With the wide variety of apps out there that people use for fitness, and running/cycling in particular, its no surprise that accessories now exist to extend the app functionality even more by tracking heart rate. There are a number of options out there, but Polar took a simple approach with a dedicated HR strap that sends a signal direct to the device using its built in Bluetooth connectivity. Polar has a few of these straps (2 for supported iOS devices, and 1 for Android), and I tested the Polar H7 version. I used it with my iPhone 4S, but it is also compatible with iPhone 5, iPod touch (5th generation), iPad (3rd & 4th generation), iPad mini and iPod Nano (7th generation). Another nice thing about the H7 is that it is compatible with many other Polar watches and Polar equipped fitness equipment like treadmills and bikes you would find at the gym.
The Polar H7 HR strap itself looked and felt the same as any of the other chest straps I have used recently. It was basically an all fabric strap with a snap on transmitter at the front. The strap was very comfortable – I much prefer this all fabric design that most are using now versus the plastic versions that used to be common. This one also has a nice, wide conductive strip that maintained my HR signal nearly all the time, even when doing exercises while laying on my chest. The transmitter has a user replaceable battery, which means you can change the battery yourself. The battery life is measured in months, so obviously I haven’t had time to use it long enough to comment on this. One nice feature of the Polar Beat app is that it gives a display of the remaining battery life of the strap, so you shouldn’t be surprised when it is getting low and then dies. I opened the package, removed the strap, popped on the transmitter and my H7 was ready to go. Simple so far!
Obviously Polar designed the H7 HR Strap as a companion to their Polar Beat app. That is primarily what I used it with, and I have posted a review of that app here. In terms of setting up the H7 strap with my iPhone I found it very easy. It was simply a case of opening the app on my iPhone, selecting the “Pair HR” option and letting it find the strap. This happened right away and I was ready to go. The H7 strap had no problem with dropped connections anytime that I used it. Once my strap was paired with my iPhone, it automatically recognized it every time I launched the app with the H7 on my chest.
I also tried out the H7 with a couple of alternative devices and apps. I used it with my Polar RCX5 and had no issues – it worked just like the HR strap that the watch shipped with. I tried it with the MapMyRun app on my iPhone and again, it paired right away using the Bluetooth connection. I would guess that it would work fine with any other apps that track HR using Bluetooth on the supported iDevices. The H7 would be a good choice if you already had a favourite app, but wanted to add HR data to it.
The Polar H7 is definitely a simple, effective solution if you already run or workout with one of the supported devices and want to track heart rate. The cost is much less than a watch that has the full feature set that Polar Beat offers in app form. I really liked that I could do workouts in the house, pair it with my iPhone that was sitting across the room and know that it was recording my data without needing anything on my wrist. I was impressed with how easy it was to setup, and how it paired and worked perfectly every time I used it.