OK so it’s actually been a little over 4 years, but let’s not allow that to spoil some sensationalism. The V800 launched May 2014 and the Vantage V will be available in November 2018. This is being heralded as a huge failure by everyone. Let’s put that in perspective though, reviewers survive through a constant stream of new stuff being launched to feed their need for content. That’s not a good reason to launch a new device every year or two. Customers needing a training device have not received any genuinely helpful advances in over a decade, and one might argue that some core training functionality has gotten worse in that time. Sure, it’s in colour now, but did the addition of colour help your fitness? Did colour help you hit your intervals? Probably not.
I was born in the previous millenium. Further into it than I like to think about if I’m honest. In those days it was a good thing for purchases to last. I still have the CD player I got in 1997, although have since upgraded the amp, which was almost 40 years old when I replaced it. It still made quiet things really, really loud. You know what? That CD player and amp didn’t once get a firmware update that hosed functionality. They didn’t slow down inexplicably after 3 years when a new model arrived (lookin’ at you Apple!). They just work. My Sonos usually works too, although sometimes it doesn’t. Often I can’t control it because the app is initialising – my CD player remote didn’t need to initialise, I press a button and it does its thing. I also didn’t need to give the manufacturer the right to listen and record and and all sound in my house and keep the recordings for any reason they see fit. Why does Sonos want recordings of me swearing about their app?
Polar have, consiously or not, given us a device that they supported for over 4 years. This means that athletes could concentrate on training for 4 years, and spend their money on whatever it is that helps them train. In those 4 years I’ve spent enough with Garmin upgrades to pay for a trip to Club La Santa in the suite with the hot tub. I’m still fat and lazy, the devices aren’t working.
Now to the second point, “they removed a bunch of functionality”. Why yes, yes they did. Good on them. The “total rewrite” of their OS probably wasn’t as hard as is being reported. If you look closely the new OS is exceptionally similar to the old one. They ported a load of code is what they did. Personally I think they removed features to make a point, not because they couldn’t put them in in time. I’m not saying they could compete with Garmin on features, and neither should they. What I’m saying is that they understand how to put navigation into a watch, they’ve done it loads of times. No, launching a watch with just the core training functionality sends a message. That message is to remind the world that the primary, core purpose of this watch is to train with. Polar are really good at training, they have a whole research division working on cracking that nut. Functionality will return, I’m sure. People will complain until it does, probably on my comments pages (and MAN have you all commented a lot on this Polar launch!). In the mean time the Vantage watches might be the best out there for running workouts. Once I get one I’ll try it out, but I feel pretty confident they’ll deliver the features at launch in a solid working device.
And this time, there’s not even a USB port to fall out. #winning.