“All or nothing” play from Polar

During the last 3-4 days I tried to keep the Polar Vantage V2 connected with my iPhone and this experience reminded me one of the important things Polar needs to change (from my point of view) to keep or increase the number of customers (similar to me).

Important note:

I’m using an iPhone as my mobile device and the below statements come from my frustration as an iOS user getting all or nothing from the Polar implementation of notifications. I’m aware that on Android things are more granular and you can define the notification policy, but unfortunately that’s not the case for iOS users and I’m tempted to say they might be a consistent share of iOS users in Polar’s user base.

(My) Objective:

To have the possibility to decide if I want to get notifications regarding calls on my watch, during day and/or during workouts. I’m not interested in any other notification being sent on my watch, if I’m that curious about something I’ll pull my phone out and see that for myself. In an ideal world, you could define the apps you (still) want notifications from (kind of like what is happening on Android but more intuitive), but we are not in an ideal world, so I could live well with just call notifications and nothing else.

What happens in reality…Polar allows you to enable phone notifications (on Flow mobile or the watch) for Vantage V2, but it’s just a on/off switch, with no subtleties like with the Music Controls (Always on, Training on, Training off).

Polar simple ON/OFF switch for phone notifications

I know that Polar takes pride in the fact that they are producing sport watches and not smart watches and they made this statement very clear with their decisions in the recent watch implementations (starting with Vantage series, Grit X for example) – the athlete shouldn’t be distracted by the various notifications coming from his phone. And that’s true to some extent, I mean .. I don’t want to see the full list of notifications (or feel the vibration) from my phone, I barely stand to have some on my iPhone, so I wouldn’t mind not having them on my watch except calls which I consider important (at least it should be my decision if I want them during the workouts or not). I’ve seen countless people complaining about the fact that this complete lack of notifications is making them nervous, if they could expect important call during the workouts. You may argue that I could take the phone with me and have it notify me when I get a call – but I usually have it on silent mode because I don’t like to be disturbed when I’m in the office so a more discrete notification for the calls is much better than the phone ringing.

Polar listened (somehow) and for the new Pacer Pro they allow notifications during the workout as well – more details (and a video) are available here.

But Polar’s approach was (at least for iOS devices) all or nothing – either you have all notifications (including some which I don’t see on my screen on my phone) and calls or you have nothing – I mean, nothing – not even calls.

Add to that the fact that the Polar watch OS doesn’t support unicode, some characters from Romanian language are not displayed at all, making the notifications look weird.

Missing romanian chars from “La mulți ani frumoși!”

I’m not asking for a complete localisation, I enjoy having the device languane as English, but with the notifications the story is different.

Luckily, we have support for emoji…but I can’t see my text…yuhuuu!

Good support for emoji .. not that important for me. but might be for others
Clear all – the most used action for me, when the notifications are ON

The implementation of the notifications is also suboptimal, you get a lot of vibrations on your watch, even if some events are well in the past but just because the watch synced with the phone after a connection glitch, you get all the buzzes for all notifications the watch consider “new”. I don’t know how the watch manages the listing of all notifications – for large numbers, I don’t expect this to work well with the limited memory of the device or how you would navigate through them. This is in my view opposed to the approach Polar had like “live the present” – I don’t need to see all the instant messages from this morning on my watch, I won’t scroll through them .. I’ll go as fast as I can to “Clear all” which kind of defeats the purpose of having them stored on my watch for more than several seconds. I understand that those are product management decisions but the UX is far from great and Polar maybe should use the approach others had in this space – Garmin and Wahoo, their implementation is more usable for the iOS users.

With this situation, using the notifications on my Vantage V2 is a pain and one deterrent from using the watch more often when I have the Garmin choice [Garmin isn’t perfect either, but at least in the notifications area is doing what I need].

Is that all? Maybe not, there are some other improvements Polar could make, but the quality of life would be definitely improved by adjusting the notifications implementation – I’m not asking for a smart watch by any means, but something that isn’t so much rigid – “all or nothing”.

I hope that the steps Polar took to add the notifications during workout with Pacer Pro will continue with bringing the more flexible approach to the iOS users for the wider list of watches (could that be something for Vantage V3?).

With that, enjoy your running and be well!

Author: Liviu Nastasa

Passionate about software development, sociology, running...definitely a geek.

One thought

  1. The thing that bothers me the most about Polar’s approach is the fact that my iOS notifications are delayed and sometimes get duplicated or I never see them at all. It’s completely random. Recently, I purchased a Suunto 9 Peak for evaluation in light of all the recent improvements made in software since launch. While it is all-or-nothing, as well. It at least has consistently given timely notifications in sync with my iPhone.

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