that exact same road. I went through Oulu and continued along the coast from there. I have a biased affection for Finland and their products. Great people. English is happily spoken everywhere. Weather is awesome. Summer daylight hours are endless. And the Finnish sauna culture is a true treasure of their country.

  2. Petr

    Thank you, it’s very desired information. It helped me to stay with V800 instead of upgrade to Ambit3. And one question: Have they mentioned something about advertised possibility to create own routes in Flow?

  3. Hannu

    Nice report, thanks Ray!

  4. You pay for your own travel costs? and you travel every day (well almost!!!) I was wondering how that worked as you say you took a detour…
    I imagined you walked into your office and said to the inhouse travel agent my next trip is to the US can we make it via Oulu!!!

    So next time I’m in the market for something I will make a turn here first…

  5. Navnit Ranjan

    Great one Ray,
    I am sure you had great ride just by looking to pic of roads.

  6. Martin Vlcek

    Thank you for your nice behind the scene report from Polar. I use Polar products over 20 years and it’s nice to see their headquarters and people behind. I use V800 for 2 weeks and I’m satisfied with it. They are really good watches with big potential. Yes they need to add functionality new functions etc. So big work in SW updates. Let’s see what brings new firmwares and Flow service updates.

  7. Julien

    Hi Ray,

    Thx for this interresting post (kind of pleonasm…@dcrainmaker blog ;-) )
    I’m a V800 user and I’m glad to see that those big updates are finally arriving.

    Just one question: do you know if it will be possible to compare two activities (or more) in the flow like it’s possible in the PPT? This is really something I’m wanting to have…

    Thx again!

  8. A great behind the scenes writeup. I’ve been inclined towards buying a polar multisports watch due to their sponsorship with Lotto-Belisol. Your visit only strengthened their case.

    Thanks Ray.

  9. Søren Haack

    Hi Ray,
    Great report from your visit at Polar. And thank you very much for your V800 update plan. I’m very happy with my V800 and glad that I chose to believe in the BTL technology – also seeing now that Suunto with their new Ambit3 is moving to BT.
    I’m very much looking forward to the updates from Polar: both on the V800 but also on the Flow. I hope you told Polar that they should be a bit more communicating about whats coming and going on. It would have been nice if their polarv800.com site had a open forum with recent updates from Polar them selves.

    I hope you enjoyed Finland – there is a LOT of open space and free roads.

    Best
    Søren

  10. Jasper

    Surely you got to see their upcomming watch as well? They seem to be moving in the right direction there, especially with the price point. But maybe we’re not allowed to talk about that yet, very little info to find about it..

  11. David Tunney

    “But, at this time Polar doesn’t have anything to announce or share new product wise.”

    Whats this m400 then? :)

    link to cardiozone.de

    • Tom

      M400 isn’t announced yet, maybe due the firmware delay of the V800
      It should be available in oktober but i don’t know if that still stands.

      Basic a budget V800, No 5Khz heart rate, no barometer, no swimming. Firmware can change/add functions but it’s a “lower” model. Put in in the Tomtom line.

      Sneek preview: link to sport2000.de

    • Jasper

      The watch is being shown to retailers with product details and the ability to put down orders on it (already since a couple of weeks back).

      But I’m guessing they don’t want to be in the same situation as the V800/V650 where they have a big public announcement and then there are big delays before customers actually get their hands on the product.

      Better to wait with the big public announcement until they are closer to releasing the final product. Sure there are some details to be found about it for those that search but most common users of Polar products won’t be aware of the watch until at first a big public anouncement.

  12. Toby

    Nice writeup Ray, thanks for taking the time to go there. It would be great if Polar bought out one of the app companies but as you say seems like that would be a jump too far for them.

    I have the Kurt Bluetooth power meter, for that you have to do a spindown calibration, I guess that wouldn’t be supported in the Polar devices?

    Personally I’d like to keep all my data from the past, I guess I can export it from PPT to another site though if Polar won’t let me do it.

  13. Mike

    Ray, will the interval creation feature allow you to create complex workouts made up of intervals of different lengths and distances (as on a Garmin)?

    Thanks,

    Mike

  14. Luyi_pr

    As a V800 owner, this post was very interesting! Thanks for the great information always!

  15. Turn The Damn Cranks

    “[A] foosball table of sorts . . .” Oy! Are you ever making me feel old!

    Table hockey (link to en.wikipedia.org) has been around forever. There’s a classic version from the 80s that had the US and Russia as the two teams. It was great fun to recreate the Miracle on Ice with it.

    Now back to our regularly-scheduled sports tech.

  16. Mike Smart

    Thanks for making the visit and for the update, particularly with regards to the V800.

    It’s good to see they’re planning to add the majority of the features that have been asked for. Hopefully they’ll be able to do the hardware justice with the software updates.

  17. Mika

    Hi Ray,

    Thanks for the great behind the scenes!
    Now I’ve been contemplating for a month now between the V800 and the Ambit3. This post clears quite a few issues that have been stopping me from pressing the buy button even though the V800 has been in my shopping cart many times… =D
    Sadly, two issues still remain which would tend to point me to the Suunto direction:

    1) Some users have reported GPS problems when using the 5 kHz analog signal with the H7 strap instead of BLE. Did you have any talks about this?

    2) Cadence from the wrist. In your review you kindly noted that V800 does not do cadence from the wrist although it does have all the hardware to do so. Did you discuss if Polar would even have the remote chance of adding support for this? For now, this looks like the deal breaker for me. Especially since their own food pod is monstrous and other footpods appear to have varying compatibility.

    If anyone wants to share things the V800 has going for it against the Ambit3, please feel free to chime in. Apart from the vibration motor, these two appear mighty identical to me.

    Thanks,
    Mika

    • TX911

      @ Mika

      I agree the 5kHz issue is a bit concerning right now.

      But, the lack of vibration alerts on the Suunto is a pretty big negative, IMO.

    • JoggwithoutAmbit

      That’s it: Why not installing a vibration alert on the new Ambit3 (…nearly every high-priced watch has it in the meantime…) – guess there should be a reason for Ambit3 buyers to buy even the Ambit4 next(?) year…
      I am very dissappointed from Suunto with the Ambit (are still using t6c/d-Modells since 2005 and was a big fan of that company) … but the Ambit1 … why not a bigger storage (for a watch of about 500 Euros) … maybe the same reason as “vibration” … maybe
      I am happy with my V800 – very good tracking (even better than Ambit ones)! Thanx a lot, POLAR. I started running in 2002 with a M91ti model … back to the roots ;)
      Joachim

    • Jasper

      I personally went with the Adidas speedcell (make sure you get the BTLE version). For now it’s not working yet… But it’s on the list with the updates. It’s small and tidy (same dimensions as Garmin footpod).

      In the meantime you could use the Adidas footpod with your phone until Polar get it sorted out in about a month.

    • Mika

      Well I was thinking about it as one option but there are a couple of buts:

      1) Even though up there it’s listed as one of the sensors they’ll fix, there’s no note whether they will fix it enough to be compatible with for example the jump test? The main point being here, not having the S3+ would mean I couldn’t get all out of the watch. Regarding the tests, I believe Polar is the winner in this category as I understood that the Ambit doesn’t have any of these. How useful they actually are is a bit out of my league.

