We’ve heard reports that there will be no new Android Wear smartwatches from Huawei, Motorola, or LG this year. If you are interested in an Android smartwatch that also serves as a GPS sports watch, then the Polar M600 is available now. Polar is well known in the GPS sports watch sector and it’s exciting to see one of the leading sports watch makers make a move to support Android Wear.
- Lightweight and comfortable to wear 24/7
- GPS performs as good as the Polar V800
- Onboard music playback works well
- Fully customizable workout screens
- Vibrations are a bit too light for morning alarms
- Thick watch with limited band options
- Display too dim in direct sunlight
- Can’t answer phone calls on the watch
Specifications of the Polar M600 include:
- Processor: Dual-core MediaTek MT2601 1.2 GHz
- Display: 1.3-inch 240×240 pixels, 260 ppi transmissive TFT Corning Gorilla Glass 3
- RAM: 512MB
- Storage: 4GB internal for music and data storage
- Sensors: GPS and Glonass, optical heart rate with 6 LEDs, gyro, accelerometer, ambient light sensor
- Connectivity: 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2
- Water resistance: IPx8, suitable to 10 meters
- Battery: 500 mAh with 2 day typical usage time, 8 hours with GPS
- Dimensions: 45 x 36 x 13 mm and 63 grams
The Polar M600 is currently running Android Wear 1.5. Polar has publicly stated it will get an Android Wear 2.0 upgrade in the future. I personally like this version of Android Wear a bit more than AW 2.0, which changes the UI around a bit too much.
The Polar M600 has a large 500 mAh battery and you can get more than a day out of the device. I’ve been able to take it running while listening to music and still have plenty of battery life left. The battery ratings from Polar match my experiences.
Unlike many other Android Wear smartwatches, the Polar M600 makes no attempt to look like a typical watch. It’s very similar in appearance and form factor to the Polar V800. The display has wide black bezels and two silver rails lining the sides. The Polar name is displayed prominently above the display and there is no doubt you are a fitness-focused person if you are wearing the Polar M600.
The display is crisp and clear with manual and auto brightness settings. It can be a bit difficult to see in direct sunlight. The monochrome Polar V800 that looks even better in full sunlight.
For smartwatch functionality, I appreciate the color display and have had the always-on display mode enabled for most of my test period. I prefer to be able to glance down and see the time and my activity status without having to lift and twist my wrist. Gesture display settings will save you some battery life and the lift and twist does work well for me.
While the 1.3-inch display is a touchscreen, there are also two buttons on the Polar M600. The lower left button serves as the typical Android Wear button with a ton of functions. These include toggling the display on and off, get back to the home screen with a press. Also turn on theater mode with a double press, press and hold to jump to the app launcher, turn the watch on and off, and more.
The front button is specific to the Polar M600 and is used to launch the Polar app. Then open the training menu, then select the training mode, and start the training session. You then press and hold it to pause the training session with onscreen options to resume or stop the session. You need to press and hold on the red circle on the display to fully stop the training session. A countdown appears in the green circle above this to confirm you are stopping your session.
A six LED heart rate monitor is found on the back of the Polar M600. Polar is well known for its powerful and accurate heart rate chest straps. But this is the first time we’ve seen it include heart rate monitoring on the wrist. While the monitor may jump around a bit at the start of a workout, it has performed well for me and provides just what I need for training guidance.
The Polar M600 uses a proprietary charging cable that attaches to the back of the M600. It may take up to two hours to fully charge an empty battery.
The Polar M600 includes a Wi-Fi radio, which means you can sync your data to the Polar Flow website without having to sync to your smartphone. I have this capability on my Garmin Fenix 3HR and it is handy if you don’t run with your phone and want your data to sync when you return home.
The Polar M600 base unit actually pops out of the silicone band through the back. Polar will be launching other color bands so you have the option to swap out for something different. If you run in the rain or swim with the Polar M600, it’s a good idea to pop it out of the band and make sure it is completely dry.
The silicone band is comfortable and adjusts for just about any size of wrist. The unit itself is rather thick, but it compares well to my other GPS sports watches with integrated heart rate monitors.
POLAR M600 SOFTWARE
The Polar M600 runs Android Wear 1.5 so the user interface is the same as we’ve seen for quite some time. The first display that appears is the watch face you select. Polar provides a couple of watch face options that show the time, date, and your activity status. There is also a small fitness icon that you can tap to see your activity summary details.
Swipe down from the top to view your quick settings and then from right to left to see do not disturb/notifications/mute, theater mode, brightness boost, and then dive into the details of all the settings. There are a ton of settings on the watch itself, the same as you find on other Android Wear devices.
From the home screen watch face, swipe from right to left to view the app launcher, your contacts, and then voice actions you can perform.
