Concurrent validity of resting pulse-rate measurements: a comparison of 2 smartphone applications, the polar H7 belt monitor, and a pulse oximeter with bluetooth

J Sport Rehabil. 2015 May;24(2):171-8. doi: 10.1123/jsr.2013-0145. Epub 2014 Apr 3.


Context: Pulse rate is commonly measured manually or with commercial wrist or belt monitors. More recently, pulse-rate monitoring has become convenient with the use of mobile technology that allows monitoring through a smartphone camera. This optical technology offers many benefits, although the clinimetric properties have not been extensively studied.

Design: Observational study of reliability Setting: University kinesiology laboratory.

Participants: 30 healthy, recreationally active adults.

Intervention: Concurrent measurement of pulse rate using 2 smartphone applications (fingertip, face-scan,) with the Polar H7 belt and pulse oximeter.

Main outcome measure: Average resting pulse rate for 5 min in 3 positions (supine, sitting, and prone).

Results: Concurrent validity in supine and standing was good between the 2 applications and the Polar H7 (intraclass correlation coefficient [ICC] .80-.98) and pulse oximeter (ICC .82-.98). For sitting, the validity was good between the fingertip application, Polar H7 (ICC .97), and pulse oximeter (ICC .97). The face-scan application had moderate validity with the Polar H7 (ICC .74) and pulse oximeter (ICC .69). The minimal detectable change (MDC90) between the fingertip application and Polar H7 ranged from 1.38 to 4.36 beats/min (BPM) and from 0.69 to 2.97 BPM for the pulse oximeter with both positions. The MDC90 between the face-scan application and Polar H7 ranged from 11.88 to 12.83 BPM and from 0.59 to 17.72 BPM for the pulse oximeter. The 95% limits of agreement suggest that the fingertip application may vary between 2.40 and 3.59 BPM with the Polar H7 and between 3.40 and 3.42 BPM with the pulse oximeter. The face-scan application may vary between 3.46 and 3.52 BPM with the Polar H7 and between 2.54 and 3.46 BPM with the pulse oximeter.

Conclusion: Pulse-rate measurements may be effective using a fingertip application, belt monitor, and pulse oximeter. The fingertip scanner showed superior results compared with the face scanner, which only demonstrated modest validity compared with the Polar H7 and pulse oximeter.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / instrumentation*
  • Oximetry / instrumentation*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Smartphone*
  • Young Adult