I was kind of intrigued when I was offered a chance to test the new Jabra Sport Pulse in-ear heart rate monitoring system. I wondered how well a heart rate monitor would work when placed in the ear rather than worn around the chest on a strap. And I wondered whether this would be a handy device to offer to runners that want to try a heart rate monitor integrated into their earphones. After about six weeks of use, I can say now that there are pluses and minuses to using a system like this. Let’s delve into this today.As the name implies, the Jabra Sport Pulse is designed first and foremost to offer heart-rate monitoring. It is also a set of wireless Bluetooth earphones that can be used for listening to music. The product includes software applications for both Apple and Android to operate both of these functions with your Smartphone (more on this later). The head-phones act just like any other Bluetooth device in that you pair them with your phone and then can easily reconnect them by turning them on when you want to use them. Overall, set-up was a snap and very intuitive. Literally the only thing I couldn’t figure out in the first few days was how to turn them off after use. (I found out later that you hold down the center multi-function button until they power down.)
Once up paired with your phone, the Jabra Sport Pulse software app will launch when you connect to your phone. The interface is very intuitive. You can track running, cycling, walking, hiking and several other sports. The app prompts you in (in my opinion) a sultry female voice with a British accent, which I found charming at first and then later found sort of annoying. She pops in pretty often to tell you how far you’ve run and how fast, although it occurs to me that she never actually gives you your heart rate. Heart rate information is displayed on handy graphs showing the amount of work in different heart rate zones and all of your workouts are stored in the app for later reference. There is also a piece of software called Jabra Sound that acts as a music player should you need one. I found that the earphones worked just fine for streaming music from Pandora and listening to MP3s from my Amazon Music player.
Now let’s get down to the pros and cons of using this solution. First among the cons is that this is an in-ear solution, which means that it wouldn’t be allowed in many events such as triathlons where headphones are against the rules of competition. A second problem with the in-ear solution is when training in a group setting, you’ll have something in your ears. Just like any other headphone, people may avoid talking to you or you may have trouble hearing them when they do. When I used these headphones in my spin class environment I found myself pulling them out to talk to people, even when I wasn’t listening to music. You do still hear a fair amount of ambient sound with them inserted in the ear, but it’s hard to hear people talking in loud exercise-equipment rich environments just the same.
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