UPDATE 5.19.14: See clarification at end of post.
A few years ago, I eavesdropped on a gym trainer’s session with a new client. The client was extremely focused on building muscle and had no plans for cardio exercise. The trainer’s answer was right-on: “The heart,” he said, “is the most important muscle you’ve got. Let’s work on that too.”
I took the advice to heart. (Bad pun intended). So when I exercise, I want to know where my heart rate is at all times, as well as whether or not it’s within my target zone and for how long. With that in mind, I gave the Scosche Rhythm+ ($80) and its iOS app a try. (There’s also an Android app.)
Before you start exercising, you’ll want to configure the app’s settings, to tell it your max and resting heart rates, height, weight, gender and other relevant information. When you’re ready to sweat, you place the Rhythm+ (which comes with two different cloth bands) around your forearm. The device uses Bluetooth 4.0 to sync with the Scosche app, as well as other fitness apps including RunKeeper and MapMyFitness. You simply press and hold down to turn on the device and do the same to stop it. The initial setup between the Scosche app and Rhythm+ device was painless.
In my tests, I also wore an Mio Alpha heart-rate watch and worked out on an elliptical machine with its own heart-rate monitor. The Rhythm+ readings were usually within one or two beats of the other monitors, so you can expect an accurate reading.
The app is easy to use. There’s a huge Start button to get your exercise going. You can also view what’s on your playlist, tap to select the previous or next tunes, and select a Shuffle mode, which is more control over your music than some other exercise apps provide. You can also turn GPS off to save battery life.
The Rhythm+ app displays your device’s remaining battery power, which is helpful, as the Rhythm+ heart rate device has no display of its own (more on that in a second).
The app is a bit unstable, however. It crashed on me a number of times. I appreciate the app’s big Pause and Stop buttons, but on one occasion, after I hit pause to make a stop at an ATM machine, the app didn’t reconnect with the Rhythm+ device. I would have had to start a new exercise session, which I didn’t want to do because I was halfway through my route.
The Rhythm+’s lack of an on-screen display means you have to check the app to see how you’re doing during your exercise session. Though it's also not perfect, I prefer the Mio Alpha heart-rate watch, which displays heart rates throughout my exercise. On the other hand, the Alpha is $200, compared to Rhythm+’s more affordable $80 price tag.
Either way, neither device requires the dreaded chest strap to obtain a heart rate reading. If your budget is tight but you want to start capturing heart-rate data, the Rhythm+ is a good option.
UPDATE: A Scosche spokesperson said the Rhythm mobile app is intended to work with the Rhythm heart-rate monitor but not the Rhythm+. Scosche recommends using Rhythm+ with DigiFit, Runkeeper, MapMyFitness, Strava, or other supported third-party app.