As someone keen on wearable technology encouraging me to get fit, it felt a little too easy to be cynical about the Apple Watch before getting my hands on one. The battery life sounded poor, it looked kind of bulky, and the lack of built-in GPS made me wonder why I’d want one to go alongside my iPhone. Those issues aren’t miraculously solved, but it turns out the Apple Watch has grown on me a lot already in my short time with it. There are a few good reasons for that, partly due to stock apps and partly due to some of my old favorites.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my efforts to eat better and exercise more frequently, it’s that I’m a creature of habit. Give me a routine to follow and I’m good. It’s when I deviate that it all falls apart. Through the Apple Watch activity app a series of rings show you how many calories you’ve burned, how many minutes of brisk activity you’ve performed, and how frequently you’ve stood up throughout the day.
It’s a bit simplistic to look at but it turns out that doesn’t matter. Everyone loves to feel like they’ve accomplished something, and the activity app does just that. A new daily goal is offered each week too, enticing you in trying a little harder. My head knew it was kind of basic but you know what? It’s working. I like goals to work towards. Whether it’ll last in the long term is a little uncertain, but it’s a neat idea.
It offers plenty of workout options
The workout app is a fine place to start. Apple does a decent job of offering stock apps that cover all the bases, and that’s the case here. You can track time, distance, calories, pace, and speed. There are options for indoors and outdoors too, along with categories for elliptical trainers and rowing. In the case of rowing it means on a machine, but to be fair I wouldn’t like to test the watch's water resistance by taking it on the open water.
Where things get better is when it comes to third-party support. RunKeeper keeps it pretty simple on your wrist, offering a start button and a brief guide to the workout you’re aiming for, but actually, that’s all you really need. It means you can keep your iPhone in your pocket or bag while you run and still easily track things. It turns out the convenience factor is much more significant so than you’d expect by just looking at things on paper.
Run 5k, my other favorite app for when I pretend I can jog, doesn’t fare quite so well. It looks good, offering up guidance on when you should be running and when you should be walking, but it relies on audio cues to do this - and the lack of haptic feedback feels like a missed opportunity.
It turns you into a hypochondriac
Ok, this is a bit of a double-edged sword if you’re a worrier like me, but it is useful. While the Apple Watch won’t track your blood pressure just yet (grrr), it will track your heart rate. It does a pretty good job of it too, keeping you informed at regular points, as well as updating various apps to your progress. This will also make you a little paranoid, if you’re anything like me. I discovered this while first experimenting with the feature sitting down and mostly stressing over why it seemed a little high. But, you know what? Knowledge is power.
I’m not sure if I’d buy an Apple Watch solely for the fitness benefits just yet. Fitness bands are a big market and there are other less expensive options out there that offer things the Apple Watch doesn’t just yet (hey there, blood pressure monitoring, skin temperature, et al), but as a general all-round wearable device that also happens to provide fitness features, it’s a lot better than I thought it would be. I’m quietly impressed.