      2) The price of the pod + watch price combined I could the Ambit3 Peak Sapphire (HR) for the same money. I’ve been running with GF’s Ambit2 R and have generally believed the cadence from the wrist to be accurate enough for me; but I do confess that beginner runner here with only one half marathon behind… I also know that both of these lack the Garmin Running Dynamics but I haven’t been able to find basically any material, other than Garmin’s own on it, so couldn’t decide if that would be useful enough for me to go with evil makers using evil proprietary protocols… =p

    • 1) RE: 5hz, it did not come up in our discussions. I’ll enquire.

      1.5) RE: Adidas: No, it was explicitly listed on the slides as not being compatible with the Jump Test, that will still require a Polar footpod. Again, I’d personally seriously question the usefulness of such test for 99% of triathletes/runners.

      2) RE: Cadence from wrist. This did come up, and is something I noted most other modern watches are doing these days. They agreed that the hardware was certainly more than capable of it, and it was something they’d look at adding down the road. No timelines or promises there, but they seemed genuinely interested in adding it.

    • Mika

      Hi Ray,

      Regarding point #1 above, did you ever manage to get any reply from Polar?

      Basically I’ve had the V800 and bike sensors waiting on my desk to be unboxed and taken into use for over a week now.
      It would be nice to know that the issue is being dealt with, otherwise I might just toss it back to the store and go with Ambit3.

    • Nothing super-clear. It’s gone back and forth and they’ve noted they continue to improve on it via firmware updates and they believe they have the the majority of those resolved.

    • Mika

      Thanks Ray, highly appreciated and have a nice weekend!

  18. PeteBains

    You have said that polar want feedback on how far back they should go with integrating Protrainer 5 with Polar Flow… I think this needs to be at least a few years to enable comparison between workouts.

    Is there any way we can provide this feedback to Polar and maybe a little more detail?

    • They’re reading the comments here, and are truly interested in said feedback on the migration topic.

      I reasoned that most users would be perfectly happen if the tool even said “We’ve started your migration, it might take a 24 or so hours for all historical data to appear.” I noted to them that in this day and age, the storage requirements are more or less trivial, especially in an environment where they work with a service provider for hosting (which they do, like almost everyone else).

    • Toby

      I agree with you Ray, I’d like it all but not bothered how long it takes to migrate.

    • Nicolas VOISIN

      We clearly want ALL our historical data to be migrated.
      If the bottleneck is time required to import the data, 3 comments:
      1. Indicate the estimated import duration to end user
      2. Let user select which year range to import
      3. If you import your historical data in several steps (y-1, then y-2, …) make a detection of what was already imported or detection of duplicates to avoid issues

      last comment is wrt to data loss at import. There is currently not one to one match between PPT5 data and Flow data (exercise name, weather condition, exercise rating, sickness, …. all those exists in PPT5 but will not have a end point in Flow).
      >> We absolutely need exercise name to be implemented and available in Flow before migration!! This data cannot be loss. I cannot imagine scrolling years of data without search module and no indication on what my exercise correspond to (and do not want to open each sessions until I find back the race I did 3 years back)

  19. Martin M. Syvertsen

    Data export (or even better sync support) with third parties and better swim features will make this much more appealing for my first full-tri watch purchase options.

  20. Hank

    Ray, one of firmware updates at v 1.1, they adds ability to set pace/distance source as the internal GPS, or an attached footpod (a huge and welcomed change).
    Does this mean that v800 is able to measure distance and pace using internal accelerator when running or walking in treadmill? Like Ambit 2 or 3 has this function?

    • Jasper

      It means that when outside the watch can use it’s own GPS to determine pace/distance while a footpod is active. Meaning the only thing you get from the footpod is cadence. At the moment everything is taken from the footpod instead which causes some issues.

      Polar don’t seem to be releasing the ability to get distance/pace/cadence from the wrist during these comming updates eventhough the watch has the hardware to do it.

      That said a footpod is generally more accurate then a watch/wrist based sensor.

    • Jaspar is correct on the definition above.

  21. Clint

    Thanks for the informative post. Makes me wish I worked somewhere other than the USA…..

  22. Mark Cohen

    I use an iBike Newton for power. With my Garmin 510 I have it talking directly via ANT+. I was hoping that when the V800 implemented power I could use my Viiii (which works fine for HR, Speed and Cadence) to send power to the V800 as well. Is there any chance of this working? It looks like the power function is geared very much to pedal sensors.

  23. EB

    Re: powermeters – another big test is if they’ll work whilst on the wrist. I’ve had both an Garmin 910XT and an Ambit 2 work flawlessly when on the bike, but lose signal on my wrist. I think the sensor must be on the bottom of the watch and in combination with a large aluminium bike…

    I’ve been tempted by some polar stuff before but have always been put off by the premium price and their love of proprietary communication systems.

  24. eli

    For the hrv stuff are they planning to do their own analysis of the data? in-house or licensing first beat? Using hrv data to detect over training, power data (variation of ctl/atl), or combining the two?

    Any none polar devices on the bikes you saw parked there?

    • It’s all in-house, and for now they’re just leveraging HR data for those metrics (not yet power).

      There were some non-Polar sensors and devices I saw floating around, which they noted they’re always testing competitors devices.

  25. so there are no plans to release/update a gps watch like RC3…?

  26. giorgitd

    I’ve used Polar HRMs for 20 years (still have one). But my sense, not disputed by this visit, is that Polar is outgunned for the future of ‘smart’ HRM/GPS/health monitoring watches. Not enough people, not enough expertise outside a pretty narrow domain (including social media and non-HRM health applications). The basics of what Polar *is* expert in (HRM, maybe GPS) can be duplicated easily by a powerhouse such as Apple and Samsung (and others). In some ways, Garmin is in the same boat – bigger company overall, but perhaps similar to Polar wrt HRM/GPS/health. As much as I like Polar (and Garmin, I’ve got one of those, too) I see some tough times ahead. If they can distinguish themselves with new training data (the running metrics HRM strap, others), perhaps there is a niche there that Apple/Samsung won’t bother with. So…Polar/Suunto/Garmin focus on ‘hard core’ athletes and, maybe , advanced 24 hr monitoring (whatever that means) and loses the more casual users who will replace future Polar/Garmin/Suunto purchases with a heart rate strap and a smartwatch – or just the mobile phone. Honestly, the ‘fundamental’ /’basic’ GPS/HRM will come down to a price war which will be won by those already providing the general purpose hardware (phones, smart watches) rather than the ‘extra’ purchase of a standalone HRM/GPS. Except, maybe for athletes, power users. Unless P/S/G can find new, appealing applications that are difficult to copy (or protected) by Apple/Samsung…

  27. Dave

    The keo pedals can only transmit to the one device at a time v800 or the v650. Is this a limitation of the keo pedals or v800? I like that my ant+ power meter can transmit to my watch and headunit.

    • Paul S

      It’s a limitation of Bluetooth in its current incarnation. There’s a master/slave relationship between sensors and head unit, and each slave can have only one master. I think Ray’s mentioned that that restriction is going away in the next version of the Bluetooth standard. However, as he says here, manufacturers tend to ignore the “standard”. ANT+ has no such restriction.

    • Toby

      The V800 was reported to support BT4.1 which allows the re-broadcast of data. So you could pair you V800 to pedals then pair V650 or phone to V800.

    • In theory correct, but not correct yet in application (Toby).

