Polar have always been an innovator in the sports tech market, and this year along with several other manufacturers took the next step in making a complete monitoring system for an individual, with the launch of the Polar Balance Scale. Let’s take a look and see what Polar have brought to the table
Polar Balance Scale Review
On of the problems with producing what is essentially just a flash set of bathroom scales, is who is already on the market.
The Withings Smart Analyser has things sewn up from the perspective of measuring and monitoring what matters. Garmin took the kitchen sink approach with their Index Scale, adding in just about every metric they could think of, regardless of how useful that might be.
So what have Polar done? They seem to have gone to opposite direction, and gone back to basics. It’s a scale, that measures your weight, and sends it to the cloud via Bluetooth… That doesn’t sound very flash, does it? Where are the bells, the whistles? Why did they decide not to include a fancy gizmo to measure my O2 sats while standing on the scale…? Because for many people those things don’t matter!
So first and foremost, if you are a Polar user generally, then the Polar Balance scales integrate beautifully into the Polar ecosystem. BUT if you are relative agnostic in your approach to gadgets as many people, especially the less tech minded, then the Polar Balance works well as a stand-alone device for weight tracking due to the software. But before we get too deeply into the software side of things. Let’s take a look at the Polar Balance unit itself.
Polar Balance Design
The Polar Balance is available in white or black and is exceptionally simply packaged
You lift the scales out of the box, remove the plastic tape from the batteries, and it’s ready to go – well as a pair of scales anyway.
The Bluetooth takes a little more setting up, but we’ll look at that in a moment.
Polar have taken the concept of scales for weightless to a ridiculous conclusion. The scales as some of the thinnest I’ve seen. Yes there are not some of the flashier features of the other scales, but the Polar Balance is still a perfect example of minimalist engineering
I think this is best seen compared to the Withings Smart Scale, which takes up an every so slightly larger surface area.
But it is only when you look at the side, you can see what a feather weight the Polar Balance is
All four corners have pressure sensitive feet to allow the unit to actually do it’s thing, and you know, weigh you!
The black box at the top of the scales contains all the actual weighing and Bluetooth communication gubbins. It’s also here you have the sole button to change the scales units, from kilogrammes (sensible) to pounds (old school ?)
All in all a simple set of cleanly designed scales.
Using Polar Balance Scales
Ok, a simple set of scales, and so a simple communication system. As the Polar Balance works through Bluetooth, the pairing is much simpler, either through the Polar Flow App itself, or a Polar device
The scales can be paired with SEVEN difference devices or seven people with one device each.
In order to be able to connect the Polar Balance to a device, you do need to step on it first, to wake it up. Once the unit has determined your weight, a little Bluetooth logo appears on the screen saying that the unit is broadcasting.
Very much like your HR monitor, there is no advanced setup from the device. It broadcasts, and you merely search for the transmission.
This does however potentially put a slightly delay into the cloud upload, as your weight will only be transmitted there the next time your device syncs. If you connected to the scales from the app, that wouldn’t be an issue though.
The minor downside to this is that unlike a pair of wifi scales, you need to have either your phone or a Polar device with you when you are weighed. It can’t store/transmit the data to the cloud on its own. Conversely though, unlike the Withings scales, which need their batteries changing every few months, the Polar Balance will happily keep chugging on three AAA’s for a year without issue.
Even though the scales are Bluetooth, a universal stand point after all. They broadcast on the Bluetooth scale protocol, which should mean that any app/device which has the ability to connect to receive weight information over Bluetooth should be able to connect to it. Buuuuut currently other app makers have not utilised this yet, most seeming to be happy to take the data from the cloud – for example, Apple HealthKit and MyFitnessPal, will both receive the data from the Balance, but only after it is uploaded to Polar Flow
This is where the magic is – when you log onto Polar.com and enter the Flow part of the website your weight information is held within the Balance section of the site. It is here that Polar automatically analyses your activity, calorie intake if you include it, and your weight in order to give you personalised targets for a day in order to try to hit a weight goal you have determined
The BMJ did a brilliant article last year, where the title says it all: You Can’t Outrun a Bad Diet. Polar acknowledge this in the way. Polar flow works.
So here I have put in a weight target to lose 1kg over four weeks initially. Polar then, order to hit my weight target, suggest I need to have a calorie deficit of 250. Which can be achieved by eating less, and increasing exercise.
As your weight changes so does the feedback
Polar gives various examples of different food types and reductions in portions which are recommendations tailored to your goal
With this you also have your actual weight measurements, in orange, compared to the target trajectory in blue, and your activity in blue bars, allowing you to get that additional information if you need
I still hold that fat mass measurements are VITAL to understanding your weight, and the effectiveness of your diet, let alone your training plan. BUT some people just don’t want to have to deal with that data. I understand that not everyone is a data nerd. The Polar Balance lets you easily measure, record and monitor your weight over time.
The batteries will last forever and a day, well at least a year. So the amount of interaction needed with the unit is minimal. But the best part of the Polar Balance, as with any Polar product is the software. It is deliciously supportive, with the training plans, personalised goals and feedback information. It is the integration with the Polar Flow software that you are really paying for the with Polar Balance, and I do think it’s worth it.
Overall I personally want more from my smart scale, BUT if you are wanting to try and look after yourself and having software guide and help you with it, the Polar Balance and Flow software work brilliantly together. Helping to make your life easier to monitor your weight, without all the faff of setting up an advanced set of scales, and understanding what all of the additional metrics mean. The skill is that Polar have avoided the pitfalls of some of the less user-friendly fitness apps out there, and created a simple and very visual way of tracking your weight, but also suggesting ways to achieve your target.