Polar Enters Android Wear Race with M600 Fitness Watch

Until now, fitness-focused smartwatches have come from companies whose legacies were from the smartwatch side of things; the new Polar M600, an Android Wear watch with GPS and an optical heart rate monitor, represents a new angle for the sports-centric gear maker. Available this fall for $329, will this device appeal to tech-minded runners?

Polar M600: Hands-on

The M600 has a 1.3-inch color touchscreen, but also has physical buttons for starting and stopping activities—a crucial feature, as many touchscreens are difficult to use when wet. Its touchscreen—240 x 240 pixels—is lower than the Moto 360 Sport's 360 x 325 display. The M600 is IPX8 rated, so you can wear it while swimming, which you can't with Moto's device.

Thanks to the watch's 4GB of storage, users can load music onto the M600 via Google Play and listen to it without their smartphone. This is a pretty key feature for those who like to run with tunes, and one that's only available on the Samsung Gear Fit 2, the TomTom Spark Cardio + Music, and the Moto 360 Sport.

MORE: The Best GPS Watches for Sports and Athletics

In addition to Android Wear apps, the M600 also supports Polar's Smart Coaching and Running programs, which provide training plans for 5K, 10K, half-marathons and full marathons, customized to the wearer's fitness level and progress.

However, the M600 is much bulkier than competing smartwatches, and its sporty design won't really fit in with evening wear. Still, as it's targeted at fitness buffs, they might not mind the look.

One potential issue with the M600 is that its battery life is closer to an Android Wear device than a GPS running watch. Rated at 48 hours when used as an Android watch, it drops to 8.5 hours with GPS. That's not horrible—double that of the Moto 360 Sport—but it's about three hours less than our favorite GPS running watch, the Garmin Forerunner 235.

The M600 will be initially available in black or white, with a red wristband to come sometime after.

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