      Unfortunately, the rebroadcasting isn’t really working. It’s a topic we discussed, and was clearly painful for them (and one they admit doesn’t work the way it should). Right now you can only rebroadcast from the V800 to Polar Beat, that’s it. And, only for HR. At present, there aren’t any near-term plans to change/fix that.

    • Toby

      I assume that the BT 4.1 is so new that it’s got some kinks in it, so it might take a while to get working.

    • David Tunney

      Thats sorta huge.

      I can use my SRMs with my phone (with power), PC7 and 910xt

      With a Polar I could *only* get readings on one unit?

    • Correct.

      It’s not a Polar-specific limitation, but a limitation of Bluetooth Smart devices on the market today. In theory 4.1 was supposed to address that, but nobody actually supports that portion of the spec yet, so it’s kinda a ‘in the future’ thing right now.

  28. massimo

    Thank you. Very much appreciated. I asked polar on facebook if i could set/influence the activity tracker and i got and horrible reply : from polar on FB

    I also found a couple of bugs on my v800. If i set a training in flow (like intervals) every section of the training get a white page that needs to be pressed otherwise it doesn’t start. I find it very annoying (imagine in a 5×200 intervals.. you are pressing the buttons all the time.. it is not functional). At the end of the training, polar flow doesn’t show the training summary (i can not know how fast did i ran the 200 meter intervals!!). Another bug is on the gps, it takes a while to lock the signal even if i start from the same point and once locked sometime i start and it tells me to stand still to lock the gps!!? For now the activity tracker works only as calories tracker.. pretty useless. The recovery status first tells you for example 22h recovery… than it changes completely and afte 10h you are good to go again. it seems a bug. For the rest i like the watch.. i think they are on the right path.

    Related to your article.. I am not sure about google and apple taking over the market.. if you are serious about training you will not use your mobile for tracking your training. Yes they are coming out with wearables, but for now they are only remote controller of the mobile. Yes samsung has done one with 3g inside, but how long will the battery last? Samsung software is terrible.. all the serious mobile user buy it only for the hardware than root it and install custom rom :)

    • Paul S

      To be fair, we don’t know what Apple is coming out with, or how it will relate to an iPhone. Whatever announcements they’re going to make will be soon, on September 9.

      What we can be sure of is that whatever they announce on Tuesday, it’ll work when it’s released. That is the challenge that a company like Garmin faces. Apple has a lot of resources they can throw at a project, and their software and hardware usually work as advertised. The just released Garmin products I’ve bought (Edge 705 and VIRB Elite) didn’t work properly right away, and arguably the VIRB Elite still doesn’t (ANT+ sensor drops and an uncalibrated barometric altimeter) 10 month after release. I wouldn’t expect major problems with an iWatch (although it’s unlikely I’ll buy one).

    • My main point is that it’s naive for any of the companies in this space to believe that they aren’t competing with Apple, Samsung or similar. Samsung is releasing new watches every 3 months right now. Eventually they’re going to get it right. Apple next week.

      Samsung’s latest device has GPS and 3G. It runs Nikes software. Said differently: Stuff just got real.

    • Nicolas VOISIN

      I had the chance to support Samsung in several of their watch projects.
      My company delivers chipset to Samsung.
      From project launch to Mass production it takes them 4 months to launch a watch. It’s incredibly fast. They of course have a huge HW & FW knowledge and usually they put their premium team on those topics.
      When they derive a model with a different mechanic it can take them even shorter cycle time.

    • Bryan

      Yes Nike is another big player Polar is potentially against. If they come out with a new version of the GPS sports watch it would likely target more exercises than just running. Or perhaps Nike will find it easier to team up with Apple or Samsung.

    • Nike got rid of their hardware engineering department and has announced they have no further plans in the hardware arena.

    • TheTrimaster

      cannot comment on the intervall-“bug”. But on the recovery.
      I think it is not a bug. According to my experience the 22h can be considered as the standard for this workout and after sync the V800 takes into account the rest of your activity and sleep. I have seen both reduced and increased recovery time which where quit reasonable.

  29. MK

    Thanks for very interesting article! It was really interesting to read, and I have only one point to comment about:

    “And it’s not just a case of sheer number of employees – but rather, fresh talent. Talent that might be hard to get in locations like Oulu, Finland and Olathe, Kansas.”

    I disagree here. After Broadcom (former Renesas) and Microsoft (former Nokia) both shutdown their research functions in Oulu, there are about ~1500 unemployed ict-workers here. While many of them are hw-oriented, there is also lot of experienced software people. (One might argument that they can’t be very good when looking at Nokia; but that’s not true, there is lot of talented people, but they never got changes to show that.)

    • The challenge is that neither of those are software-focused ventures, specifically, web focused. From a developer standpoint they are entirely different skillsets.

      No doubt they are good engineers, but I don’t think they’re really the right type of engineers that Polar needs.

    • MK

      Yeah, definitely they aren’t fit right away. But they can be teached again; usually ones with years of previous working experience in other fields are quite adaptable. So I just wanted to note that getting fresh ict people isn’t problem (“Talent that might be hard to get in locations like Oulu, Finland”). It’s more a problem if Polar really understands they should hire more people to get the web part right.

  30. Patrick

    Great post Ray. Nice to read.

  31. sportgebbi

    Hi Ray,

    Did you had chance to find out if Polar has any solid plans to launch there Polar Flow Mobile App for Windows phones? Please use your influence in the industry and let them know that there are not only iOS and Android systems used by sports people out there.

    Cheers for all your good reports and tests. Keep it rolling!

    • In a country where they have what is likely the highest Windows Phone usage in the world, I suspect they see it more than others. But, they also likely have to balance the reality of Windows Phone usage in this particular market segment being very low. For example, looking at the 30-day trend line for DCR, I see it at an astonishing low .5% (for mobile devices listed as Windows Phone, at most 4% if you include ‘unknown’).

      That said, FitBit’s recent add of WP support might help. But, at the same time it could simply be because Microsoft pays company’s to develop apps on the platform, and with FitBit being a ‘major’ app, they’d be more likely to get seed money.

  32. Barndog

    It seems like the convergence between the big tech companies and the fitness companies is getting to the point that a Google/Apple/Samsung acquisition of a Garmin/Sunnto/Polar is only matter of time.

    • Mark

      OK, I’m a broken record. That’s my cue to jump in with info on Garmin’s business segments. Only 13% of Garmin’s revenue is from the Fitness segment (if you also count the 19% for Outdoor, that’s still only a total of 32%). The majority – that’s 68% – of Garmin’s business is from the Auto/Mobile, Aviation and Marine segments. Hard to see Apple or Google wanting to get into the business of making avionics and marine chartplotters.

    • Of course, they currently see fitness increasing at 38% YOY, and PND’s declining at 20% YOY into the feature. Agree, Google nor Apple would want to buy Garmin (there’s really no reason to honestly, it doesn’t buy them anything they can’t create for cheaper).

    • Barndog

      Google could probably build a thermostat and Apple could probably build a headphone without needing to buy Nest and Beats. I was also thinking in terms of the fitness focused expertise they’d immediately acquire in terms of technology and developer/engineer resources, plus access to (and credibility with) the workout tracking consumer.

  33. Garmin, Suunto, and Polar should use technology to figure out a way to get programmers in Silicon Valley to work for them remotely. I’m in Texas, but I’d work on this type of tech for Suunto (for example) in a heart beat. The customer base is global, so why can’t the staff be?

