I have always imagined a “smartwatch” to be a watch which functioned as a watch and also helped you do tasks that would otherwise require you to interact with your phone or computer.
The Polar Vantage V shattered that concept into pieces. I struggled with calling it a “smartwatch” because while it is a very smart watch, it did not fit into my preconceived ideas of a smartwatch.
The Apple Watch Series 5 is the opposite. It fell into my traditional definition of a “smartwatch,” and it was excellent at it. It was well ahead of most Wear OS watches and was neck-and-neck with Samsung watches at helping you with tasks.
But after reviewing the Vantage V, I soon realized that the Vantage V’s target audience is a bit more specialized and niche than the Apple Watch Series 5’s.
Sports and workout
The Vantage V’s appeal comes from its exercise functions. It’s not interested in helping you setup your calendar. It’s not interested in helping you in replying to messages. But it can help you become a better athlete and live a healthier life.
Hardware and integrated functions
Both the Apple Watch and the Vantage V have similar hardware including an integrated GPS, water resistance and a good heart rate sensor that reliably gives you a heart rate reading. You can also take both watches into the swimming pool to track your swimming workouts.
The Vantage V has a poorer touch screen. It sometimes does not respond to input. Luckily, it’s not the primary form of interacting with the watch. The watch comes with five for you to interact with the watch and you can do everything with just those buttons.
Whereas the Apple Watch’s screen is excellent and responds well to taps and swipes. It also has a crown and two buttons (one in the crown) which makes it much easier to understand what the buttons do. The Vantage V takes a while to figure out.
Motivation to exercise
The Vantage V has some really useful functions that help you gauge your fitness level and push you towards a new level of fitness.
The Cardio Load app does this particularly well by telling you if you are making progress, maintaining or detraining based on the amount of strain and tolerance you have. It’s very motivating when you see that you’re progressing and even more motivating when you see that you’re going to “detrain.”
The Vantage V comes with FitSpark, which gives you custom workouts based on what it has learned about you in terms of fitness, training history, recovery and readiness. These workouts are split into cardio, strength and supportive categories. Cardio tries to work your heart at a specified zone, strength involves doing bodyweight or circuit exercises while supportive gets you doing strength and mobility exercises.
Runners will especially love the Vantage because it can help you develop a training plan with a goal to run a race. It also has an algorithm which calculates the amount of power you are outputting during a run and has a nice feature which tells you your VO2Max so you can know if you are getting fitter and stronger.
Apple also has a suite of great workout and fitness helpers. One of the most beautiful watch faces features “rings.” They encourage you to move, exercise and stand. When you fulfill these, you get a notification that pats you on the back, and it all goes back to zero at 12 am daily.
Furthermore, the Workout app on the Apple Watch tracks almost 60 workouts from the typical running, swimming and cycling to Tai Chi. The Workout app also gives you badges to encourage you to achieve various goals, and you can also compete against friends who have an iPhone and an Apple Watch.
Both watches are very good at helping you become fitter and healthier. Being the specialist in this area, the Polar Vantage V wins for its excellent features that the Apple Watch does not provide.
Winner: Polar Vantage V
Only the Polar Vantage V has sleep quality tracking natively. When you sleep, the app will note when you went to bed and when you woke up, and also measure the sleep stages you are in. The watch will also grade your sleep quality in relation to how much strain you’ve done the previous day in the Nightly Recharge screen.
The Apple Watch does not come with such features and you will have to download a third-party app to do this.
The jack-of-all-trades Apple Watch beats the master-of-one Polar Vantage V hands down in this aspect.
The Apple Watch wins this one hands down. Mostly because the Polar Vantage V does not have a voice assistant.
With Siri, the Apple Watch provides reliable assistance with tasks such as scheduling appointments, sending messages and navigation.
Winner: Apple Watch Series 5
Calls, messages, e-mail
You can’t call, reply to a message but you can receive notifications on the Polar Vantage V. The Vantage doesn’t even have a microphone let alone a speaker (it has a buzzer).
The Apple Watch has both a microphone and a speaker which means you can receive calls and make phone calls on your wrist. On the Vantage, you can accept or decline calls but you will have to answer them on your phone.
Regarding messages and e-mail, the Vantage V will receive notifications of the messages and emails you receive and will let you read a snippet but won’t allow you to do more than that.
The Apple Watch is the complete opposite. It comes with an email and messaging app that integrates seamlessly into your iPhone. You can compose new messages and emails, reply to them and manage them all on your wrist.
You can input text using three options including using a canned response, a speech-to-text interpreter or Scribble, which translates drawn letters into text. The speech-to-text option is the best among them and it’s the one I prefer.
Winner: Apple Watch Series 5
You can’t install any third-party apps on the Vantage V, but Polar has added an app since its last update — the Serene app which helps you do breathing exercises.
In contrast, the Apple Watch has many apps that you can choose from and also has some really innovative apps. These include a compass and a noise meter that are preloaded. If you do not see what you want, such as a sleep tracker, you will most likely be able to find an app in the App Store that supplements the preloaded apps.
The battery life of the Polar Vantage V is superior because it requires a charge once or twice a week. The Apple Watch requires a charge daily in order to be sure you can make it through the following day.
Winner: Polar Vantage V
These two watches are excellent in their respective domains. For most folks, a general-purpose watch like the Apple Watch is advisable because it can do so much more than the Polar Vantage V. There is some overlap on the workout functionality between the two watches but the Vantage V does it a lot better.
That said, if you are seeking a watch to improve your health and make you more competitive, then the Polar Vantage V is what you need.