Series: Exercising with the Apple Watch
Adam Engst takes the Apple Watch for a spin—and a walk, and several runs—to evaluate the fitness capabilities of the watch and its Activity and Workout apps.
Article 1 of 2 in series
The Apple Watch is going up against a wide variety of fitness trackers and sport watches. TidBITS publisher and competitive runner Adam Engst looks at how the Apple Watch’s hardware meets the needs of those who want to work out.Show full article
Apple markets the Apple Watch as a fitness tool, going so far as to sign up Christy Turlington Burns to blog about her experiences training for and running the London Marathon (finishing in a thoroughly respectable 3:46:45). It was a win-win — Apple got to feature a former supermodel in its ads, and Turlington Burns gained unbeatable exposure for her worthy charity, Every Mother Counts.
But is the Apple Watch even useful for marathon training? And what if your idea of a run is a couple miles around the neighborhood twice a week? Or if exercise for you involves taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work? What if your goal is only to lose weight, and if you could do that while ensconced on the couch, you would?
I’ll lay my biases out up front. I love running and racing, and little competes with running for an activity that requires almost no equipment or expense, can be done anytime and anywhere, takes relatively little time, and is fabulous exercise. As humans, our bodies evolved to run, and while Christopher McDougal’s book “Born To Run” is a bit over the top in its praise of barefoot running, it’s still a gripping read that I highly recommend. (For a sense of what it’s like to race competitively, John L. Parker’s fictional “Once a Runner” is the classic in the field, and its sequel, “Again to Carthage,” is also wonderful.)
But I can hear the complaints about running starting even now. No worries, I get that many people can’t or won’t run, so if you prefer scenic bike rides or laps in the pool, more power to you. Or perhaps the gleaming machines and scheduled classes at a local gym are what get you going — that’s great too. Heck, if a walk around the block is what you can do, that’s way better than nothing. And while I’m distressed by how people view exercise as a chore or even a punishment — I run, ride an ElliptiGO, swim, snowshoe, Nordic ski, and ice skate because those activities are fun for me — if you need to motivate yourself through weight loss goals, digital nagging, or mental self-flagellation rather than pure enjoyment, so be it.
When it comes to unpacking what the Apple Watch means for fitness, we have to separate what its hardware provides, and what the software that runs on it could do for you. I’ll look at the hardware now; the next installment will investigate the software side.
The most remarkable part of the Apple Watch is how much technology Apple has managed to squeeze into that tiny case. But remarkable though it may be, there are still tradeoffs, and nowhere do they become more apparent than in fitness scenarios.
Screen -- The high-resolution color display offers stunning graphics and capacitive touch-enabled interaction, but neither of those is a win when exercising. The screen is difficult to see in bright sunlight, and that makes touch-based interfaces even harder to control than they already are. Since the screen is capacitive, you can’t operate it with normal gloves, just like an iPhone (some gloves now have special fabric at the fingertips to work around this problem).
The other real problem with the display is that it turns on only when you raise your wrist or tap the screen, and turns off quickly to save battery life. Thus, just looking at it requires extra arm movements or interaction, which isn’t always easy, safe, or possible.
In comparison, the Garmin Forerunner 620 sport watch that I run with uses an always-on LCD screen that’s perfectly visible in bright sunlight (with a backlight for when that’s necessary). Most important interactions rely on physical buttons that can be pressed without looking, and although it has a touch-based interface too, it’s pressure-based and thus works with any gloves.
GPS -- Since it lacks a GPS chip, the Apple Watch cannot track your location, though it can report on such information as collected by its companion iPhone. From a fitness standpoint, location tracking is primarily useful in terms of determining where and how far you went. The practical upshot of that is that if you’re going to carry your iPhone with you when you run or bike anyway, you may be able to use the Apple Watch as a sort of remote control for an app on your iPhone.
The lack of GPS is a problem for those of us who like to track such information; although I have a running belt for carrying my iPhone 6 at the small of my back (arm bands can throw off running form, and those I’ve tried bugged me intensely), the only time I voluntarily run with an iPhone is when I’m in an unfamiliar city and the iPhone could be helpful for navigation or communication. If you don’t mind carrying your iPhone while working out, peachy, but hey, don’t text and exercise.