    Sure, you might say people need to be under one roof. But if the future of the company is doomed if that roof is in the wrong spot, it’s time to create “cells” of the company in other places.

    • Yeah, cells are complex. It works well when there’s a small pod of people. For example, Wahoo has a small team of developers in Australia, and that works well. But, at the same time, you have to be careful with work at home developers being isolated (single individuals) and spread apart that you don’t begin to lose team direction.

  34. Nicolas VOISIN

    Lucky you Ray. You are in the MATRIX!!
    Perfect and exactly what I was waiting for. Thanks

    Can you give some insights on few things not mentioned in your article.
    1. Did Polar mention anything related to Flow interface/user experience improvement (search module, exercise name, sport profile custom color, add lap marker for post analysis improvement, more reporting capabilities (elevation, sleep time, …))
    2. From FW side I don’t see any willingness to improve altibarometer based feature list, such as VAM. Did you talk about that?
    3. With respect to feedback on how much historical data should be considered at migration. We want it all!! once the porting mechanism is robust why limiting how much data to import in flow? I do not want to switch between PPT5 and Flow once migrated. I only want to rely on one analysis platform for all my 13 years of data recording loyalty to Polar!! :)

    • Hi Nicolas-

      No, we didn’t discuss #1’s items specifically, but there are a number of smaller improvements to Flow that are being made. Lots of little things that weren’t on the big ticket list.

      On #2, it wasn’t on the list to discuss, but is something they know that I’ve brought up previously and was on the list to be investigated.

  35. Chris

    It’s really fun to read these behind the scenes articles Ray, it’s just interesting to get a feel for what the culture in other companies is – aside from the glints of information about upcoming products.
    Did they happen to mention Beat at all? I’ve kind of settled on using the Beat app with a H7 & a Loop for now, but it seems like Polar is holding back on some of the recovery time information that they could be providing me using those two products together. Even PPT shows a training load based purely on Beat activities.
    It’s very dissapointing not to have the V800 style recovery time shown on Flow (ideally one that that’s influenced by the activity tracking data logged via the Loop).

    • Hollister

      +1 for recovery time information

      An update would be just great. So many features could be added to make it a greater experience. Intervals, activity tracking, accessing data from Flow to name just a few.

      The training stress calculation is the main feature why I use Polars PPT web site (and the Beat app).

      But eventually Polar wants/needs to sell hardware…

  36. Toby

    Hi Ray, any comments of the BT4.1 bug that you found in the initial review?

  37. SteveT

    Ray,

    Thanks again for being such a great advocate for those who come to your site for world-class sports technology reviews and objective insights.

    SteveT

  38. Mr Nofish

    As usual thanks for the interesting posts – these behind the scenes are among my favorites. Now I know if Polar products cost more is because they have a completely unused but fully functional helipad in their yard :P Just kidding, ofc. And it was very interesting to read your thoughts about the challenges they’re facing.

    I hope Polar manages to stay competitive, not simply because more choice and competition is generally a good thing, but also because Nokia already basically went the way of the dodo and I’m not sure how well things are going in Finland.

    I used to talk to a lot of finnish guys and gals back in the days of early consumer internet – mainly because they were well used to the thing while most other countries simply still lived in the technological middle age – and they always struck me as a bunch of good eggs.

    As an aside, as long as it’s appreciated and I’m not just coming across like a slight less annoying version of the 15w VS 15 W guy (he did have a point, although very rudely made):

    “Now, the unfortunate thing here for consumers is these non-certified devices are slowly going to wreck havoc”

    wreak.

    Best,
    Mr Floor Pump

  39. Big Hammer

    I have nearly 15 years of data on PPT (I imported from PT5…fun seeing runs I did in1998!).

    Polar, please let us import all the data on PPT. This is the sort of stuff that keeps us “sticky” to Polar (in my case, for over 20 years and several thousands of dollars).

    • I am not a Polar user but the very fact that there not looking at moving all the data for active users is shocking. I don’t look at all my historical data all the time but If I do an annual race I want to be able to go back and compare performances. I also want be able to look at things like monthly totals over the years.

  40. Sebastien

    Hi Ray –

    Thanks for this great post… again!
    I’ve been Polar-metered for quite some quite and a V800 user for short while, so your article is of great interest to me.

    Questions – Does the Waoo KICKR fall into the “minor spec issues” category? Can we expect its support with firmware 1.1?

  41. Piotr

    I am surprised to see Topeak combo sensor on the non compliant devices list. I am using V800 with the Topeak sensor for over 2 months now an it works flawlessly! Moreover I find it one of the best BT combo sensors on the market (compact/’speed arm-less’ design, battery efficiency, reliability).
    This also contradicts with your in-depth review article where you indicated that Topeak sensor was tested by reader to work fine.

    Given that the sensor works now shall I expect it to stop working after the 1.1 firmware update?

    • Interesting, I’ll go back and ask. It was clearly listed on the non-compliant section as heavily non-compliant.

      Your point is valid, someone else had confirmed it as functional.

    • Rowlarry

      Hi Ray, just wanted to comment and say thanks for the article, really informative and useful for us V800 beta-testers..

      Just wanted to comment regarding the Topeak Sensor- I have two, and have been using them with no issues* since May. I was the reader who confirmed they were working fine.

      I am also confused by the article, and hope that support will not break for them in future firmware? I cannot find a more compact and better designed sensor to do the job, at £30 each also you can almost buy 2 for the price of a Wahoo BlueSC!

      Any update to this please Ray?

      *Only issue is that the V800 can’t remember both sensors at the same time, even if you link them to different bikes. It never finds either again. So you have to remove the paired one each time you want to use the other. Only mildly annoying. This has been reported to Polar (over 2mo ago, no response to date..)

  42. Benjamin

    Would love some more info about what is supported by the V650 upon release ? What HR straps works ? Will they all work with RR/HRV ? What speed/cadence sensors work ? What power meters work ?

    • The device list will mirror that of the V800 as far as compatibility. As noted on power meters though, that won’t hit till the end of the month (October) for the V650.

      I’ll double-check on RR/HRV.

  43. For those that are curious about HRV/RR analysis, I’ve just added two screenshots to the post. The first is from Polar Flow showing what it’ll look like. The second is from a 3rd party app using the exported data.

    This link should shortcut you right to that section: link to dcrainmaker.com

  44. Just an aside, but it’d be nearly impossible for athletes to be contractually barred from taking their fitness data with them when leaving a club in Europe. Europe has data protection laws that give people a general right to request and obtain a copy of any personal data held on them, with some exceptions. I doubt they’d apply here.

    Given that most major football leagues are in Europe, that’d cover many professional footballers.

    • It’s referring to whether or not the incoming team gets such data.

    • Sure, but the only effective control the team the player is departing from would have would surely be to not release the data to the player? However, EU law requires that data be given on request, if it is retained.

      Even if there was a “don’t show your old data to your new team” clause, how could the old team ever know if staff at the new team had seen the old data? Sounds a bit daft. :)

  45. It says open water swim metrics in Q4 this year. Does that include GPS support for open water I wonder… pretty useless otherwise I guess?

  46. Margus Tinno

    Thanks Ray for the superb report!

