DennisO (denniso) wrote,

Apple Watch Sport: Fat, Lazy and Needy

Apple Watch is a significant milestone in wearable tech. You don’t have to be the first to win, but you need to do it right. Did Apple win? Let's find out.


I was fat. 200 pounds of fat, in fact. It took me 5 years to achieve this ‘goal’ and results were, well… profound to my health. It took me 3 years to get back to 150 pounds.

How do you like that jelly bean? The one to the left, that is.

How am I getting it done? Vigorous and disciplined change of my lifestyle. There is no silver bullet or magic trick - after the age of 35 getting back into shape is hard. It requires full mental concentration, physical dedication and planning on your part. In my blog I talk about that journey, as well as some best practices based upon my experiences with fitness gadgets.

I am an entrepreneur, board member of a startup I co-founded. I excel at getting complicated shit done, and building, and managing my teams. To me People matter and I take care of 'My People', Vigorously!

Over the years, I have used many major brand name fitness gadgets to help me with my goal. Many failed, but some survived. I use Fitbit as the basis for comparison, because unlike most rivals it survives the daily beating in the life of an athlete.

So, Apple Watch Sport Edition.

I was ecstatic about the launch of Apple Watch. At the time, Fitbit just came out to market with Surge, and I was on a short-list of customers to receive the device from the first batch. But when Apple moved forward with The Watch announcement - I couldn’t possibly be happier. Excellent esthetic design, famous Apple quality and attention to details, powered by iOS, where things ‘just work’. Bravo!

I expected a solid rival and competitor to Fitbit.

6 months later I received my Sport Edition. Finally, I had a chance to try it out. By that time, I had used Fitbit Surge for six months, including training for and completing my first half-marathon. So, bring on the competition! Or so I thought.


Why Sport Edition? The answer is - weight. 25 grams on your wrist may not sound like a lot, but after mile 10 and 11 in a race you are faced with a choice: Drop everything you are carrying on the roadside or through away the precious water and food your are carrying in your pockets.

For the same reason, I went with 38mm aluminum model, not a bigger 42mm, which weighs 40 grams in stainless steel case plus wrist band. Again, it’s all about efficiency, when additional 100 grams of weight make you consume more water, oxygen and use more of your strength for nothing, really.

So, the test begins.

I’ll focus solely on the user experience from a fitness perspective. After all, Apple called it Sport. Apple had Christy Turlington pitch the thing during the keynote. They definitely got my attention.

What does work?


First and foremost, music does work on The Watch in stand-alone mode, without your iPhone, without WiFi or bluetooth connection to your main device. All you need is a pair of solid bluetooth-powered earbuds and you are set. Race on! Well, if you can find one ;) Follow my blog for more on that torturous journey.

You do have a limitation of 2Gb of storage for music, and syncing playlists takes forever because its done over ….hm… bluetooth…. Ingenious solution in the age when we have Wi-Fi and AirDrop. But it works, and avid runners have their playlist organized in advance to help with the pace at different stages of the event, so no big deal. You learn to live with it.

What else ‘works’ well? That’s it! Yes, Really!

Sport Band and Heart Rate.

While being very comfortable on your wrist, it is a challenge to get it to fit properly and reliably read your heart rate at the same time.

Apple, after surely doing their extensive research, should be aware that under the stress of running, soon your body and your limbs expand. Your feet are suddenly hot and you need sized-up running shoes to run without blisters. Same applies to your wrists.

Arms help runners propel forward and keep balance. It may not sound like much work, but try to sway your arm 40,000 times during the course of a marathon, and you’ll know what I mean.

So, your wrist expands too. That should be easy. Just don’t wear it tight, right? Wrong!

If Fitbit advises to fit the watch so that you could fit 1 finger under the buckle and it reliably reads your HR in dry or wet condition of your skin, Apple seems to have an issue here.

It is either too loose or too tight. Never right.

Then, in the ‘recommended’ position, Apple Watch spends a lot of time trying to get a reading. I have no idea (and there is no excuse) why this is done so poorly! When you exercise the thing you always rely on - is your pulse! You warm-up, you stabilize at certain heart rate, you do your intervals - you NEED your pulse to be there for you at ALL TIMES! You need to know your VO2Max, you need to stay under the lactose levels at times!

