Wearables

Polar A360: A step away from being ideal tracker

The Polar A360 has only one button, on the left of the wristband. This small, all-purpose button is used to trigger features like wake, power and back.
The Polar A360 has only one button, on the left of the wristband. This small, all-purpose button is used to trigger features like wake, power and back.PHOTO: POLAR

It tracks your heart rate only during workouts, and does not record distance

Polar, famed for its heart rate monitor (HRM) chest straps, has finally released a wristband fitness tracker with a built-in HRM.

The Polar A360 comes in three sizes - small, medium and large. It comprises a tracker module that can be snapped onto a changeable wristband, available in black, white, blue, green and pink (the last three colour options coming next month). I reviewed the large version with a black wristband.

The design of the A360 reminds me of the Microsoft Band and Huawei TalkBand B2. It has a rectangular colour touchscreen display (160 x 80 pixels) with a rubber wristband that has a pretty secure clamp. I found it pretty comfortable to wear.

There is only one button, on the left of the wristband. This small, all-purpose button is used to trigger features like wake, power and back. Press and hold this button for 5sec and you will get to the Settings menu with options to put the fitness tracker to Airplane mode, or reset the Bluetooth settings.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $299

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth

    WEIGHT: 37g (Large)

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

By default, the display shows the time in a vertical orientation. You can wake the display by raising your wrist, or pressing the button. The display is bright and easy to read, even under bright sunlight.

Swipe up the display and you will find three options - My Day, Training and My Heart Rate. Tap on My Day to see your physical activity of the day, such as percentage of your daily step goal and calories burned. The Training options let you choose the type of workout you want, like running or cycling, while you use the My Heart Rate option to measure your heart rate.

The A360 automatically tracks your daily activities, including steps taken, calories burned and sleep patterns. But it does not track your heart rate all day, not even at regular intervals. You can use it to track your heart rate only during workouts, whereby it can tell you if you are in the right heart rate zone.

Despite having a built-in accelerometer, it strangely does not record distance during workouts. In other words, you still need another device to record distance.

Using my own TomTom Runner + MultiSport Cardio running watch as a comparison, I found the heart rate measured by the A360 to be quite similar during workouts.

In terms of step counting, the A360 also did not differ much from the calibrated Fitbit Charge HR. And while the sleep tracking is also pretty accurate, it shows you only the amount of sleep. There is no indication of light or deep sleep.

The tracking might be seamless but syncing with your smartphone can be arduous. You need to press and hold the button until the screen says Searching. This is a hassle compared to Charge HR, in which syncing is automatically triggered whenever you power up its smartphone app.

Battery life is supposed to be 14 days. In my tests with a workout every three days, I found the battery life to be around 12 days.

  • Verdict: With its accurate step tracking, long battery life and great display, the Polar A360 is nearly the ideal fitness tracker. It is just a shame that it cannot monitor heart rate constantly and track distance during workouts.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2016, with the headline 'Polar A360: A step away from being ideal tracker'. Print Edition | Subscribe