    I’m a long time Polar user and a relatively fresh V800 user. So all of this is good to read and calms me down in respect of the missing features etc.

    Regarding the 3rd party sensor connectivity I have managed to get the Topeak cadence/speed work with my V800. At first I had some issues, but then replaced the old Polar magnets with the ones that came with Topeak sensor (seem to be stronger) and now it works. I have used the sensor only a few times (it’s on my TT/TRI bike) and I hope that it hasn’t been just a lucky fluke.

    For Flow I would really like to see the export-import feature and the ability to correct the data (i.e. outdoor swimming zig-zags, missed tri-transition points etc).

    Keep up the good work!

  47. Kev G

    Thanks for your report on the V800 at the beginning of the year, really helped me choose the best device on the market for me (V800). I just want to add that I too have been using the Topeak combo speed/cadance sensor it was worked PERFECTLY (set up was so so simple using the topeak app to check). It’s NEVER missed a beat on 3-5 rides per week for several months. So I too was supprised to read that it was not it heavily non compliant!!! Could you explain what you mean when you say the non compliant devices are/will wreck havoc on the Bluetooth ecosystem???….. What do you mean????
    Once agin thanks for super info

  48. Kev G

    Thanks for your report on the V800 at the beginning of the year, really helped me choose the best device on the market for me (V800). I just want to add that I too have been using the Topeak combo speed/cadance sensor it was worked PERFECTLY (set up was so so simple using the topeak app to check). It’s NEVER missed a beat on 3-5 rides per week for several months. So I too was supprised to read that it was not it heavily non compliant!!! Could you explain what you mean when you say the non compliant devices are/will wreck havoc on the Bluetooth ecosystem???….. What do you mean????
    Once again thanks for super info

    • So I went back and asked about more information on the Topeak sensor. They noted that they actually bought a bunch of them, and they’re finding that the consistency in carrier frequency quality is varying quite a bit – more than the BT spec is allowing. Which is why some users are seeing success, and others not. They aren’t going to break anything there, but they also aren’t going to support that device if users have issues. Note, the device is NOT on the certified list from the Bluetooth SIG.

      As for the ecosystem, part of the reason that organizations like Bluetooth exist is to support standards (actually, the only reason they exist). If companies don’t adhere to standards than when people buy devices that claim to adhere to a standard and don’t, they get annoyed and don’t trust a standard. Just like if you bought a laptop that said it was WiFi capable, and found out that mean ‘kinda sorta WiFi capable’, and if every time you bought a WiFi capable device you found issues. Eventually you’d say “this WiFi thing sucks!”.

      While Bluetooth is very good at standards, one of the challenges I think they have right now is they don’t make it easy for a user to search that standards database for certifications against a device profile. For example, on ANT+, I can easily lookup any sensor or watch and see what exactly is certified as compatible. I can’t do that on Bluetooth Smart sensors today.

    • BartW

      Has Polar (and Suunto as they have issues with Ambit3) done anything against the “non standard” BT devices?
      When i look at the PanoBike Speed & Cadence Sensor there is a big (offficial) logo with Bluetooth smart. If the units are not 100% compatible how can a company claim they are and use the logos? And why isn’t the bluetooth organisation doing anything against this.
      Even Polar and Suunto can place warnings on their website telling the people they are NOT compatible.
      As for the “certified list from the Bluetooth SIG” that list is worth almost nothing, take a look at the Samsung phones, in “smart ready” you find “Galaxy Series”. Well half of the existing phones are not bluetooth 4.0 and/or android 4.3+ meaning no smart,so this information is useless.
      Both “Smart” and “Smart ready” lists don’t have dates/versions so it’s total unkown if these are stil valid. If the Bluetooth Special Interest Group doesn’t respond to the lack of valid/accurate information the ANT+ will keep it’s number one position for a longer time.

    • Nothing I’m aware of.

      The challenge is the SIG’s certification fees are incredibly steep – so nobody is actually certifying, but instead just slapping the logo on.

  49. ThomasR

    “For the GPX/TCX data export, they are testing with a number of 3rd party sites, including Strava, Training Peaks and others.”

    Does this mean manual export/import only or are we also talking about automated data transfer from Flow to eg. Strava? If this is not on the roadmap now, was there any discussion as of when?

  50. Bryan

    I hope they continue support for the Scosche RHYTHM armband. I had read it worked with the V800 so I ordered one the other day.

    • There’s no plans to end that support, after all, that device is fully compliant there. The units listed above were ones with spec issues, or ones with some complexity factor (i.e. Viiiiva), even if they followed spec.

  51. Flo Loferer

    Hi Ray, did you also discuss, if it will be possible to create routes in flow and send it to v800? The 2nd thing is the back to start function. Are there plans to change this so you can follow the walked path backwards? Thanks kr Flo

    • Nicolas VOISIN

      Even if an import function to start would be far enough. there are plenty of application to plan and export GPX. a GPX function in Flow would do the job perfectly and free up some time to flow developers for other priorities :)

    • Matěj Novotný

      This is also my question. I like V800 but without posibility to send computer created route to the unit, It is useless for me and I will buy Ambit 3 or Fenix 2.

    • koulik

      Absolutely agree

    • Flo Loferer

      Hello Ray,

      do you have an answer to the above question.

      your help is much appreciated.

      kr Flo

    • I haven’t had a chance to touch base with them on the navigation features. I had grouped the initial round of questions folks posted and sent off, and then largely disconnected for a few days of hiking around.

  52. Nick

    Thanks for this Ray, it’s really great to be able to see Polars base in all it’s glory :-)

    The battery life on my V800 is severly challenged during all day rides in the Alps , as a result i lost all the data during a 10 hour ride . The seperate G5 GPS sensor coupled to a CS600X or RS800 seemed to last better & obviously only the gps stopped recording if the G5 ran out of battery .
    Given the fact that battery life is a challenge for all gps devices , it seems Polar are missing a trick by not allowing the V800 to switch to the seperate G5 sensor when the V800’s battery is getting low . This would more than double it’s battery life & open the market to ultra endurance athletes .(60 sec gps recording doesn’t really cut it )
    Incidentally , i have found it’s possible to charge the V800 ‘on the fly’ ( while still recording an exercise ) with a small usb portable back up battery pack . It doesn’t indicate it’s charging & shows no sign of having been connected to the battery pack , but charges fully in less than an hour. OK on a bike , but not ideal if it’s on your wrist though !

    Re Polar Flow , basically it urgently needs all the metrics that have existed for so long in Protrainer 5 ..& preferably in a similar easy to read dropdown box at lap markers on the curve AND map . VAM , GRADE, AVG’s OF LAP , ASCENT etc …There just basic required functions now surely & were so sorely missing for so long in Polarpersonaltrianer .

    • We did talk about the G5. The challenge there is that uses WIND, which isn’t on the V800, so that’s somewhat of a non-starter. We also talked about the market for a GPS-less watch for endurance athletes. In today’s environment, they just aren’t seeing much (almost any actually) interest there.

      Now, I think one area that could be interesting would be a industry-standard BLE GPS pod for folks that did want to do that, whereas vendors like Polar, Suunto and others could utilize it. There was some talk of that before phone GPS got as accurate as it’s been lately (and battery improved). With both of those being much better, some of the interest I’ve seen from other companies has waned.

