To Apple Watch or Not To Apple Watch

Apple Watch Sport Collection
Photo Courtesy of Apple

Before I get into this, I need to disclose that I am a huge Apple fan.  Not quite a fan boy, but not not a fan boy. And for those posts where people say I was compensated to share this or the product was provided for free – that’s not the case here. It’s kind of the way around.  Apple was compensated by me. Several times over. A lot. And then some more. Yeah, I have lots of Apple stuff. And I like it.

OK, that said, I’m torn about the Apple Watch. It’s very cool and all that. No doubt. It does some really neat things. For sure. It’s gorgeously designed. As with all Apple gear. Will I buy it? Not so sure.

I expected to see the thing and be like, “When can I preorder?” But I didn’t feel that way.  I may still get one, but I’m not rushing into it, and wouldn’t get it because of a clear need or use case (kind of how I felt about the iPad).  The reason for me is that the fitness tracking part of it doesn’t really work for my needs.

Nike FuelBand SE

I have a Nike+ FuelBand (that I’m planning to stop wearing at the end of the month since I don’t find it impacting my behavior anymore, and can’t stand Nike’s website given the molasses-based speed and constant issues/downtime). It tracks steps, calories, general activity, and provides awards and motivation, just like Apple intends to do with the Apple Watch. Nike has really stepped back from how involved and invested they were in the Nike+ ecosystem, with less investment in the ramification side. You used to get these little videos with a character called Fuelie, but they stopped doing that. Now they have all these random trophies that I don’t fully understand the point of and seem to win far too easily (I win more than 1 a day, and don’t know the difference between them, nor do I care). Their site is also painfully slow, down far too often for maintenance (that doesn’t seem to be for any benefit in functionality), and parts of it just don’t work (you have to tell the SE version of the FuelBand when you’re in some sort of workout session and then go tag that session with the proper activity on their site, only the tagging page stopped loading about two weeks ago, and still isn’t working. I can tag things from the iOS app, but it means syncing via USB (Bluetooth syncing stopped working on my FuelBand for some reason), and then going to the phone to tag).  I would rather an activity tracker be smart enough to know that I’m being active, and not need me to tell it as much.  Apple seems to have done this better as they claim the Watch knows if you’re biking versus running.  But this will be something to watch for and judge after its released since it’s all a bit unclear and untested now.

Garmin Forerunner 620

I have a fantastic running watch (Garmin Forerunner 620). I don’t usually run with my phone, or at least I prefer not to. I won’t hold it due to the impact on gait, and don’t want to bring a bag or pouch just for my phone. I find arm bands uncomfortable, and I sweat a lot, so my phone invariably ends up wet – that can’t be good for it in the long term.  But I need that GPS tracking that the Apple Watch can’t do without a phone.  I’m a total data junky, and want everything recorded.  Without my phone, the Apple Watch can’t track my run beyond simple step measurement.  I need pacing, and it can’t really give me that.  I also get some awesome advanced metrics from my Garmin as I pair it with their FirstBeat-enabled heart strap, so I get cadence, ground contact time, vertical oscillation, training effect and VO2 Max data.  The Apple Watch can’t do any of that (with or without a phone), and I have come to appreciate it.

There’s talk about why Apple didn’t put GPS in the Watch. It’s likely due to price and package size for something that isn’t a common need (even if you cycle or run daily outdoors  as I usually do but the majority of people likely don’t (or do it in a gym on some machine), you still don’t need it a lot of the time of the day). And GPS does drain batteries, but running watches don’t keep it on unless you’re in a run. And then you can just charge it when you get home – that’s what I do, and I don’t get mad at the watch or decry its battery life since I knowingly did something that is a power hog.

I think size, cost and battery considerations are part of the story, but I think it’s also about making the phone more valuable to watch buyers and vice versa. Remember, the Apple Watch only works with the iPhone (and only models since the 5). Smart business decision, despite any annoyance it may cause. I’m just saying that including a GPS receiver in the Watch could actually fuel more sales for people like me.

So, would I buy a smart watch to take it off and wear a different smart watch for runs? That’s the question. For me, I don’t think I can answer that until the device is out, more of the features are known, and I think about what is missing that I’d really want before buying it. That’s what happened with the iPad – I knew I needed a front facing camera to do video chats with my wife and son when I travelled for work, or it wouldn’t be valuable enough for me to buy.  So I waited until they added that feature, and bought an iPad 2. For me, it could be a question of waiting for the Apple Watch 2. Or maybe the 2S. Or 2C.  Or 2 Plus. Or whatever. We’ll just have to see.

About bryan falchuk

bryan falchuk is the founder of newbodi.es, a certified personal trainer, behavior change specialist and the best-selling author of "Do a Day". bryan coaches people on their whole health - the physical, mental and emotional combination of wellness that we need to thrive and change our lives.

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