Accelerometer -- Happily, the Apple Watch does have an accelerometer that enables it to detect your steps, from which it can determine both distance and pace, even if you’re not carrying your iPhone. It calibrates itself when you use it with the iPhone around, and I’m impressed at how accurate it can be. After a few runs, its numbers match quite closely with those collected by my Garmin and with the quarter-mile markings on San Francisco’s Bay Shore Trail, where I was running recently. Unfortunately, accuracy drops significantly if you run uphill (where your stride is shorter) or faster than normal (where it will be longer). I don’t know if it’s equally accurate when walking (where stride length is again much shorter) — when I’ve taken long walks with it, I’ve had my iPhone with me, and not the Garmin.
Heart Rate Sensor -- Apple makes much of the Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor, which uses optical techniques rather than the more common conductive approach. The utility of pulse tracking is that one of the major goals of exercise is to increase heart rate — the heart is a muscle, and like all muscles, it gets stronger when you force it to beat harder and faster. Athletes sometimes train by heart rate, choosing workouts that keep the heart in particular zones for different types of results. Apple’s technology seems well done, generally agreeing with the uncomfortable chest strap heart rate monitor I sometimes use with my Garmin. The real question in relation to heart rate will revolve around software — how you interact with and interpret this data.
Water Resistance -- Apple says the Apple Watch meets the IPX7 level of water resistance, which means it should be able to handle immersion in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. Simultaneously, though, the company states:
Apple Watch is splash and water resistant but not waterproof. You can, for example, wear and use Apple Watch during exercise, in the rain, and while washing your hands, but submerging Apple Watch is not recommended. Apple Watch has a water resistance rating of IPX7 under IEC standard 60529. The leather bands are not water resistant.
This seems to be a case of Apple under-promising and over-delivering, since many people have taken the Apple Watch into the shower and even into the pool — for a comprehensive set of tests, see DC Rainmaker’s writeup and videos (his site is a must-visit for anyone interested in workout gear).
My take? Don’t worry about the Apple Watch getting wet accidentally (but be careful with your iPhone!). Personally, I still wouldn’t take it in the shower or the pond because there’s no benefit in doing so — I don’t swim with my Garmin either, and Apple’s Workout app doesn’t offer a Swim category. A third-party swimming app might emerge in the future, but I could imagine Apple rejecting such an app on the grounds that it encourages behavior Apple warns against. What remains to be seen is if Apple honors its warranty if you get your watch wet and it stops working, either for that reason or something else.
Battery -- In my usage, the Apple Watch has run out of power only once, when it shut off at 10 PM. Days when it lasted fine included a number of running workouts of up to 10 miles and one 33 mile ElliptiGO ride that took a bit under 3 hours. My conclusion is that battery life isn’t likely to be a problem for most people, although you shouldn’t be surprised if a long workout coupled with a lot more watch use causes it to sleep early.
If power is a concern, you can disable heart rate tracking during running and walking workouts to conserve power; do this in the Apple Watch app on the iPhone, in Workouts > Power Saving Mode. If the watch gets too low on battery, you can put it in Power Reserve mode, where it shows only the watch face.
That said, I doubt the Apple Watch will be sufficient for serious bikers, triathletes, and ultra-runners, whose training and racing take place across many hours. These people are already buying specialized devices, though, since even standard GPS watches aimed at runners seldom last more than 5–8 hours.
Although I have no experience with them, some of the fitness trackers, such as those from Fitbit and the Microsoft Band, also offer sleep monitoring. I’d be surprised if Apple added that, purely because most people will recharge the Apple Watch at night.
(Personally, I’ve not seen the need for sleep monitoring — Tonya and I go to bed between 11 PM and midnight most nights and get up between 7 and 8 AM. If we get to bed late, have to wake up early, or have our sleep interrupted, we feel cruddy and try to get more sleep the next night. But if you have trouble maintaining a regular sleep schedule or are surprised when lack of sleep impacts your productivity, electronic nudging could be useful.)
Bluetooth Audio -- Even without an iPhone, the Apple Watch can store and play audio on a paired Bluetooth headset. I haven’t tried this, so I don’t know how effective it is, but for safety reasons I recommend against blocking out all external sounds when biking or running outside. Just recently, I was running a trail race and nearly ran over several people who couldn’t hear me repeatedly telling them from behind that I was going to pass on the left. And since I exercise with friends, earbuds of any sort are socially inappropriate. That said, if it can be done safely, listening to music can apparently improve both your enjoyment of your workout and its health benefits.
Overall, the Apple Watch’s hardware will meet the needs of people whose preferred form of exercise is walking or using a machine in a gym, and of those who have already figured out how to carry an iPhone while running or cycling outside.