      On the metrics, do note that Garmin doesn’t display those on Garmin Connect, and I don’t believe by default Suunto does either. Not saying they shouldn’t be added, but the challenge for companies is that everything becomes in the eyes of a consumer an ‘easy add’, when in reality those all have to be tested, gone through further regression testing to ensure they didn’t break something else. So it ends up being death by a thousand cuts for even the easiest of items.

    • Nick

      Stupid of me not to remember that the G5 is on a different frequency . I would certainly buy a bluetooth G5 as back up for long days if Polar sold one !

      If adding features to online platforms like Flow is so fraught with dangers & difficulties , it makes it all the more surprising that Polar have chosen to effectively abandon Protrainer 5 in relation to the V800. Ok , it sounds like we will be able to export backwards to PT5 soon via hrm/gpx export from flow , but in moving ‘forward’ to Flow ( arguable a big step forward in terms of it being ‘social media’ ) Polar are moving backwards at the same time , unless Flow competes well with Protrainer 5 in terms on ability to analyze an exercise .

      Also agree that navigation desperatly needs an ability to retrace your steps in ‘back to start’ mode or just reverse track a breadcrumb trail …could litterally be a life saver in fog or blizzard conditions in mountains !

  53. Alan Cote

    Thanks for the closeup picture of the powermeter patent. They continue to hang it on their wall, even though they no longer own it.

  54. larry

    Ray, awesome writeup! a couple of weeks ago i was starting to regret my purchase of the v800, but the fact that polar has been open with the issues and their future firmware update plans has put me more at ease.

    i have been a long time polar user (f11, rs800cx, rcx5, garmin 910xt, v800). i went to the garmin because it seemed polar was falling behind in the tri watch arena. the ant+ option allowed more choices in sensors (especially those that did not need to be sent back to have the battery replaced). it also had swim metrics and built in gps so a separate gps unit was not necessary.

    however, my following experiences with the garmin watch caused me to come back to polar…

    – i had odd variations in my heart rate at various time with no explaination. i have never had this with my polar watches (isnt accurate HR measurement a requirement?)
    – they had a BIG tri workout bug with the swim portion. the gps showed the user swimming somewhere in the ocean near africa (lat/long of 0,0). i called in and there were many posts about this on the garmin forums yet they failed to initially acknowledge this. it took a long time for them to fix this. i expect a tri watch to accurately record a tri event.
    – the biggest reason for leaving garmin was their (lack of) responsiveness to their customers regarding bugs and issues.

    i am happy to see that thus far polar appears proactive to the customer’s concerns. i am really looking forward to all of the planned firmware updates!

  55. neil rosson

    Has navigation been completely dropped?

  56. Vjeran

    Dear DC, and dear Polar,
    I am reading all off this and I can not believe that nobody sed nothing about most of the importatnt info for us cyclist, that is VAM (velocità ascensionale media), and by that I mean in real time on display during the ride, and also analyzing on the Flow later. Also what about the LAP, and by that I mean manipulating with them on the Flow, in short, info for each LAP, like on the Polar Pro Trainer 5, especially “name” of the lap or what has happened, like; “wind in chest”, “bad road”, etc… Also no one mansioned another great thing on PPT5, that is SPORT FACTOR, because it is not thE same energy exploation on the same heart rate in diferent sports… Maybe it would be for the best for V800 to be able to export recordings to PPT5. I think many of professional sportsman agree with me. Thank you, sincerely yours Vjeran Stepanić, profesor of kinesiology.

  57. David M

    Very revealing behind the scenes post. For me, their focus is much more evident now, and that they are addressing broad user interests. When direct Polar feedback on their forum seemed to wane, they were nevertheless still pursuing many of expressed needs to solidify interests in Polar products. While I have only had my V800 for about a week, the horizon looks auspicious for continued improvements. While an Apple product user (and fan), I think that Polar is striving to achieve a high level user experience and Apple may not be so obsessed with the needs of athlete power users. I may be wrong about that, but Apple will go far with sensor development. I just wish that Polar could improve the rate of product improvements tuned to this user community. Eventually don’t you think we will all win?

  58. Regards Polar Flow pending updates/partnerships for Wellness Activity Programs:

    QUESTION:
    …are there any plans to open up the platform to the corporate Wellness Activity program market (ie: Discovery, Vitality, etc)?

    DETAILS DIRECTLY UNDERLYING THE QUESTION:
    Lack of this type of partnership is both (1) the reason i returned the Polar Flow in Nov 2013 as a then healthy runner…and (2) also one of the reasons i am deferring purchase of the v800 as a recovering injured fanatic beginning to jump into a multi-sport (swim/bike/run…or in my case, walk). I would love to grab my fitness points through corporate wellness when my program cycle renews in 2014-OCT, on a DAILY basis even on my “rest days”. The pedometer activity tracking for my corporate wellness program (whether generated from the LOOP or v800) will help me to reduce/keep my health insurance premiums low while earning Vitality bucks to purchase more fitness stuff in the process.

    ADDITIONAL RANDOM BACKGROUND PURSUANT TO MY QUESTION:
    i’m sure polar will cough when they read this as it is T.M.I., but the Vivofit was a great alternative to the LOOP as the step activity is transmitted to the wellness program. However as an prior owner of both activity trackers that claimed to track motion (and lack thereof) in and out of water, i had no desire to manually set sleep zones but desired underwater heart rate metrics in case i need to use HR swim “workouts” instead of motion for my wellness activity.

    The v800 seems like the perfect all in one device that i am in the market for (after all updates rolled out) but limited by the Polar Flow platform unable to communicate with Vitality which a few others in my two different running clubs also expressed. i could purchase a device compatible with PolarPersonalTrainer (as PPT is currently compatible with Discovery/Vitality) like the FT60/FT80 except i cannot do cardio everyday yet still do not have clearance to lift (objective is to max out in the point earnings category). In addition, PolarPersonalTrainer shall soon be replaced by Polar Flow without the corporate wellness program partnership.

    • Chris@Polar

      To answer your question. We work with many Corporate Wellness programs worldwide, using a product we have called Accesslink (ACL). Flow (and all of it’s compatible devices, V800, Beat.etc..) are currently supported by ACL with exercise data transfer. The Activity data is being integrated into ACL data stream soon.

      So in short: We are already opened up to the corp. wellness programs, Flow included.

  59. Juan-John

    Great post! I wonder if they gave you any insight as to future firmware updates for the LOOP activity tracker, specifically:

    1. Increasing the battery life.
    2. Giving the Loop the ability to END a workout session by touching the button somehow (and not just taking the H7 off, which from time to time has shown weird heart-rate measurements at the end of a workout. It also sometimes refused to stop reading the sensor until I literally walked out of the room). Although that new editing function Polar plans to add to the Flow website would probably solve that.
    3. Giving the user the option of choosing between the fill-up activity bar and a simple percentage number like what is shown on the Flow app (and showing activity percentages shouldn’t be that hard, since that’s what it does when it’s recharging).

  60. Brian H

    Ray,
    Thanks for what you do and continuing to feed our obsessions with technology and fitness. I’ve owned the V800 since Jun ’14 and it has been a great tool for my workouts, from runs, to rides, to crossfit, and evens swims.

