Prior to the BlueHR, my experiences with heart rate monitors were with some rather archaic examples, due partially to the fact that this was in 2004, where Polar was still king of the hill and alternatives were often unreliable.
This little gem is definitely a massive improvement from the uncoded transmitters of old, but it is not without its quirks.
- Runs on Bluetooth Low Energy (super long battery life!)
- Compatible with just about any exercise tracking app
- Immersion resistant up to 2m (tested)
- Easily adjustable strap accommodates just about any girth
Setting up the monitor was far easier than expected, although the ‘setting up your Blue HR’ part of the label in the box did anything but help me set up my Blue HR. Instructions required Internet access, but everybody has Internet access all the time right?
For those inexperienced in Bluetooth Low Energy, the Blue HR is a passive device, and does not need to be turned on in order to transmit. The iPhone Bluetooth menu will not detect it, however. Just turn on your fitness app (and the iPhone’s Bluetooth function, genius), and the setup menus should detect the Blue HR just fine.
That aside, I was rather pleased with the fuss-free operation of the Blue HR. Easy to adjust straps, battery life that could outlast nuclear power stations, immersion resistance, and even an easy to operate clasp system!
As all multisport-oriented athletes are wont to do, I decided to take the Blue HR for a swim off the deep end of a 4m pool, just to see if it worked underwater. Very surprisingly, the Blue HR survived beyond the 5 feet (1.5m) depth rating. Further inspection of the seal showed perfect water tightness. Unfortunately, the signals only worked when my waterproofed phone was about 5cm away from the unit.
Next came the interference test. I have to add that this unit is amazingly robust with regards to signal interference. Running it alongside various 2.4Ghz based devices (4 iPhones with bluetooth connections, 1 Polar HRM with speed and cadence sensors), the Blue HR held up exceedingly well, with no sudden spikes or dips in heart rate readings indicative of erroneous readings. Even the Polar showed occasionally impossible numbers in exceptionally noisy situations.
The main attraction of the Blue HR, however, is the support for exercise apps. At last count, the Blue HR was compatible with a staggering 110 different apps.
The Wahoo Fitness app possesses some idiosyncrasies. For starters, the instructions in the app spoke absolutely nothing about how to pair the Blue HR with your phone. Of course you could always navigate over to the Wahoo Fitness online support documentation through Google. Pairing the HRM to the app was a little frustrating, as it takes a rather long time to detect the Blue HR, leaving you wondering if something is spoilt. Pairing it with my app of choice (Endomondo), however, was a breeze. Instant detection!
The GPS tracking function can be rather amusing and annoying at the same time, displaying a 4min/Km speed despite the phone moving at a far slower pace. Comparing this to Endomondo and a Garmin Forerunner 910XT proved it to be an error in how Wahoo Fitness samples GPS data. On the upside, using it while cycling did give me some bragging rights with a top speed of 739.11km/h.
There are few other trackers out there as powerful or stable as the Wahoo Fitness. It reads signals from any ANT+ sensor (with a dongle), and has 12 discrete options for data output to your favourite tracking method, including generic .csv files should you feel retro and use spreadsheets to track your progress. On top of that, it even indicates individual zones of exercise according to presets.
In use, I found the need to hold on to my phone rather disruptive to my running. But then again, I’m a minimalist and would run buck naked if it wasn’t illegal. I barely tolerated 800 metres before I went home for a quick fix: duct tape. It wasn’t pretty, but I have to say it was a very effective solution. Somehow I still found the heft of my phone on my arm very disconcerting, and if I had to use an HRM I would still reach for a wristwatch unit any day.
Unfortunately, the excellent Blue HR is currently compatible only with the iPhone 4s, 5 and iPad 3 (why would anybody go running with an iPad?). With any luck we should be seeing Android phones with Bluetooth smart technology in the near future, and of course, compatibility with this excellent product.
- Simple setup
- Extremely comfortable
- Compatibility with a huge number of apps
- Excellent heart rate data smoothing and accuracy
- No need to change battery every 20 minutes
- Only works with the iPhone 4s
- Setup instructions only available online
Where to find them?
The Wahoo Blue HR Heart Rate Strap is available at Axtro Sports (Peninsula Shopping Centre) or order online at www.axtrosports.com.