If you regularly train with a sports watch or fully featured cycle computer, you’re well aware of the benefits these gadgets can bring to the party. Being able to track your performance in real time, as well as analysing the data post-training is both addictive and enlightening.
For many, however, investing the cash in a dedicated fitness computer is a big decision, especially if they’re not sure how committed they are, or how useful the data captured might be. It’s therefore no surprise that the number of fitness related smartphone apps has exploded over the past couple of years.
Modern smartphones are so complex and powerful that there’s very little they can’t do. With integrated GPS and accelerometer technology, most smartphones are just as clever as high-end fitness computers, and spending a few Pounds on a suitable app is far easier to swallow than a couple of hundred Pounds on a dedicated device.
The one key component missing from your smartphone is a way to measure your heart rate while you’re training, and that’s where the Polar H7 heart rate sensor comes in. Polar has been leading the way in heart rate monitor technology for decades, so it’s not surprising that the Finnish tech innovator is keen to bring HRM functionality to our phones.
But while the H7 heart rate sensor is compatible with most current Apple smartphones and tablets, it isn’t limited to those device types. You see the H7 is a hybrid heart rate sensor, so although it supports low power Bluetooth 4.0 to make it compatible with all those mobile devices, it also supports Polar’s 5kHz WearLink standard, making it compatible with a plethora of Polar fitness computers as well as most gym equipment.
The H7 looks much like the majority of Polar heart rate sensors, but with prominent Bluetooth branding below the Polar logo. The chest strap is identical to the one supplied with the Polar RC3 GPS, and is both comfortable and secure while exercising.
I had no problems pairing the H7 with my iPhone 4S, and it worked flawlessly with the Polar Beat app, as well as numerous other iPhone fitness apps. It was also happy to pair with my TomTom Runner GPS sports watch, which utilises Bluetooth 4.0 for its accessories. In all cases the H7 reported accurate heart rate data without any hint of spiking or dropouts.
Thanks to its Bluetooth support, this is a heart rate sensor that’s compatible with a dizzying amount of kit, making it extremely versatile. And given that many people change their iPhone every year, it’s reassuring that you won’t have to change your heart rate sensor every time too.
I also tested the H7 with my Polar FT80 sports watch, which employs the older 5kHz WearLink standard. Once again, it performed without incident, reporting my heart rate just as effectively as the sensor that came with the FT80 many years ago.
Most gym equipment also uses the older 5kHz Polar standard, so I tested the H7 with my NordicTrack T14.2 treadmill and my ProForm Le Tour de France training bike. Once again, the H7 performed flawlessly, showing no unusual behaviour during long runs and bike rides.
Like other Polar heart rate sensors, the H7 runs on a single lithium battery that’s user replaceable. The battery is accessed via a screw in cap, complete with a rubber seal – that should make it good for swimming, assuming you have a waterproof case for your smartphone, or perhaps the new TomTom Multi-Sport watch.
At around £50 online (the MSRP is £64.50) the Polar H7 still represents a reasonable investment, although it’s significantly cheaper than buying a fully featured sports watch solution. If you’re pretty active and enjoy using your smartphone to track your training sessions, the H7 will take your data recording and analysis to the next level. And once you start to understand the benefits of understanding how your body reacts to exercise, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without a heart rate monitor.
The Polar H7 is a clever heart rate sensor that’s compatible with a multitude of devices, gym equipment and smartphone apps. If you’re looking to try adding heart rate analysis to your training, it’s well worth investing in before you spend big money on a fully featured fitness computer.
Compatibility: iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch 5th gen, iPad 3rd & 4th gen, iPad mini, iPod nano 7th gen.
- Bluetooth Smart connectivity
- Compatible with most Apple devices
- Works with loads of Polar fitness computers
- Compatible with gym equipment
- Won’t kill the battery in your iPhone
- Easy to pair and configure
- Buying a new iPhone won’t make it redundant
- No 2.4GHz WIND support
- Not cheap for free fitness app users
- Only certified for Apple devices