Sports watches from Fitbit and Polar put to the test


All manufacturers are currently benefiting from the rapidly growing market for smart wristwatches and sports watches. Apple is the undisputed market leader and, according to analyst estimates, has sold a total of 100 million units of its Apple Watch so far. Huawei, Samsung and Garmin will follow. But there are also losers with shrinking market share, and first and foremost, Google-owned Fitbit. The former pioneer has to reposition itself in the market, and this also applies to the Finnish manufacturer Polar, which set standards with its sports watches in the past and then went through a long phase of stagnation.

Ultimately, there is only one thing left for manufacturers in this segment: find a way out of the crisis with innovation and fresh ideas. We tried two new releases from Fitbit and Polar, with which the two companies want to win the favor of customers interested in sports again.

The Fitbit Sense is not immediately recognizable as a sports watch because it looks extremely compact with a diagonal of only 40.5 millimeters and a height of 12.3 millimeters. With an aluminum housing, it weighs 45 grams, it is water-resistant to 50 meters and is operated with the touchscreen and a button integrated into the left edge of the housing, which can be typed either simply or twice.

The Fitbit Sense is not immediately recognizable as a sports watch.

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In the test

Sports watches from Fitbit and Polar

The scythe has an excellent display and uses the high-contrast Amoled technology with rich colors. If desired, the display can be “always on”, always switched on, albeit in a reduced representation. The display has a lush 336 x 336 pixels and is convincing. The included plastic strap is optically based on the similar-looking sports bracelets on the Apple Watch, but it is very difficult to put on. Fitbit by no means uses the watch operating system called Wear OS from the parent company, but its own, proprietary, which seems a little weak. The watch does not always react promptly to swiping movements with the finger.

Fitbit designed the Sense as a health watch, it is not aimed at the professional athlete, but at those who want to record their activities, but are primarily interested in fitness and health data. 20 trainings are on board, many are recognized automatically at the start, GPS and altimeter are also built in.

Heart rate too high or too low

The specialty, however, is the EKG measurement, which, like the Apple Watch, creates a single-channel EKG that is suitable for diagnosing dangerous atrial fibrillation. However, the curve is only visible when you export it as a PDF. Like the Apple Watch, the Sense also sounds an alarm if the heart rate is too high or too low, it continuously measures the resting heart rate and heart rate. The fitness indicator VO2max and oxygen saturation can also be determined.

The skin temperature is then measured at night during sleep, and a new feature is the detection of “electrodermal activity”, which measures skin conductivity. These features leave you a little perplexed because the results aren’t what you can do with. Although the Sense is rather cheap at 330 euros, many fitness and health functions can only be used with a subscription for 9 euros a month. We dare to doubt whether this business idea will work. After all, you can try out for six months free of charge to see whether the analytics included in the purchase price of other watches is worth this price.

Now comes her successor

Anyone who recorded their training with the first sports watches in the 1980s or 1990s most likely had a Polar on their arm. The company relied on a fresh start in 2018 and brought its Vantage sports watch, which, with its fresh design, modernized the company’s range of products, which had been a bit outdated up until then. Now comes its successor, the Vantage V2, which we wore for a while.

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