Before I tested out Polar's new Verity Sense tracker, the thought of measuring my heart rate from anywhere other than my chest or wrist was a foreign concept. But Polar's $90 optical heart-rate tracker can track different types of activities from (almost) anywhere on your body, as long as it's pressed firmly against your skin.
It's small, syncs quickly with iPhone or Android, and is ideal for swimmers or athletes wanting more precise heart rate tracking than the average smartwatch. But it isn't as accurate as a chest strap, the gold standard in heart rate tracking for athletes.
What sets the Verity Sense apart: Pros and Cons
Unlike Polar's chest-based heart-rate monitors, which use electrodes, the Verity Sense measures heart rate via an optical or light-based sensor. It's similar to what you'd find on the underbelly of most smartwatches or fitness trackers. While both measure the same thing, optical sensors use blood flow to calculate heart rate, while electrodes measure the electrical activity of the heart which produces a more accurate read.
The advantage of the Verity Sense is its small size. It looks a lot like its predecessor, the Polar OH1 Plus, with a round body about the size of a quarter and almost three times as thick. Chest straps and smartwatches can only be placed on one part of the body, while the Verity Sense comes with a comfortable strap made of stretchy woven fabric so it can sit pretty much anywhere on the body (even on swim goggles) as long as it makes direct contact with the skin.
According to Polar, the temple and upper arm often produce more accurate heart rate readings than the wrist.
See live stats on your phone or save for later
There are two ways to track heart rate from the Verity Sense; live on your phone or smartwatch, or stored on the device to view in the Polar Sense App later. In addition to heart rate, it also tracks distance, pace, calories and training zones. These training zones show how long you were in each heart rate zone after a session, indicated with colors and numbers on a graph. You also have access to a broader dashboard of all this data over time.
The Sense has a longer Bluetooth range than some of Polar's other devices, such as the Polar OH1 and H10 heart rate sensors, so you don't have to keep your phone close even if you do decide to log your workout in the app. This could be especially useful for open water swimmers who want to leave their phones on dry land. The holder on the arm band also acts as a signal extender and can reach distances up to 150 meters (164 yards). The tracker also has 16 MB of onboard storage, which can store up to 600 hours of exercise.
Battery life can last about 20 hours of training on a charge, according to Polar. Just be careful not to lose the charger because it's just as tiny as the tracker itself, with just a circular holder and built-in USB drive.
If you're looking for accuracy, you're better off going for a chest strap like Polar's H10, but the Sense wins on comfort. The Verity Sense proves a nice middle ground between a chest strap and a dedicated sports watch. It will make tracking your heart rate more accessible for different types of activities.