    My question for the Polar Team is can they turn on Bluetooth in the swim mode? I use the Scosche Rhythm+ and put the V800 in the aquatic fitness mode to collect my HR while swimming. With the indoor swimming metrics coming down the pipeline for the V800, I’d like to use the swim mode and wear a Rhythm+. While I have the wear the Rhythm+ on the same wrist as the V800 due to Bluetooth limitations, it is a much better option than wearing the H7 chest strap while lap swimming.

    Thanks, Brian

    PS. Really excited about the interval timer being set from the watch. Great for Tabata workouts at the gym.

  61. Bodo

    Hi Ray,

    Thank you for the great behind the scenes report. I have no idea how you do all this. Your efforts are much appreciated!

    I have been using Polar products since 1993 so have data going back some way. Of course I’d like to migrate ALL of that to Polar Flow. I would not care if it took a wee while.
    .
    From a technical standpoint it may be true that it is difficult to add features to Flow but what is the point of Flow if it can only do a fraction of what the ProTrainer software could do? New products only tend to succeed if they are superior to old ones as perceived by customers. I am not convinced Flow is doing that at the moment.

    I love the look of the V800 but I have been holding off buying it for two reasons: Flow software appears inferior to PT sw and some of the the features of the V800 are not enabled (e.g. accelerometer to measure cadence). If there is not enough movement on these I’ll just hang onto my RS800CX or buy from the competition.

    So please Polar don’t make me do that. “Help me to help you” and all that kind of thing

    B

    • It’s not so much a matter of “can’t do” or “too difficult”, but rather a simple matter of time and resources, like any other company on earth. To that end, they started Flow with nothing (blank slate), and so everything is an ‘add’, and they simply need to prioritize those “adds”.

      PT took 5+ iterations to get where it is/was, so that’s many years of development. But the kicker is by today’s standards, it heavily lags behind. Yet, of course, so does flow. Just different ways.

      While I think the goal of having an all-encompassing sports/fitness tracking app that does everything is really tough. For Garmin users for example, Garmin Connect servers 95% of users just fine. For the 5% (such as me), I use 3rd parties like Training Peaks, Sport Tracks, Strava, etc… And you know what? I think that’s OK.

    • Bodo

      Hi Ray,
      Yes you are definitely right: They are behind. I guess I could be a hermit (…) and continue to use PT but that’s not a great option either.

      You wrote that Garmin Connect is currently more up to the task. What about Suunto’s Movescount platform? Similar coverage, inferior, or superior to Garmin?

      Do you have a sense when (or even if) Polar’s Flow will get to a similar level of development as Garmin’s Connect or is it a matter of ‘let’s just export to another platform’?

      Always appreciate your informed thoughts. Amazing how you manage to juggle so many balls.

      B

  62. Flo Loferer

    Hi Ray,

    another question from my side.

    I think you mentioned that it will be possible to edit or even create workouts manually. Do you think these changed or created workouts will also change the recovery status?

    I am asking this because at the moment my thoughest workouts and thereof the highest training load are football matches where i am not allowed to wear a watch.

    thank for your help
    kr Flo

  63. Nick

    In the September Flow releases It’s stated that “GPX/TCX” export will be added …no mention of HRM file export ??

    Also , am i correct in thinking that the TCX format is not able to carry temperature & power balance (left/right) data ?

    Lastly , i eagerly await the bluetooth pedal transmitters so that i don’t have to use a CS600 & V800 plus two chest straps & two speed sensors at the same time ! Will the new transmitters (with old pedals ) allow me to use right or left side only , as will be the case (as i understand it )with complete new pedal & transmitter sets ?

    Many thanks Ray & Polar for this excellent way to communicate :- )

  64. Grzeg1

    Question regarding phased training: there are some plans to enhance phased training in v1.2. Will it include free HR range? Now it’s only possible to choose a specific zone. Lately my coach said: run 30 minutes at threshold pace. So I’d like the watch to lock between 160-165 bpm. Of course I could mess with the zones but this would break recovery, analysis etc.

  65. Asdub

    Great article, thank you. A question / query which I have emailed to Polar on a few occasions:

    Question 1: At the moment – you can either use the (Option 1) Loop with a HR monitor with Polar Flow or (Option 2) HR Monitor with Polar Beat.

    However, if I use the Loop for some of the day – then change to Beat for specific fitness activity – Polar flow cannot add the total of all the activities from Loop and Beat together.

    will this be “resolved” in the future with any of the updates?

    Question 2: will the Apple Watch be compatible with any Polar products or will Polar Apps be created – is there going to be any collaboration between Apple and Polar?

    many thanks,

    asdub

  66. Jacquyes Godon

    Hello,

    my English is poor, but you are the only source of information about the subject.

    – Do you know when the V800 will be compatible with Stages power meter ?
    – when will we have a stress test as in the Rs 800cx ?
    – Will it be fully compatible with Viiiiva

    Thank’s a lot for your informations

  67. Great update!! One question, my athletes have started to purchase the V800 but as i am painfully aware of, i cannot upload anything right now. I am using Firstbeat Sport and i was wondering if anyone knows if the upcoming updates will allow imports to Firstbeat Sport?

  68. KA

    Thank you very much for that review ! It was great !
    I have a short question…
    I plan to bought either a v800 or an ambit 3 next week.
    I prefer the design of the Polar but I’m a little bit geeky and on top of sport functionalities, I would need to use the watch to get the gps points for picture geo-tagging after a photo road trip and I’d also love to plan routes in advance for bike trips.
    Should I buy the Polar ? I mean can we export routes to programs such as Lightroom ? (Understood it will come in September, still valid ?) and, endly, is it really plan to be able to create routes in the future ? When ? I mean it sound really strange to me that they haven’t provided that function from start and I eard a vendor saying that the watch was not designed for that and only the Suunto would do it.
    Then, what’s the true regarding routes on the v800 ? Can we get real info from Polar ?
    Thanks again and sorry for my English (I’m French)

    • Hi KA!
      If you just want to have a device for geo-tagging images: Get a GPS-recorder only. There is a nice piece of software on the market that will geo-tag your images directly from the route you recorded with the receiver. All will be placed into the images metadata. (Done by Date / Time comparison. This will need your cam to have the correct date / time set).
      Have a look for Photo Mechanic.

    • KA

      Thanks Sven,
      I finally bought the V800 and I’m really happy with it.
      Of course I haven’t bought it for pictures geotagging but wanted to have one only device which could, as well, able me to export routes for different purposes.
      Extracting routes works well. I’m really happy.
      Only issues I found so far :
      – (important) no ability to create routes from scratch (why ?)
      – (medium) screen “touch” not working properly even by switching screen sensitivity to max (you really have to break your fingers on it… Defect ?)
      – (low) Cross Trainer (elliptic) displayed as “Entrain Ext” (instead of Int like Interieur)
      – How to wear the watch ? I mean, clearly I wear it during trainings, walks etc… But rest of the time I wear a nice mechanical swiss watch. Issue : what about activity tracking if we wear the watch only 4 half days per week ??
      Should I then ignore the activity tracking ?
      Thanks again,
      KA

    • Hanna

      I simply tugged away my rolexes for now…in winter I will wear v800 on right arm and my explorer on left…it has been two months without my watches…kind miss them…and I think you need to wear the v800 all the time to make it work properly…no?

    • If you do not wear the V800 24/7: ignore the activity tracking.

      (medium) screen “touch” not working properly even by switching screen sensitivity to max (you really have to break your fingers on it… Defect ?)