However, if you need to interact fluidly with the watch during exercise, want location tracking without carrying your iPhone, like to track swim workouts, or just enjoy exercising for long periods of time, you’ll be better off with purpose-built sport watches like those from Garmin, Suunto, and Polar. They’re easier to see in bright sunlight, can be controlled without looking, offer built-in GPS capabilities, support multiple sports including swimming, and feature long battery life. And if sleep monitoring is important to you, look to a similarly long-lived fitness tracker like a Fitbit or the Microsoft Band.
Of course, the Apple Watch’s hardware is only half of the equation, with software displaying and analyzing that data — apps are what you’ll interact with on the Apple Watch. While Apple can’t change the hardware behavior significantly before the next major release, software is an entirely different story, since both Apple and independent developers will be improving the user experience constantly. The moving target of software is where I’ll turn my attention next time.
Article 2 of 2 in series
Adam Engst continues his deep dive into what the Apple Watch brings to the fitness world, looking this time at Apple’s apps.Show full article
In “Exercising with the Apple Watch: The Hardware” (15 May 2015), I looked at all the physical aspects of the Apple Watch that play into how well it works for fitness tracking of various sorts. Now it’s time to examine the software side.
The Apple Watch’s sensors only gather data; it’s up to apps on both the Apple Watch and the iPhone to display, report on, and interpret this data. This is a tricky area to evaluate, because your opinion about the software will depend largely on what you want to get out of your exercise.
I’ll look at the apps Apple provides, but I won’t be evaluating any third-party apps, since at the moment they’re nothing more than remote controls or secondary windows for apps running on the iPhone. Apple has announced that it will be giving developers access to all the Apple Watch’s sensors; once that happens, third-party apps could become radically more interesting.
On the watch itself, Apple includes a Workout app, an Activity app, and glances for Activity and Heartbeat. And on the iPhone, Apple gives us another Activity app (which also reports on workouts from the Workout app) and the Health app.
Heartbeat (Watch) -- Most of us have little sense of heart rate. But any activity that raises your heart rate is a good thing, and the Apple Watch’s sensors can help you learn how your actions affect heart rate. To view your heart rate at any time, you use the Heartbeat glance, accessible by swiping up on the watch face.
When you first look at it, the Heartbeat glance reports its last measurement and when it was taken, but that might be 30 minutes or more in the past. Getting a current value requires waiting a few seconds until the Heartbeat glance reports that it’s measuring; the actual measurement takes an additional 10 to 15 seconds that tick by distressingly slowly. Sometimes it fails and asks you to try again.
It’s perhaps unreasonable to expect instantaneous response, since the watch needs to sense sufficient beats to come up with a beats-per-minute number, but I wonder if Apple could have it measure heart rate more frequently to provide faster results. Or, perhaps the watch could display a heart rate immediately, but refine the number as more data comes in, so the user sees that something is happening.
Workout (Watch) -- Although the watch tracks your steps and heart rate throughout the day, if you want it to associate a specific subset of that data with a particular workout, you use the Workout app. Apple lets you choose from running, cycling, and walking, either outdoor or indoor, along with using an elliptical, rower, or stair stepper. Lastly, an Other workout type tracks time and apparently earns you the calorie equivalent of a brisk walk if sensor readings are unavailable; if they are, it tracks heart rate and distance too.
For running, walking, and cycling workouts, the Workout app encourages you to set a calorie, time, or distance goal; for gym machine workouts, only calorie and time goals are offered. For indoor activities, these goals make sense, and for people who are working up from very low levels of activity, they can be a potent motivator. Of course, Apple isn’t exactly innovating here; other fitness trackers have offered such goal-setting for years.
For those who exercise outdoors, an Open Goal screen allows starting a workout without presupposing any expectations. Runners and cyclists usually plan workouts based on route or distance, and even a time-based workout (run for an hour, say) just involves picking an appropriate route, looking at elapsed time to determine the halfway point on an out-and-back, or checking elapsed time on a track or multiple loop course. The Open Goal screen remains selected on subsequent uses, making it easy to ignore the other goal screens if they mean nothing to you.
Having chosen a goal, you tap a start button, wait through a countdown, and get going. During the workout, you can swipe through screens that show you calories burned, heart rate, time, and, if appropriate, distance and pace. Swiping between them while running is difficult, and you’d be an idiot to do it while biking (and unless you have a death wish, wear a properly adjusted and fastened helmet too!). The leftmost screen lets you pause and stop the workout with a pair of too-small buttons (you can also force-touch the screen to display them).
