One of the new features in the Samsung Galaxy S5 Android smartphone is a heart rate sensor. This innovative new item uses the phone’s flash and camera to measure the rate at which your heart is beating. But is it really innovative? Well, actually, heart rate monitors have been around for years and all you need is an app from the Google Play Store for your phone.

Any smartphone that has a flash and a camera adjacent to each other can be used to measure your heart rate using a simple app. The app turns on the phone’s flash and it is so bright that if place your finger over it, the light it penetrates it and it glows red from the blood in the blood vessels. You can see this with your eyes. What you can't see is that with each beat of the heart that red glow will change slightly and this can be measured by the camera.

The closer together the camera and flash are, the better this works. The Samsung Galaxy S5 has another mini camera or sensor next to the flash, but providing your fingers aren’t too small, you can place one over the flash and camera on the S4 and other Android smartphones. It works with many different models.

Runtastic Heart Rate

A search for ‘heart monitor’ in the Google Play Store will produce a long list of matching items. Some apps simply measure your heart rate and display it, but a few go a bit further and add a few extra features. Runtastic Heart Rate is one of the better apps and is worth installing on your phone.

The Measure screen has a large button in the middle and after positioning your finger over the camera and flash, tapping the button starts monitoring your heart rate – actually the pulse in your finger, but it is the same thing.

Runtastic Heart Rate app . Runtastic Heart Rate

A screen is displayed that shows the heart rate and there are a couple of extras. One is the activity type and you can choose from resting, before exercise, after exercise and so on. There are also icons to indicate how you feel.

The app stores heart rate measurements and it displays these as a list and a chart on the History screen. You can view each individual measurement by tapping it. What’s great about this app is that you can perform a set exercise, such as a one mile run, and then measure your heart rate. The chart will then show how you are doing by displaying the history in the chart.

The app is free from the Google Play Store and there is a paid Pro version if you want more features. Do you really need a Samsung Galaxy S5 to measure your heart? Clearly you don’t and most phones will do.

TitleRuntastic Heart Rate Monitor
Price: Free
Developer: Runtastic
Size: Varies with device