As Tim Cook flatly stated during the WWDC 2017 presentation, the Apple Watch is the number 1 selling smart watch by far, and also the number 1 smart watch in terms of customer satisfaction. By far. That’s hardly surprising. I look around me and the number of people wearing the Apple Watch right here in Singapore is increasing. After watching the entire watch OS 4 portion of the Apple WWDC 2017, there’s no denying my heart’s slightly stirred.
There are a number of improvements such as Toy Story characters as watch faces a la Mickey and Minnie Mouse. There’s also a Siri powered watch face that brings up up to date information cards based on the user’s habits and itinerary. It’s all very nice and further adds peripheral value to owning the Apple Watch. But what got me excited was the fitness improvements arriving with watch OS 4.
In short, individualised activity notifications, connection to third party gym equipment, multi sport mode and music.
The famous triple activitiy rings now sends updates about the user’s progress and accomplishments more often. Little celebrations and encouragements throughout the day right on the watch, independent of the connected iPhone.
Secondly, with Watch OS 4, the Apple Watch can connect to compatible 3rd party gym machines. This will allow the HR from the Apple Watch to appear on the machines during workout and for the workout data such as pace, distance, incline and so on to be sent to the Apple Watch in real time. And at the end of the workout, the data as indicated on the compatible gym machines will then be recorded on the watch!
According to Apple, this will take place by connecting the Apple Watch and the gym equipment via NFC, and the watch workout app will automatically be launched. Apple has tied up with major gym equipment brands that supplies 80% of all gym equipment and the first of such Apple Watch compatible equipment will roll out in Fall.
As to how impactful this move is, you’ll have to know that no other company, wearable or not, is capable of doing what Apple just said they’d do. In one masterful stroke, it made sense for gym goers to buy into the Apple Watch system as a fitness wearable that can record workouts accurately with heart rate measurements.
Polar had their gymlink compatible exercise equipment for the longest time and even they didn’t have the potential for impact like what Apple just announced.
Multi sports mode can now be accessed with Watch OS 4 simply by adding a new workout on to the current workout without stopping. I’m unsure if there will be a triathlon mode coming out any time soon but this addition of workout pretty much opened the floor for discussion in a huge way, allowing users to calculate total calories expenditure and duration of numerous workouts in a single session. There’s also a new high intensity interval training profile and improvements made to the pool swim workout app.
If you’ve used any smart watch at all, you’d know how frustrating is it to enable music playback while in activity recording mode. With the Apple Watch, a single swipe to the left brings up the Music menu where users can easily control music playback before returning to their workouts. It’s seamless. I’m just wondering why no one could solve this earlier before it dawned on me that Apple owns both hardware, software and music; Air Pods included. That’s a mighty tough combination to beat.
There’s also talk of waist circumference records and VO2 max estimation. That’s huge. If Apple does come out with their own estimation algorithms, it’d be a direct challenge to FirstBeat.
The Apple Watch Series 2’s success is very much pegged to the fitness and activity tracking aspect and Apple is playing it right by further augmenting this area. The only drawback I can see is that battery life will hardly hold up to the new demands.
Watch OS 4 features will supposedly roll out in Fall 2017.
Wearables from the likes of Garmin, Fitbit and Polar may trump the Apple Watch in terms of specialised fitness features and battery life but there’s no denying that Apple Watch is getting better with every OS update. Simply because the Apple Watch does more than just fitness tracking.