Once the workout is stopped, you can review the details and either save or discard them. Annoyingly, once saved, you can’t get back to the details on the watch (data is stored in the iPhone’s Activity app), though the Workout app does show the distance or time for the last activity.
I find the Workout app frustrating in nearly every way. Even beyond the need to find it in the cloud of app icons (why no Last Workout glance, Apple?), it’s fussy to start and stop, requires clumsy interaction to move between screens, and is worthless for reviewing workout details, even though it could get that data back from the iPhone. A better design would also allow customization of the data screens to show the metrics the user desires, and would offer touch-based controls that didn’t require looking at the screen — perhaps a force touch to start and stop, and a double tap to pause and resume. (Asking for interaction via a physical button feels futile — Apple wants the Digital Crown and the side button to work in the same way no matter what app is in use.)
I anticipate that third-party apps will quickly supplant the Workout app for many people in the future.
Activity (Watch) -- While the Workout app requires intentional activation, the Activity app constantly works in the background to track how many calories you burn while moving, how many minutes of exercise you do, and how often you stand up, encouraging you to move more by showing you how close to pre-defined goals you’ve come.
The first time you open the Activity app, you set the Move goal in calories, along with some data about your gender, age, weight, and height for calculating your resting metabolic rate, or RMR, an estimated number of calories your body burns while at rest.
The Activity app has four screens that you swipe through left to right. The first summarizes your progress on the Move, Exercise, and Stand goals with a series of color-coded concentric rings — complete a ring and you’ve met your goal (exceed your goal, and the ring will start a second lap around). Each additional screen shows more detail about one of the three goals as a single ring, and swiping up on each shows a graph of your activity throughout the day. As with the Workout app, you can see only a single day in the Activity app; for history, you must turn to the iPhone’s Activity app.
Apple offers a glance for the Activity app, mimicking the summary screen that shows all three goals as concentric rings so you can see how you’re doing for the day. Tapping the glance launches the full app, as does tapping the activity complication on watch faces that include it — I find that the complication provides the fastest access.
Let’s talk about the rings, since Apple relies on them heavily in Activity on both the watch and the iPhone. The red Move ring shows how many active calories you’ve burned, though Apple doesn’t say how it calculates that number. Hopefully it incorporates heart rate information, which significantly improves accuracy. (My understanding is that the leader in this field is the Finnish firm Firstbeat Technologies, whose adaptive algorithms start with basic physical measurements and then learn based on heart rate information — Garmin and other sports watch companies rely on Firstbeat.) I’ll have to test after obscuring the heart rate sensors some time.
The green Exercise ring shows how many minutes of brisk activity you’ve done. Nowhere is “brisk activity” defined, but it must rely on a certain heart rate, since the Apple Watch properly captured as exercise the minutes I spent riding my ElliptiGO in to a group run, the run, and then the ride home (none of which was accompanied by the iPhone). Well, almost properly — the rides and the run took 84 minutes, but the Exercise app recorded only 76 minutes for the day. It’s possible that my heart rate didn’t rise sufficiently at the start of the first ride for it to kick in right away — using the Workout app would have forced the watch to recognize all the time as exercise. Others have found the Exercise ring to be completely random, perhaps because of failing to get heart rate data for some reason.
Lastly, the blue Stand ring shows how many of 12 hours during the day you stood for at least 1 minute, backed by periodic reminders to stand up if you haven’t moved sufficiently in the first 50 minutes of an hour. It appears to be based on the Apple Watch’s accelerometer detecting movement. It’s also a little dumb — if you work at a standing desk, you may still receive reminders to stand up. But for the vast majority of people who sit at desks, or for standing desk users who interpret the reminders as a suggestion to walk around briefly, the reminders are a good thing. You can disable the reminders (in the Apple Watch app on the iPhone) if they’re too inaccurate or annoying; it’s bothersome to be told in the middle of a car trip or movie that you should stand up.
Evaluating Activity -- Before I move on to the iPhone apps, what does all this data mean? Keeping in mind that I’m a competitive runner who pays attention to individual mile splits during workouts, weekly mileage and workout time, and sometimes even stats like stride cadence and vertical oscillation (as recorded by my Garmin Forerunner 620 when paired with its heart rate monitor strap), I find the Activity app’s reports largely inscrutable.
