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Polar thinks there's room for another Android Wear smartwatch

Engadget Engadget 3/08/2016 Daniel Cooper
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It was inevitable that smartwatches would eventually consume "dumb" activity trackers like the Fuelband (RIP) and Fitbit. These days, almost any device that you can slap on your wrist offers you basic fitness and sleep tracking as standard. Similarly, most of these gadgets offer smartphone notifications and control of your smartphone's music playback. But as smartwatches have made in-roads to the world of fitness tech, there's been little pushback from companies like Garmin, Polar and TomTom. At least, not until now.

The Polar M600 is the Finnish company's first Android Wear device, which the firm's Marco Suvilaakso describes as a "sport optimized smartwatch." Rather than simply slapping its branding on a generic wearable, Suvilaakso says that his team has worked to make the unit a class-leading activity tracker. The result is a muscular, fully-featured smartwatch that's as comfortable tracking laps in the swimming pool as helping you order an Uber.

There's nothing particularly eye-catching about the M600, although that's made up by a series of neat touches that help mark it out from the pack. For instance, rather than using one or two LEDs in the optical heart rate monitor, Polar equipped its version with six. That should both increase the reliability and accuracy of its pulse tracking and also reduce the need for the strap to be on so tight. Much like the company's A360, the HRM will only operate during training, unlike all-day trackers like Sony's SmartBand 2. Suvilaakso says that this is because such data isn't "meaningful."

The device is waterproof and has a Gorilla Glass lens covering the 1.3-inch TFT touchscreen, making it ideal for Tough Mudder types and triathletes. The silicone housing / strap, meanwhile, is removable and washable, not to mention swappable for different colors. The M600 will retail initially in black or white, with the spare band costing $30, but there's also a red version that's coming at some point in the not-too distant future.

Beneath the display you'll find integrated GPS and GLONASS as well as a 500mAh battery that, Suvilaakso promises, will last two days on a charge. If, however, you want to use location-tracking, you'll crank 8.5 hours out of that same power cell before resorting to the custom charger. The M600 uses the same custom, magnetized charging cable as the Polar Loop 2, and apparently you'll be able to share them between these two devices.

A button on the left hand side will let you swap from Polar's custom watch face and the Android Wear elements of the device. Additionally, a central button below the display sends you straight into the M600's training mode, a feature that can be configured further via companion app Polar Flow. Another nice little touch is baked into the face itself: a blue line that creeps up the screen activity you do through the day.

Polar's also hoping that its software smarts will help set it apart from other Android Wear devices, like its Smart Coaching and Activity Prompts. If you're having a day where you've been grinding at the office too long, the device will let you know what you have to do to make amends. In addition, if you need to get in shape for an upcoming race, plug in the deadline and what targets you need to hit and you'll be told what you need to do to get there.

Like several other Android Wear watches, there's 4GB of on-board storage which can be used to sync music from Google Play. That way, they can connect a pair of Bluetooth headphones and leave their smartphone at home when they go for a run. The device works with Android and iOS devices, and will set you back $329.00 / €349.00 when it launches at some point at the end of Q3.

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