For the last few years we’ve had to make a choice: Do we want a fully-featured sports watch with one or two smartwatch features, or do we want a real smartwatch that gives a light nod to athletes? We haven’t seen any that truly marries the two—untill now, with Polar’s new M600.
Let’s talk sports features first. It has built-in GPS (A-GPS and Glonass) for fast, accurate satellite acquisition. That means you don’t need your phone with you if you want to use it as a running watch. It’s waterproof to 33 feet (10 meters). It has a built-in wrist-based heart rate monitor with six LEDs, so you don’t need a chest strap, and it will help you stay in the heart-rate zone you want. You can use it to track a wide array of activities, and it even offers adaptive training programs for running depending on where you are and what distance race you want to run. It can help you manage recovery time, too.
That’s pretty good right there, but the watch also runs the Android Wear operating system, making it a full on smartwatch. It’s compatible with phones running Android 4.3 or higher and with the iPhone 5 and up (running iOS 8.2 or higher). It features a 1.3-inch, 240-by-240 pixel display covered in scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3. It has 4GB of built in storage, so you can load music onto the device and run with Bluetooth headphones, sans phone. It also has more than 4,000 apps that work with, and it responds to voice commands for all your Siri-like questions and commands (Google just calls it “Voice Search”). For those who have never used it, Android Wear is about on par with Apple Watch in terms of functionality and ease of use, which is to say it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn good.
The M600 also has all of the 24-hour a day activity tracking you’d want from a Fitbit-type device. It tracks activity levels, steps, calories burned, and gives you alerts if you’ve been inactive for too long. It can automatically track the duration and quality of your sleep, too. Polar claims the battery will last two days when paired with an Android phone or for one day if paired with an iPhone (similar to Apple Watch longevity). It should be good for eight hours of GPS-based training.
It all sounds pretty sweet, and for $330, it’s twenty bucks cheaper than the entry-level Apple Watch. The waterproof factor alone makes it a lot tougher than the Apple Watch and tougher than most Android Wear watches, too (though surfers and snowboarders may still want to take a look at the Nixon Mission). We haven’t tested the M600 yet, but if it can deliver on its promises it will be the best sportswatch/smartwatch combo yet.
It could also herald a very interesting future. Because Android Wear is open-source, we could see it emerge as the go-to OS for sports watches going forward. That’s exactly what Google has done with Android for phones and tablets. Again, it’s not perfect, but it’s certainly a whole lot better than what companies like Fitbit, Garmin, and TomTom try to pass off as smartwatch features. I say bring it on.
Brent Rose is a freelance writer and regular Outside contributor. He is currently traveling the U.S. living in a high tech van, looking for stories to tell. Follow his adventures on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and ConnectedStates.com