That’s because I use the exercise data I collect after the fact, in aggregate, to guide future workouts in broad strokes — a look at my Strava training log can show me if I should make a point of getting another run in for the week to hit a particular weekly mileage, or if I should take it easy on a weekend run based on having run hard too many other days that week (see “FunBITS: Strava Makes Exercise Social and Virtually Competitive,” 27 July 2014). For me (and for most serious runners), exercise is measured by the week because physiological adaptions take place over months, not days. Strava is also a good place to track how many miles I have on a particular pair of running shoes, so I know when to think about replacing them. And to be honest, although I collect and review this data, I don’t let it rule my life, instead combining particular types of training for certain goal races or moving miles to the ElliptiGO (or taking rest days), based more on how my body feels.
The Apple Watch’s Activity app is instead aimed at those who want constant feedback throughout the day, complete with progress report notifications and little goal completion pushes. It’s an odd mix because it relies on precise data in the service of an imprecise goal: move more. As a digital fairy hovering over your shoulder and encouraging you to break free of the gravitational attraction of your desk chair, the Activity app is a success. In an ideal world, it will help you internalize the good habit of moving more.
What’s key is that the Activity app’s tracking is embedded in the Apple Watch. Just as smartphone cameras hurt the market for digital point-and-shoots, so too will smartwatches take over from simple one-trick-pony fitness trackers. The best fitness tracker is the one you’re already wearing, and the Apple Watch’s other features will encourage that.
What you shouldn’t do is read too much into the specific numbers the Activity app reports. It’s very precise, telling me that I burned 824 calories while exercising for 76 minutes today, but precision does not imply accuracy, nor does it support concrete actions. World-class athletes care deeply about both precision and accuracy because they strive to achieve specific physiological adaptions — run faster, throw further, jump higher, all without getting injured — based on careful control of their activities and diet. For the rest of us, all that can be said of calories burned and minutes of exercise is that more is better (within reason, and increasing gradually, of course). The Activity app is a blunt instrument, at best.
This is because the topic of energy expenditure and intake — and, let’s not mince words, its effect on weight — when measured outside of laboratory conditions, is fuzzy at best. For instance, active calories account for only 10 (for sedentary people) to 50 (for laborers and serious athletes) percent of total calories burned. That’s the only part of energy expenditure you can control much (increasing muscle mass will increase your RMR, but not significantly). On the intake side, different macronutrients require different amounts of energy to process, so 20–35 percent of the calories in protein, for instance, are used in digestion, absorption, and disposal. Then there’s the role your gut microbes play, which is both important and poorly understood — never underestimate your bacterial overlords!
The takeaway? If the Activity app’s constant digital presence is helpful to you, by all means pay attention to its rings and notifications. But don’t get caught up in the details — all it’s really telling you is that you should move more. And bear in mind that moving more, by itself, may not result in much weight loss without attention to what you eat. For that, author Michael Pollan has what I believe to be the best advice: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” And by “food” he means real food that your great-grandmother would have recognized, not a processed amalgam created by our modern food-industrial complex. If you need more detail, his slim book “Food Rules” is worthwhile.
Activity (iPhone) -- Back at the apps, the Workout app on the Apple Watch shows only a brief summary of your last workout, and the watch’s Activity app shows only the current day’s data. For historical details, turn to the Activity app on the iPhone, which appears only if your iPhone is paired to an Apple Watch.
It offers a scrolling calendar view that shows small icons summarizing the ring-based results from each day. Tapping one switches to a per-day view, with a larger version of the ring display and the same graphs as are available in the watch version of the app.
There are only a few additional bits of data available in the iPhone version of Activity. When viewing the graph associated with the Move, Exercise, or Stand data, you can swipe left to see more numerical data. For Move, it adds active calories and resting calories to come up with total calories; for Exercise, it shows how many minutes your activity counted as exercise and your total “active time” (which isn’t explained); and for Stand, it tells you how many hours in which you’ve stood for at least a minute, and how many you were “idle.”
Further down in the details for a day, the Activity app then shows a summary of any workouts you tracked with the watch’s Workout app; tapping one shows more details. At the very bottom, there’s a step count and distance, presumably calculated from accelerometer data.
Another view shows you “achievements,” little badges the Activity app awards you for various accomplishments — tap one to see a description of what you have to do. If this sort of thing motivates you to exercise more, great. They look like Junior Galactic Explorer uniform logos to me.
There are two notable holes in the iPhone’s Activity app.
It offers no collection or analysis of the data across time. For those who don’t exercise in essentially the same way every day, summing workout time or distance across a week or month is necessary for comparison and to see progress.
