As a very rough rule of thumb, when shopping for wearables, you should prioritize serious physical activity tracking (like Garmin, Coros, Fitbit, etc.) or smartwatch features (Samsung, Google, Mobvoi, etc.). Yes, there is some overlap between the best smartwatches and the best running watches, but running watches lack the intelligence and look of smartwatches, while smartwatches tend to lack the precision and/or detail to appeal to serious runners. .
Polar, a serious player in the world of running watches, may try to bridge this gap with future Wear OS wearables. In an interview with Wareable, Polar CEO Sander Werring told the site that the company is ready to try Google’s smartwatch operating system.
“Yes, it’s an option,” Werring said when asked about the possibility. “It’s really a question about the state of technology. And we see that this technology is now emerging.
“The direction for this type of technology is mainly coming from chipset manufacturers. There is a new technology that allows the CPU to have an additional chipset hub and also helps you use proprietary algorithms to make them work on wearables.”
Polar differs from sports wearable device makers in that it has already tried Google’s smartwatch operating system back in 2016, when it was still called Android Wear. This appeared on a device called the Polar M600, which we concluded was fine as a smartwatch, but “didn’t live up to expectations once you start running.”
How could it be otherwise now? “In those days, we had to do too much hard work because there was no reference to this type of technology in Wear OS,” Werring continued. “That’s the reason we didn’t get it done, and sometimes that happens with innovation; sometimes you’re too early.
Battery life dilemma
More recently, another major brand of running watches tried Wear OS and also failed. We didn’t review the 2020 Suunto 7, but our sister site TechRadar did and found the battery life trade-offs (around 1.5 days) a little hard to swallow in a premium running watch.
Indeed, Wear OS battery life in general seems to be an Achilles’ heel. Google’s own Wear OS reference device, the Pixel Watch, is built with daily charging in mind, while Samsung’s Galaxy Watch shows less endurance after switching from Tizen to Wear OS. On the last watch, the Galaxy Watch worked up to four days – since the transition to the first indicator, it has decreased to one with a little. Even the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, with its massive 590mAh battery, only lasted about three days in our actual tests.
These battery deficiencies can be a handicap for athletes. In particular, marathon runners need to be sure that their GPS watch will cover the distance with them without giving up halfway.
But hardware efficiency can make a big difference. The Qualcomm Snapdragon W5+ platform is reported to consume 50% less power, which can be a big deal, and Werring seems to be keeping that in mind. “It’s an exciting development in terms of power management, as well as a dedication to, say, wrist wearables or small wearables,” he told Wareable.
Serious Wear OS running watches truly promise the best of all worlds and give Android users their own rival with the versatile Apple Watch 8 and Apple Watch Ultra. If Polar really takes this path, and the execution is right, then we could very well see a new addition to our list of the best smartwatches.