Rhythm Plus Armband Heart Rate Monitor REVIEW Ditch the Chest Strap
I really want to love exercising but that love is not strong enough to make me actually go to the gym. I am happy to play some intramural sports, to go on a hike with our Cub Scouts, to play a friendly game of softball or to run around/ride bikes with my children. These types of activities are fun, pose no difficulty for me and are not monotonous. However, running, lifting weights, and essentially anything inside a fitness center, provides no reward. Akin to Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi my body says “No Dopamine for you.” I suffer the same disease as many Americans who purchase gym memberships and hope that the monthly fee alone will reduce blood pressure, decrease cholesterol, improve my heart function, all to stave off heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes. Despite my irrational gym dread, I still use the Lose It App to monitor my caloric intake and I use my Apple Watch heart rate sensor/pedometer to monitor and guestimate my caloric expenditure. You can use an equation like the Harris-Benedict Equation to roughly calculate a basal energy expenditure and combine that with a heart rate goal to either maintain a set weight or to lose weight.
The Scosche Rhythm+ Armband arrived in a quaint 3 1/2 inches wide by 5 3/8 inches tall by 2 3/16 inches thick retail package. Each panel of the thin plastic outer shell was coated by a flat white opaque paint, except for a small outer translucent border. This feature seemed to frame each of the panels and allowed each of the sides/corners to provide a tiny glimpse into the armband. The grayscale 3 1/4 inches tall by 2 1/4 wide Scosche armband was clearly visible atop the cover, thanks to the stark contrast of the flat white panel. Across the top of the cover, Scosche clearly listed the device name “Rhythm+ Armband Heart Rate Monitor” and across the bottom their logo and company name. Just to the side of the heart rate panel, you will find a grey heart with an EKG tracing in the negative space. The left panel of the packaging provided six icons and corresponding descriptions: Performtex precision sensor technology measures real-time Heart rate data more accurately than a chest strap, comfortable armband eliminates the need for chest strap. works up to 100 feet away from your smartphone, 8-hour rechargeable battery, IP67 sweat/waterproof construction, while allowing you to have a more effective/caloric intense workout. The opposite side panel provided a 3 11/16 inches tall by 2 3/16 inches wide window, which allowed me to directly see the device. I prefer this form of product advertisement, as images tend to provide a limited benefit.
If you look at the bottom panel, you will find the usual product labels, a tech support number, a designed/engineered in America logo, a recyclable packaging logo, and a list of the objects inside of the packaging. Unfortunately, this panel proved to be rather busy. Except for a colorful splash of red/white/blue on the Old Glory, the bottom panel used the same greyscale color scheme. When I examined the back panel, I was rather pleased to find a good amount of color. Toward your top left, the company provided a photo quality image of a young fit female, actively landing a box jump. Directly to the side of that image, I found a quality image of a fit young male running up a flight of stairs. Beneath the images, I found four icons detailing “watches, fitness equipment, smartphones, Bluetooth ANT+.” The band is supposed to work with over 200 apps and lists a few of them on the packaging (Heart Zones, Inc, Fitness, iCardio, MapMyFitness, Runtastic, Running, Strava). Within the packaging, I found a small 10 1/4 inches long by 1 1/8 inches wide strap, a 15 inches long by 1/18 inches wide large strap, a multi-lingual instruction manual and a USB A powered charging cable with a 43 1/2 inches long cable.
To get started, I placed the Rhythm+ Armband onto the charging base. Remove the sticker covering the heart rate sensor, align the heart rate sensor cutout and the charging terminals with the base and then click the armband into the charger. Once connected, I plugged the USB-A prong into my MacBook Pro USB port. If needed, you can use a USB wall charger as well. After about two hours, the red flashing LED turned solid blue and then the LED extinguished completely. To install the strap, start with the Velcro side up and slip it into the slot on the sensor. Loop the band through and attach the Velcro points. Repeat the process for the other side and tighten the sensor down. The Velcro was very secure and did not loosen. I was impressed with the materials that Scosche chose for these straps. The section of strap that abutted my arm was lined by an incredibly comfortable, soft, felt material. On the contralateral side, I found a fine loop section of Velcro. Underneath both of the flaps, you will find a 7/8 inch square hook section of velcro, which affixed securely to the loop section. Slide your arm into the band and position it on the inside upper portion of the forearm. The instruction manual was quite useful and recommended to wear the strap tight but not so tight that it causes circulation restriction. Once in place, hold the “S” icon for 2 seconds and notice that the LED flashes/alternates between Red/Blue. I navigated to Settings, then Bluetooth and then selected Rhtyhm+1068618 from the list. The red/blue flashing stopped and was replaced with a blue flashing LED.
The utility of the device was enhanced through application integration. To get a full list of compatible apps and devices, the instruction manual suggested that I navigate to www.scosche.com/rhythm-plus. The website stated that the armband would work with iPhone 4S through 6S plus but does not list any of the newer models. It also lists Samsung Galaxy S4, S5, S6/S6 Edge, iPad 4th generation, mini (all) and iPad third generation and iPod touch gen 5. Finding compatible apps was not as easy as the instruction manual detailed. I was excited when I read that the Scosche sensor would work with the Apple Health kit. Once connected to my iPhone X, heart rate data was simply collected. I did not find a way to add/change the sensor source. After searching data about HealthKit, I found that the Bluetooth Connection added “iPhone” to the list of devices and not the heart rate sensor specifically. The real-time heart rate data was incredibly accurate. In fact, I borrowed a pulse oximeter and compared the heart rate information that my phone received with my Apple Watch, the Pulse Oximeter, and the Scosche device. The data proved to be very congruent. I tested the device further with Strava and with Heart Graph apps but quickly realized that premium features were required. I tried the Elite HRV (heart rate variability) App and found quick beat-to-beat monitoring, but the device was not capable of heart rate variability as it smoothed out the data and did not work with that App. If you are trying to keep your heart in the fat burning zone, first calculate your max heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. You can then calculate 60–70% of this maximum and use the Scosche monitor to maintain your heart rate in that zone.
I did not have any problems with the strap and found the larger strap to fit comfortably around my forearm and my bicep. Many of the reviews that I read commented about issues with arm intensive workouts. Without a gym and weight system, I could not replicate those issues specifically. I can attest that the strap remained affixed to my arm with running, jumping jacks, push ups, pull ups. and with every other activity that I attempted. I tested the device at rest and did get my heart rate up to 110–120 beats per minute and found that the device was able to track the rate. I did not have any equipment to specifically test the ANT+ feature.
Originally published at macsources.com on August 31, 2018.