All About Wearable Tech

Apple Watch 3 and WatchOS 4: New Fitness and Sports Features

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We still have to compile at Instabye our Metareview of the new Apple Watch 3 which will include the summary opinions and scores from top (and trusted) tech reviewers. Even though there are already a few reviews out there, we have a policy of waiting until a significant sample of quality reviews are available before providing our Metarating. Some of the most qualified reviewers are taking longer than usual to do it, let’s hope they will get it done sooner rather than later.

In the meantime I have been playing around with a brand new Apple Watch 3 for a few days and have been focusing on the new fitness features available. Some of these new features are specific to the new Apple Watch 3 while some other relate to the new update in the operating system, WatchOS 4, and will therefore be also available to Apple Watch 1 and Apple Watch 2 owners. Please note again that the following list only refers to new features related to fitness / sports / health.

New Features Exclusively on Apple Watch 3 (Hardware Related)
  • Inclusion of barometric altimeter: this is used for stair flight tracking, to add additional info in the redesigned Workout app (see below) and, in the near future, to help developers create specific apps to track sports such as snowboarding, skiing and rock climbing.
  • Improved overall hardware efficiency (processor, GPS unit, wifi-bluetooth) results in a much better battery life. Our real life tests show the watch can easily last for two complete days of normal use. Also it lasts more than 5 hours while tracking a running session, even having LTE connected and making a couple of calls during the workout.
  • Cellular connectivity allows for music streaming during workouts. So far only Apple Music is available but I’m pretty sure other services will follow (Spotify?).
New Apple Watch Fitness Features based on WatchOS 4
  • Smart Fitness Coaching: This is the first entry of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into Apple’s activity world. Every morning the watch provides you with a personalized progress update and later in the day you get suggestions to complete your three activity rings (Move, Exercise and Stand).
  • Redesigned Workout app: includes the possibility of creating and tracking Interval Training Sessions.
  • Improved Heart Rate app: includes daily HR graph, resting heart rate and recovery heart rate.
  • Inclusion of HR on the watch main face.

  • GymKit: this is your Apple Watch connecting via NFC to cardio equipment in your gym. This includes, among others, treadmills, ellipticals, indoor bikes and stair steppers. I have not been able to test it anywhere yet but the way it works is that your watch sends your HR data to the gym equipment and the equipment sends workout data to the watch. Putting together both set of data you will get a better understanding of how you are doing. Apple is not the first in doing this. Garmin already tried it, via ANT+ instead of NFC, and it worked pretty nicely but not many manufacturers and gyms jumped on board. I believe GymKit is a great idea, it is neatly implemented (as it is almost always the case with Apple) and it makes a lot of operating and financial sense for all parties involved: Apple, gym owners, equipment manufacturers and users. Given Apple’s strength especially in the US and the UK, I expect a roll over to many gyms happening pretty swiftly.

Are these hardware and software improvements enough to make the new Apple Watch 3 the undisputed best smartwatch? Yes. Is the Apple Watch the best smartwatch that you can buy right now? Probably yes, but only if you are already an iPhone owner. Is it enough to start forgetting about your Fitbit fitness tracker and/or your Garmin GPS watch? On that, I’m not so sure.

I believe number-driven athletes still find more value in their dedicated GPS sports watches. And many other people may not yet see a good enough value proposition at the current price levels ($350-400+) and may opt for either a less expensive fitness tracker or a budget sports watch.

Only time will tell if smartwatches in general (and the Apple Watch in particular) end up cannibalizing the fitness tracker and GPS watch industries.

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