There’s no way to share this data to social media services like Facebook, or exercise-related sites like Strava. This should have been simple for Apple to add, via a Share extension, and it’s a surprising lack, given that social support is a significant factor in helping people remain motivated to exercise, and it could have simultaneously advertised the Apple Watch as a fitness tool.
My suspicion is that Apple sees both of these as third-party opportunities that developers will fill, particularly once they have access to the Apple Watch’s sensors. If sharing your workouts on Strava is important to you, for instance, you’ll ignore the Workout app in favor of the Strava app.
Health (iPhone) -- I’ve saved the worst for last. The Health app shipped with iOS 8, and from the perspective of reporting your health data it has been a disaster from the first day. (Health also stores your Medical ID, which can be made accessible to emergency responders from the lock screen of your iPhone; if you have medical conditions, have reactions to certain drugs, or are on medications, that information could be helpful to anyone treating you in the event of an accident.)
To configure Health, tap the Health Data button at the bottom of the screen, find a desired metric that has some data in its graph, and turn on the Show on Dashboard switch. That puts the graph in the Dashboard screen, which is what comes up by default when you launch Health. All that seems reasonable — it’s showing graphs of data.
The problem is that the graphs are nearly useless, apart from allowing you to switch among day, week, month, and year views. A few quick criticisms:
The vertical axis of each graph displays only minimum and maximum numbers, making it difficult to attach a value to any particular data point.
There’s a horizontal line that seemingly indicates the average, but if so, its label is at the top left, rather than at the far right, with the other numeric labels. A trend line would be more helpful in many cases.
As with the Activity app, data isn’t summed. So you can see your average Walking + Running Distance for a time period, but not the total distance. The graph always shows today’s data in the upper right corner, even when you’re in week, month, or year view when it could sum up the data from the selected time period.
The text is too small to read comfortably, and is white on a color. You can’t change the text size or color, or the color of any graph, which is assigned by the Health app. At least you can rearrange the graphs on the Dashboard; press and hold on one, after which you can drag it around.
Tapping a graph focuses on just that graph, but it’s no larger or easier to read. This detail screen also lets you Show All Data, Add a Data Point, Share Data, and set units, if appropriate.
I can’t imagine entering much data manually. Instead, you’ll get data from sources like the Apple Watch and specific iPhone apps that advertise themselves as being Health sources. I’m not sure which apps can receive data shared from the Health app — none appear on my iPhone.
The most interesting option here is Show All Data, but only in that it doesn’t work and crashes the app (too much data to show?) or the data is largely useless. For instance, I can see all the heart rate data recorded by the Apple Watch, but it turns out that the watch records data in either wildly separated bursts (separated by 10 to 60 minutes or more) or up to four times per minute. And my Cycling Distance data is truly inexplicable, with Strava duplicating data points and the Apple Watch seemingly recording each individual foot (seriously, that’s what 0.0002 miles is) separately.
Perhaps the Health app is more useful for tracking serious medical data, such as blood glucose or oxygen saturation; if you’re using it in such a fashion, let me know what you think.
Postgame Show -- When it comes to fitness, it’s important to think carefully about what your goals are, and where you find motivation. The Apple Watch will shine if your goals are simple and broad: move more. That’s particularly true if you’ve never looked to an iPhone app (like Move) or a Fitbit-like fitness tracker, or if, like many people, you stopped wearing a Fitbit after a while. The Apple Watch doesn’t innovate in this space, but its big advantage is that people will buy and wear it for other reasons.
For those who are interested in more flexibility or more analysis of their exercise data, Apple’s apps are currently disappointing. That shouldn’t be too surprising; Apple puts a lot of effort into marquee apps like Mail and Safari, but ancillary iOS apps like Reminders, Notes, Stocks, Weather, and Podcasts are basic offerings that many users replace with more-capable independent apps. I anticipate that happening in a big way with fitness-related apps over the next year.
Finally, as I noted in the previous installment, for those who consider themselves athletes, I don’t see the Apple Watch competing with purpose-built sport watches from the likes of Garmin, Suunto, and Polar. Even with third-party apps, the Apple Watch’s hardware simply isn’t suited to fluid interaction during exercise, location tracking without a paired iPhone, water-based activities, or lengthy endurance sports. There’s no shame in that, and the same thing happened with photography — the iPhone and other smartphones may have destroyed the market for low-end compact cameras, but sales of DSLRs and mirrorless cameras continue to rise. Apple may be able to attract the casual players, but die-hards will always want more.