​Polar debuts its first fitness tracker with an optical heart-rate sensor (hands-on)

The Polar A360 is a smart fitness tracker that can measure steps, distance, calories burned and your sleep. It will also display notifications from your Android or iOS device.

Dan Graziano Associate Editor / How To
Dan Graziano is an associate editor for CNET. His work has appeared on BGR, Fox News, Fox Business, and Yahoo News, among other publications. When he isn't tinkering with the latest gadgets and gizmos, he can be found enjoying the sights and sounds of New York City.
Dan Graziano
3 min read

Polar is the latest company to offer an activity tracker with a built-in optical heart-rate sensor. The Polar A360 is a smart activity tracker that's capable of measuring steps, distance, calories burned and sleep. It also includes vibration to remind users when they have been sitting still for too long and alert them to incoming calls, messages, calendar alerts, and social media notifications from their iPhones (Android alerts are said to arrive sometime in November).

It's a nice device, but it won't come cheap. The A360 costs $200 (about £130 and AU$275). That's more expensive than the Fitbit Charge HR and Jawbone Up3. While it adds smartphone notfications, it doesn't include GPS for tracking pace and distance when running. It also doesn't feel like a device that would cost that much. It feels plasticky and cheap.

Hands-on with the Polar A360 smart fitness tracker (pictures)

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The A360 is similar to many of the other fitness bands on the market. It features a bright and colorful touchscreen, which is a first for a Polar fitness band, that reminds me of the Microsoft Band or Samsung Gear Fit. But the A360's screen isn't curved, so the fit isn't as ergonomic.

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The band is offered in three different sizes -- small, medium, and large. It's made of a soft silicone material that is comfortable to wear and it's also interchangeable. Similar to the Garmin Vivofit 2, the entire tracker can actually be popped out of the strap and placed in a new one. Polar has five different bands to choose from: black, white, lime green, blue, and pink.

What I like most about the A360 is that you don't have to take it off in the shower or the pool. It's water-resistant up to 30 meters. As for battery life, on a single charge the tracker is said to last up 12 days, but that's with notifications disabled. It's unclear how long it will last with smart alerts turned on.

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Heart rate: No chest strap required

Polar is known for its heart-rate monitors. It was the first company to offer a wire-free heart-rate chest strap in the early 80s. Until recently, however, all of Polar's products relied on that Bluetooth chest strap for heart rate, even when companies like Fitbit and Garmin had moved to wrist-based optical sensors.

The sensor on the A360 is similar to the competition -- two flickering LED green lights are used to light the capillaries, which allows the sensor on the back to measure the blood as it flows by. Polar claims the sensor will deliver similar results to its chest strap in part due to a special algorithm it created to interrupt the data. Chest strap loyalist will be happy to known that the A360 can still be paired with Polar's H7 Bluetooth chest strap, although I'm not sure I would ever want to go back.

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The A360 will be available in November for $200 in the US. That price converts to about £130 in the UK and AU$275 in Australia. Colors will initially be limited to black (for medium and large sizes) and white for smaller wrists. Additional colors and interchangeable wristbands are said to arrive in a variety of sizes in the coming months.