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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Polar AXN700 is the coolest wrist wearable.

Lores_axn700I have been an enthusiast for wearables for several years. It is an area of electronics I see lots of potential for, but it is still early days.  People are accustomed to wear stuff on the wrist. Secondly acessing information on the wrist is easy. I am referring to the so called ‘glancing-paradigm’ of tasks, like ‘what time is it’. There is a whole plethora of task that fit into this paradigm.

The coolest wrist wearable at the moment is the Polar AXN700 (read more) because it combines great design with state of the art functionality.

I am specifically impressed with the elliptical display, with its lightly rounded mineral glass, protected by a rugged titanium casing with very slick, but aggressive looking buttons. I like how the Titanium wrist band morphs into a rubber giving the wearer flexibility and shock absorsion. The high general profile of the housing. Its weight is valuable and finally the logo is small enough. I am not the only one liking it, its sister, the AXN500 won an IF Design award, which is a recognised international design competition.

I was really shocked looking at the packaging, the manual, the web pages, and nowhere is Polar screaming how great the design is! Shame on you – be bold, you are great!


I have been using Suunto’s wearables since they were introduced, lately the M9, their sailing wearable with GPS and the X9 their outdoor wearable with GPS.  Why did I decide to replace them with the AXN700? It is an iconic product, just like the first generation of the Suunto wearbles were four years ago. I got lots more spontaneous comments about the first generation of Suunto than the second; eventhough the technical sophistication was much greater in the second. I guess Amer, their parent company, management agreed, In the winter they fired their CEO and their marketing director got frustrated, I know her well and she would not have left if it wasn’t for the CEO. I am actively following Suunto and waiting for a comeback. I hope a more realistic one with much better design. They are looking for a CEO and a marketing director at the moment.

To me this proves something we know so well from the phone business, people buy form not function. Even I do it and most of my work life has revolved around functionality.

Those of you who never heard about Polar it is a small innovative Finnish company founded in the
Oulu close to the Arctic Circle. The company has made themselves world famous for their accurate wireless heart rate monitors, preferred by top sportsmen around the world, like Lance Armstrong (at least the rumour had it that he is a user, though he has some other sponsor…) The Polar brand is in the sport circles a synonym with quality. A kind of Dolby or Bose. Their sensors are the most sophisticated. Polar has an extremely wide range of utility instruments, but it is only recently that they have started to climb into the Premium Tech segments where form plays greater role than the function. They are entering into some agreements with Adidas…

My view is that the only way to break into bigger segments from the hearth rate monitors is to do it through form, it cannot be done through function. Suunto have tried and failed miserably, by going after every sport known to man. It is crucial to remember that there is a 2% global segment of trendsetters who buy the latest stuff and if the gadget is cool and delivers, a very lucrative 10% follow these. I guess the iPod is just entering into that very lucrative 10%. With form, brand, fine materials and brilliant marketing the sky is the limit in the watch business and that is when watches seize being watches and become jewellery.  The Polar is not jewellery, but it is a statement, a statement of the latest technology, and a very good one.

I deliberately did not want to write too much on the functionality, as it has lots, just check the feaure list.

Their UI paradigm is a rather straight forward paradigm. Up and Down scroll main menu and sub level menus. Start does selection and is placed between up and down. Stop is placed opposite below and will act as a back step. Lights on is opposite top. The top segment of the screen is a matrix display enabling them to display two lines of text, the heading and below current menu you are in. You enter the selected menu with start, scroll other mennues on same level with up and down and back step with the Stop. It is consitent and a good paradigm. 

Where improvement is needed is in the glansing area. I need to be able to glance what is the time zone 2. When my next alarm is, when my next reminder is.

I like having three alarms, when I sail I use one to remind my to listen to the weather at 7PM and one to lower the flag at 9PM and one for waking up. I like the snooze. Here I would improve it so that multiple presses on the snooze adds increment of 10 minutes. I designed that in some early phones, and I loved it, there are lots of people who like to snooze. One could add how much more Snooze time you have after the word Snooze. Generally design more functionality for ordinary life, even the most active hickers do other things more than hike.

Some cool fatures I want to highlight is the ability to download an icon into the display. The compatibility to the Nokia 5140, I really enjoyed taking the fitness test, it felt very scientific and yes, I need more excersise…The fact that they have an API for the data produced by the watch, I looked at the licensing model, it was a joke. Just give it out for free you will never make any money on it anyway, it is more important getting someone innovation on your platform.


11:25 PM in Technology | Permalink


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