Polar smartwatches aren’t exactly chic. Like many fitness-first wearable companies, Polar’s strength has always been its in-depth metrics and platform. When it comes to style, Polar usually relies on that plain, sporty aesthetic, as it did with the M400, M600, A300, and the A360 fitness tracker. But today it’s launching a new smartwatch, the Polar Unite, and it doesn’t make my eyes bleed! It’s also $150, which, as far as Polar smartwatches go, is pretty dang affordable.
The Unite has many of the same features Polar introduced with its Ignite smartwatch, which was released last year and targeted toward more casual fitness enthusiasts. It includes all the basics, like smartphone notifications, continuous heart rate-tracking, sleep-tracking, breathing reminders, and multi-day battery life. They’re both also waterproof up to 30 meters. The Unite also includes Polar’s FitSpark on-wrist workouts and the Nightly Recharge metric, which purports to measure how well your body’s autonomic nervous system has recovered after a night’s sleep. As for the display, it looks like the Unite is sticking to the same color touchscreen and thick bottom bezel as the Ignite.
So...what exactly is the difference between the Unite and Ignite? For starters, it appears the Unite opts for connected GPS, meaning it relies on your phone’s GPS to track workouts as opposed to using a built-in GPS sensor. That probably explains why the Unite is $80 cheaper than the $230 Ignite. It’s also slightly lighter, weighing 32 grams to the Ignite’s 35g—a negligible difference, but still lightweight compared to some other smartwatches out there. Battery life is also a smidge shorter. The Unite has an estimated four days of battery life and 50 hours of connected GPS training, where the Ignite had five days. (Though in testing, the Ignite never lasted more than three days for me, so we’ll have to see how the Unite does under real world conditions.)
I’d say, at least from the photos, the Unite is probably the most stylish watch Polar’s ever offered. That’s an extremely low bar, but progress is progress! Where the Ignite was pretty boring, the Unite kind of looks—dare I say—cute. It’s not that Polar has drastically overhauled the Ignite’s look. It’s more that there’s a much better palette of silicone wristbands to choose from. Sure, that doesn’t sound like much, but historically Polar hasn’t really provided options beyond white, black, and a violent shade of orange or red. This time around, you can opt between black, white, pink, and blue as the default strap colors. Polar is also offering mint and blush straps for an additional $23, along with cloth, woven fabric, and leather options.
While I liked the Ignite quite a bit, it had a lot of design quirks for something priced at $230. The touchscreen was laggy, and frankly, syncing Polar watches is a pain. We’ll have to test the Unite to see if Polar’s improved on any of those issues in the past year, or whether this is just blatantly repackaging the Ignite as a cheaper version of itself. It’s probably the latter, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, unacceptable quirks for $230 might be more tolerable at $150. Also, $150 is pretty cheap for a smartwatch—that’s actually getting into fitness band territory. Plus, many of Polar’s watches cost upwards of $300, so this price isn’t too shabby for what you get.
In any case, if you just can’t wait to buy, the Unite is available starting today at Polar’s website. But stay tuned for our full review.