      No, I thought the same first :) Move the V800 to the bone of your wrist and tap on the clock with some pressure. The V800 needs a solid surface for recognizing the knocks ;)

    • Bo

      +1 for “(important) no ability to create routes from scratch (why ?)”

  69. Sven

    Hi Ray and all others!
    I really like the insights posted in the article and all the comments.

    I also sent a list of things to improve for the V800 and flow to the German support a while ago.

    V800-related:
    a) Will there be an option to show the next planned competition instead of the name in the clock-screen? (as on the RCX3 / 5)
    b) I would like to see the option to turn off / change the notification volume during a training session. This is currently not possible but was on the RCX3 / 5
    c) To save battery capacity it would be great to have a sleep-mode to be configured. This should turn off the display completely.

    Flow-related:
    a) I would like to be able to plan trainings based on speed / pace and/or detailed HR (122 – 144) together for interval trainings.
    b) A more easy way to put trainings into the calendar. (Drag & Drop like in PPT)
    c) Will there be a way of editing all fields post a training? To adjust the max HR as an example.
    d) For multi-Sports sessions that are NOT the standard ones listed by Polar: If you go the gym and do some indoor-cycling, then strength training and indoor-cycling again. You want to capture the distance for each cycling session into the multi sport session you have to select one of the pre-defindes kinds… That needs to be changed PLEASE…

    Some of my other suggestions are already implemented or scheduled…
    Thanks again
    Sven

  70. J

    Hello DC,

    First of all, thank you very much for your nice reviews!

    I have one question about the rr recording. You talk about analysis for that and now the only thing they released is the recording seen in you screenshot. Was there talk that there would actually come some analysis like some of these hot mobile apps for hrv? Since I really hoped and actually understood also that some analysis would be released. That was actually one of my main points getting this specific hrm.

    Thank you in advance!

  71. Flo Loferer

    Hello Ray,

    will it be possible to manually create a new workout. above you have just mentioned – Ability to fix errors/values/delete sections of activities on Flow (i.e. forgetting to turn off unit for drive home)

    do you think that this manually created workout (with estimated distance and average hr) does also effect the recovery status? as it does in polarpersonaltrainer.com?

    kr Flo

    • I’m not sure I understand – Flow already allows you to create a new workout to complete on the device. Or do you mean just a workout that wasn’t tracked on the device?

    • Flo Loferer

      Hi Ray,

      I mean a workout that wasn’t tracked on the device. In my case i play soccer and it is not allowed to wear a watch during an official match.

      so my idea is to create a workout manually with estimated distance and heart rate and this should also effect the recovery status.

      as i mentioned above this is possible in polarpersonaltrainer.com.

      thanks
      Flo

    • Grzeg1

      I’m also in the same position. I’m not able to wear the watch for some activities and it makes recovery status useless. I don’t understand why Polar does not let you add an activity manually.

    • Flo Loferer

      Hello Grzeg1,

      For that reason I switched to the new suunto ambit3 sport.

      There the new HR belt can save the data during my match and sync it afterwards with the watch. Works without any problems for me.
      Maybe in future the polar v800 could be my favorite again. but they have to deliver promised updates and the possibility to add trainings manually. Maybe then I change.
      Kr Flo

  72. JJ

    V650 delayed yet again. I’ve waited a long time for this and I guess I’ll keep waiting. DC, do you know if there is a memory card slot on the V650?

  73. Klaus

    Jep, v650 delayed again until the end of november. Any idea on the reason behind the (multiple) delays? I thought hardware was finalized ages ago and they were just tuning the software.

    Anyways, their hardware will be 1 year old from their paper release and the real launch. Way to go, the price of the year old tech will have changed, but the retail price won’t I guess..

    • I suspect software. As I alluded to up on the ride, things were “a wee bit rougher” on the V650 than on the V800.

      I would note that for the most part, most of these units actually don’t see substantial changes in underlying hardware from version to version. It’s really more about software capabilities. To that end, I see it as entirely possible that they roll out/announce more than planned at some point.

  74. Brian

    Ray, Can you import data into Polar flow?

  75. Has anyone managed to get the V800 or the M400 working with Firstbeat Sport?

  76. Steve

    Hi Ray trank You for all the Energy you are putting into These Reviews and follow ups.
    I Do also have 2 questions. First one would it be possible to implement a Vibration only alarm clock? Would be Most helpful for early Training sessions w/o waking others.
    Also i unterstand you have Not gone into Detail but maybe someone from polar can answer. For Navigation is there something like trackback in the Pipeline (meaning following back the exact Same Route in the field w/o using flow)
    Many thanks, Steve

  77. Steve

    Hi Ray thank You for all the Energy you are putting into These Reviews and follow ups.
    I Do also have 2 questions. First one would it be possible to implement a Vibration only alarm clock? Would be Most helpful for early Training sessions w/o waking others.
    Also i unterstand you have Not gone into Detail but maybe someone from polar can answer. For Navigation is there something like trackback in the Pipeline (meaning following back the exact Same Route in the field w/o using flow)
    Many thanks, Steve

  78. Dave

    Looks like a software release earlier this month now provides for directly exporting .tcx files from Polar Flow without having to use an intermediate step from a service such as some of the other tools listed here. But, as I have tried to upload some rides to Strava the time of the ride session is coming out wrong. Why? Is anyone else having this problem?

    • Grzeg1

      It’s a bug. Probably result of lack of proper time zone support. Make sure you let them know you don’t like it (support or facebook page).

  79. jd67

    Ray,

    A great article as always. I agree entirely with your comment about buying into a platform. These days you are buying much more than just a watch or computer. For Polar it is critical they get the Flow site spot on to make it a great user experience. Having had a quick look, it appears as if they have still have a lot of catching up to do. I like the look of the V650, but will be sticking with my CS400 until they introduce full import functionality (both time period and data fields) from PPT5 to Polar Flow. The ability to import data from Training Peaks would be good too!

  80. Joe

    Hey Ray,

    Next time you visit polar, can you plz ask them which rabid dog has bitten them, so that they want to shutdown their own community (aka forum) and replace it by a facebook wall. I am speechless.

    Greets

  81. Harmless

    link to forum.polar.fi

    We announced earlier that this forum would close 15th December, 2014. However, we have received many requests to continue discussion forum and decided that Polar discussion forum will stay open until further notice – until we have something better to offer you guys.

    Please note that this is a Polar user forum, and that:
    1.The forum is meant for peer support of Polar products and for Polar users sharing their good practices and tips for training.
    2.The forum rules, since 2008, state that Polar will not provide technical assistance at this forum. So, to be able to best serve you we encourage you to contact Polar customer care directly with your issue, bug report, or any other feedback. Through direct contact we can provide you a personalized technical guidance and most efficiently share you feedback with Polar product development.
    3.Polar moderation at this forum means e.g. removing of inappropriate posts, banning spammers, and correcting OR removing of erroneous information about Polar products when encountered.

    Thanks for observing the above! Be helpful, be considerate, inspire others to get to their goals, and enjoy sharing with the community!

    – Polar Team-
    (we do listen)

  82. iker

    Ray, cleaning the dust here I just noticed a tab on the left side of the v800 mount. Can I ask how was the watch mounted on the handlebar? some kind of secret polar mount?

    • Nah, it was just a mount for some other random bike computer (can’t remember what one now), not anything new. But something that had been there years and was just re-purposed. :)