Notifications and information from Google appear as cards that pop-up on the display. You can view them, dive further into some apps, or dismiss them. While you can answer or disregard a call, these are just reflections of what happens on your phone and you cannot hold a conversation on your M600 as there is no integrated speaker.
If you have an Android device connected to the Polar M600, then you can ignore a call with a default text message. You can reply to text messages with your voice and even initiate text messages through voice actions.
Music is managed through Google Play Music where you choose to sync songs via Bluetooth to the storage on the Polar M600. Give yourself some time to transfer music and make sure your M600 is plugged in while you do this.
In addition to the Polar watch faces that are unique to the M600, you will also find a Polar Android Wear app. Press the bottom button to quickly launch the app or select it from the app launcher. You can scroll up and down to switch between training and My day. The My day option shows you your current activity status and progress of your daily goal.
Tapping on the training option then lets you move up or down to the type of activity you want to perform. These training profiles need to be customized on the Polar Flow website prior to starting a training session. I’ve read reports of some people taking the M600 out of the box and then starting a run without any customization only to find that auto lap was set to a 1 km distance. Take the time to setup your sports profiles as you will have a much better experience seeing the data you want.
One function I love seeing on the Polar M600 that bugs the heck out of me on the Apple Watch and Gear S2 is the small status icons for heart rate and GPS signal that let you confirm all is well prior to your training session.
MOBILE SOFTWARE AND WEBSITE
There are two pieces of software to install on your compatible Android smartphone or iPhone in order to use the Polar M600. The first, essential piece of software is the Android Wear software that manages the connection and settings of your Polar M600. The Android Wear software is the same as seen on all other Android Wear devices, with limitations on apps when connected with an iPhone.
Polar makes it very clear that users who connect the Polar M600 will see a degradation in battery life due to the way that iOS handles syncing and notifications. Polar states you can expect two days of smartwatch usage or eight hours of GPS training with an Android device and one day of smartwatch usage with an iOS connection.
The other piece of software is Polar Flow, which lets you view the activity tracking and GPS data on your phone. It syncs to your M600 and then up to the Polar Flow website. The Polar Flow smartphone app shows a more limited amount of data than what is available on the website, but is the key to syncing your M600 data up to the website.
On an Android smartphone you can connect the Polar Flow app to Google Fit. On an iPhone, you can sync data to MyFitnessPal and Apple Health. Training results and targets can also be synced to your calendar.
The Polar Flow website is an essential piece of the system too since this is where you can go into the sports profile settings to fully customize the various displays that will appear during each of your selected exercises. This is one area where previous attempts at an Android Wear GPS sport watch have failed.
While the excellent Ghostracer software provides the ability to customize running and cycling displays on your Android Wear device, the Polar Flow website takes it even further with custom settings for laps, training reminders, heart rate, speed/pace, training views, and more. You can add multiple displays that you can swipe through as you run. You will not find any other Android Wear device with such a focus on a custom training view experience so if checking this data is important then the Polar M600 is the one for you.
The website is also where you can dive deep into all the data that is captured by the Polar M600, including step data, sleep data, and GPS activity data. You can run reports, view trends, plot your data, export data, add and follow friends, join groups and compete, and much more.
As previously mentioned, there are very few GPS-enabled wearables that provide you with the ability to store and stream music offline. The Moto 360 supports it, but it has a very weak Bluetooth radio that will make you want to smash it in frustration. The Sony SmartWatch 3 is a good option, but it’s an older model with other limitations.
Polar specializes in GPS sports watches so we can look to Garmin, TomTom, Suunto, and others to see how the M600 compares. Garmin provides some basic smartwatch capability with its devices, but there is limited app support and no music playback. TomTom recently announced the Spark3 that provides an excellent sports watch experience with music storage, but has limited smartwatch functionality. TomTom’s Spark 3 is priced well though and is definitely an option to consider.
DAILY USAGE EXPERIENCES AND CONCLUSIONS
The full Polar ecosystem is supported on the M600 so you can customize your training with the Polar Running Program and make sure you achieve success with Polar smart coaching features. The Polar ecosystem blows away anything else found on an Android Wear device, which adds significant value to those looking for a powerful GPS sports watch.
The Polar M600 comes with an integrated heart rate monitor, but some people still prefer the accuracy and fine detail provided with a chest strap. Polar provides the capability to pair and sync a Bluetooth heart rate strap to the Polar M600, including the Polar H6 and H7.
Polar created a solid Android Wear device and when you consider it is also a highly functional GPS sports watch, the $329.95 retail price is very reasonable. You can purchase one in black or white. Polar has done a great job of updating the Polar V800 sports watch so you can expect to see updates for its first Android Wear device as well.