In Fitness app, Apple Watch reads your pulse …. well, once a minute. WTF, Apple?! To compare, Fitbit Surge does it every second in Exercise\Workout mode! Every freaking second, while you are in workout mode! It’s a workout, not a leisure reading session in your private library with cognac and a cigar! Work! Push yourself harder! You can do better, Apple!

Finally, you’ll get consistent readings when wristband locked tight against your skin. But, it reads pulse much better after you break your first sweat. Apple Watch skips readings on a completely dry skin and you often get old readings from minutes ago. I have tested this consistently over the last 3 weeks, and I can attest, heart rate reading is f*cked-up.

Exercise Mode

Simply put - there isn’t one. None! Nada! Nicht! Zilch!

What you get - is a Fitness app. But it is still an app, and you get all sorts of interruptions from your message app, mail app or anything else, running on your watch. Why would Apple miss out on this is beyond me.

When you press digital crown during workout, you’ll be taken into the list of apps just like that! Want to skip a song without touching your bluetooth headphones controls? Welcome to the adventure of 5 clicks and pushes, with your heart pumping 180 bps (not like you would know from the Watch).

I’d rather have it not do that, but instead, do double check - ask me to finish my workout! And when I do finish my workout, please, save it AUTOMATICALLY! Don’t make me scroll 3 screens down and choose Save vs Discard option!

And if you miss that step - you end up the the never-ending land of infinite loop: Home Screen - Fitness App - Oops Old results, I need new activity! - Digital Crown->Home screen - Fitness App - Fuck! Again, old results! Go away! I worked hard, yes, I want you to save the data automatically, for the 100th time!


What a pleasure it must be to live in the Apple world of fitness. It must be populated with celebrities and pretty people, who do only this:

Outdoor and Indoor run (read, with and without GPS, respectively)
Outdoor and Indoor cycling
Stair Stepper

Other - good thing they do other things! But we’ll never know what exactly that is.

Wow. What a collection of activities for people with perfect genes. At least now I get that snarky smile.


And every time you exit one activity, that is it. The Watch assumes you are done and starts spamming you with results notifications and goal achievements. Why??? I’m not done, Apple! That was 20-minute warm-up on elliptical, now it’s time for weights, followed by 5k run. Some of us do work hard for our results!

With this concept of ‘isolated’ activities, it is next to impossible to time yourself or perform super-sets. The Watch consistently makes your transitions that much harder, as if it’s jealous and wants you to stop. Don’t be jealous, Watch! And yes, I work out for 90 minutes non-stop with my average heart rate at 150-160 bpm.

You ultimately need ‘stopwatch’ to quickly stop-save previous activity and start-record new. Fitbit does it perfectly - with only buttons and 2 pushes! And that’s the right way to do it. In the heat of a workout you get punchy. You sweat. Your vision may blur - you do not need to use touch-screen, unless absolutely have to.

Don’t tell me that there is ‘an app for that’. Don’t you dare!


How many of us think that the best way to measure distance for your run - is calories? Apparently, Apple product managers never ran in their lives. Which is very surprising, because they did setup a training facility to develop the Watch.

Yep, calories - is the default measure for all types of exercise. Not even time (which is secondary), and not distance, which for indoor running is chosen to be the very last choice. Really? Apple? WTF?

Why are calories irrelevant? Because every person has different goals and workloads. If I exercise 4-5 times a week and run on average 40 miles per week, my burn-rate will be high, very high in fact. I may burn 1,000+ calories in just one 70-minute session. And this number fluctuates with my training schedule and load. You run, you cross-train, you do weights. Do I need to solve X times N puzzle before I start running? No! I know my distance and I know my time.

But, even better - don’t ask me any of that! Just let me exercise. Get out of the way, Watch!

I have my training schedule which is separate from current Watch apps. I spend time putting it together, where I record my progress. Just let me run without inputting distance with .1 mile increments, or +100 cals, or +5 minutes. Just get out of the way! Keep an accurate record - that’s your job. Well, and music.

On the other hand, someone who is new to fitness, would want to learn how much calories they burn in X amount of time with activity Y. Defaulting everything to calories, well... it makes us, usual people, want to eat more! Not exercise more.

Activities (no, this is not a typo)

Do you know, that Apple also records your every move as a separate fitness activity, even without Fitness app? Yep. You went to the bathroom - you just had an exercise. You went to the kitchen - yes, that’s an exercise too.

Well for some of us it can be. But I doubt it. Apple still records everything as a ‘Walk’. At the end of the day, you look at the list of your activities (if you export them like I do), and you see over 25 events, most marked as Walk. If you want to locate that workout you did today - good luck! Should I say WTF again? You get it. Right?


Watch overestimates running and walking distance (without GPS) by default as much as 20%!


Many trackers do that, but a) most underestimate b) 15% is the most I have seen so far. Apple Watch overestimates by 20% at times!

Think about it. You just ran 6.2 miles! Good job! You are holding WR for 10K distance now, because in reality you ran only 5 miles.

Why overestimation is bad? It makes you LAZY. Your mind will tell you to relax and take it easy. Those, who train and exercise know, mind - is your worst enemy. It plays tricks with you all the time. It wants you to relax, sit down, stop, have a chat, stare at …. well you get it, right?

Don’t overestimate. Always underpromise and overdeliver! Apple Watch - your job is under-promise and push me harder. Don’t tell my mind to relax when I’m in my ‘Sport’ mode.

Finally, Show me the Data!

Simply stated, data is the weakest link of the entire user experience. I can learn to live with flaws of the Apple Watch, given that next iterations will address these issues. But no web-portal, no place to manage your training activity? No detailed view and high-resolution charts? Only Health app and that is it? We do teach kids to share, Apple. Share! Give that data back to its users in all its glory!

Endless screens to collect workout data

That's how its done right. Well done, Fitbit!

As you can see, Health app data is pretty much useless to anyone who goes to the gym for a workout, not for a protein cocktail and a friendly chat with a personal trainer.

Here I added side-by-side comparison from my 'jet lagged' workout session. Apple Watch on the left hand. Simple Fitbit Charge HR - on the right (don't make me run wearing two watches, like a dork). See the difference in measurements, ease of use and actuals from the treadmill (keep in mind - most treadmills overestimate distance too). Which platform gives you better analysis tools for your blood and tears?

Actual 10k run. My time sucks today - I know. Jet lag.

Apple Stats. Entire workout. 10k run and 40 minutes 'other' - weights and stretches. Note time discrepancy. Default settings.

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 7.57.47 PM.png
FitBit Stats. 10k run. Each device ~ 1mi off. Charge HR is 'dumb', but I'll take 5mi over unrealistic 7. Default settings.

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 7.58.44 PM.png
Weights and stretches.

Battery life

90 miutes workout, depending on your activities and music will drain Watch battery from 40% to 60%. No wonder it was a half-marathon in the keynote….

There you have it

Apple Watch Sport Edition wants you to be:

FAT - because it reminds you of calories, which causes you crave more food

LAZY - because it over-promises on your results, and wants you to stop

and it's really NEEDY - because it spams you with goal achievement alerts in the middle of a workout session without reason.

They really should have called it Apple Watch Weight Watchers Edition. Then, it would all make sense.

But it looks damn good, helps with your daily work, keeps you on track with your calendar events - it just works as a very solid high-tech smart watch. And I’ll keep using it, as a watch. But, for real workouts and events, Fitbit Charge HR and Surge are my go-to work horses.

I applaud Christy Turlington for taking on the challenge and running half-marathon with Apple Watch and an iPhone strapped to her arm. I wonder what she thinks about the race start sequence. How many seconds did it cost her to power the thing at the start line?

So, Apple why did you call it Sport?! In sport we take off our nice clothes and we hit, we hit hard.

You lost this round, Apple Watch Sport Edition. Cheer on - next one must be better. It just must be much, much better, Apple!

Get up and get your Sport strategy together. Get us truly Sport Fitness Watch. Fix issues with Powerbeats2-Sport-Bluetooth headset.

Show us what you’ve got!

Until then - good night!

P.S. Special thanks to my friend and avid runner, Angie Graves, who has been an inspiration in my personal running journey. Angie organizes marathons as part of her fundraising efforts for the Jackson L. Graves Foundation, The JLG Foundation supports families with babies in neonatal intensive care by funding hospital services and projects focused solely on the needs of the NICU.

Tags: applewatch, фитнес, часы
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