Tag Archive for ‘Fitness’

Apple Celebrates Earth Day With New Apple Watch Activity Challenge ➝

Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors:

Apple is challenging Apple Watch owners to complete a 30 minute outdoor exercise activity on Earth Day, which is Saturday, April 22. For finishing the challenge, Apple Watch owners will be rewarded with an exclusive Earth Day award and stickers that can be used in the Messages app.

Whether you own an Apple Watch or not, today’s a good day to go outside, get some fresh air, and exercise.

Apple Watch Optimism

Despite a recent report of a major decrease in Apple Watch sales this year, I’m still very optimistic about the future of Apple’s wearable. The company introduced new models last month, the Series 1 and Series 2, alongside watchOS 3. And a key feature of the new OS is what I believe to be the real killer app for the Apple Watch.

On Monday, IDC reported that sales of smartwatches in third-quarter 2016 were down 51% from the same quarter in 2015. What has more people concerned, though, is that Apple Watch sales were down 71%. But this shouldn’t be alarming. Remember, the original Apple Watch shipped on April 24, 2015 while the Series 1 and 2 didn’t ship until September 16, 2016.

IDC is comparing Q3 2015 to Q3 2016 — the first full quarter with widespread availability of the original Apple Watch and a quarter that included just two weeks of sales from the Series 1 and Series 2. Products naturally have a large spike of sales at launch that slowly dwindles until they’re either discontinued or replaced by a successor. This is what I’d attribute the 71% sales drop to.

I have no reason to refute IDC’s numbers, but I think they’re painting an inaccurate picture of Apple’s success with the Watch. If Apple sells less Watch’s in the first full quarter after the Series 1 and 2 introduction than they did after the original Watch’s introduction, that’s when you should start to worry. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

The Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 2 are tremendous products and both of them have important roles in Apple’s lineup. The Series 1 serves as a low-cost introductory device — $80 cheaper than the original — that will help Apple increase the size of their customer base. The Series 2 includes GPS, which is a must-have feature for many runners.

But not only is Apple offering much better hardware, they’ve also fixed a lot of the software problems with watchOS 3. Faster app launching, more robust messaging, and Breathe contribute to a better overall experience for Watch owners. And then there’s the device’s new killer app — Activity Sharing.

It may have taken me a month to realize it, but Activity Sharing is the most important new feature in watchOS 3. It compels me to wear my Watch.

Before watchOS 3, I wore my Watch everyday in an effort to close my Activity rings. But it was always just for me. I would launch the Activity app on my iPhone and see all those closed rings — it was neat. But who would even know if I took it easy one day and missed all of my rings?

Activity Sharing is important because it brings accountability to the fitness features. I’m not just filling my rings because it makes the Activity app’s calendar view look neat, I’m filling my rings to keep up with my friends and allow myself a little bit of bragging rights.

Because of Activity Sharing, the first thing I do when I wake up is put on my Watch and the last thing I do for the day is place it on the charger. I don’t want my Watch to miss a single step. That little bit of extra time on my wrist could be the difference maker that puts me ahead of my friends in the Activity app’s Sharing tab.

I also think Activity Sharing has an additional benefit to Apple that might not be immediately apparent. Apple Watch owners now have a really good reason to encourage their friends and family to buy one for themselves. Because once you have a couple of friends to share your Activity with, you want to share with everyone you know.

And again, the new hardware and these compelling software features didn’t launch until about two weeks before the end of Q3. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think the Apple Watch is going to sell incredibly well this holiday season. A 71% sales drop might sound terrifying to Apple Watch enthusiasts, but taken in context, I think there’s still plenty to be optimistic about.

Seen on the Seventh

I can’t say I was too impressed with the opening video of Tim Cook riding to the event with Pharrell Williams and James Corden — whoever that is. It felt a little bit too much like every other “hilarious” CEO video that never quite manages to be funny, or even interesting. But Apple delivered an impressive set of announcements — headlined by a second-generation Apple Watch, new iPhones, and wireless headphones.

I wasn’t able to watch the event live — aside from a handful of moments in 5-10 minute chunks. Instead, I kept a close eye on my Twitter timeline and watched the full event earlier this morning. The following is my impressions of each of the major announcements, in the order they appeared on stage.

Nintendo

There’s been this hope within the Apple community, for the past several years, that Apple would purchase Nintendo and make a big push for gaming on their platforms. But having Shigeru Miyamoto on stage is proof that an acquisition wasn’t necessary. Nintendo is bringing a brand new game to iOS — Super Mario Run — but that’s only the beginning.

It wasn’t discussed on stage, but Nintendo also plans on releasing at least two more games this spring — one based on Fire Emblem and the other on Animal Crossing. If this is a successful endeavor, I expect we’ll see them bringing even more properties to iOS in the future. It’s a little unfortunate that their first game feels a bit like mobile fodder, but even with its simplistic gameplay, I’m sure it’ll be well received.

What I’m excited about, though, is a future where Nintendo is building games for Apple’s platforms. Nintendo has a knack for building some of the most innovative and entertaining games on the market. And paired with Apple’s hardware prowess, we could be in for something really good.

Apple Watch

Apple has announced Apple Watch Series 2 — the second-generation Apple Watch. They’ve made some solid improvements over the previous model, but I’m not convinced it will spur existing Apple Watch owners to upgrade. I don’t currently have any plans to purchase a Series 2, but don’t get me wrong, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Apple doesn’t need to convince every existing Apple Watch owner to upgrade, they just need to continue iterating and expand the Apple Watch’s appeal. I think the water proofing improvements and GPS will do that. They’re clearly positioning the Watch more as a fitness device — between swimming and being able to map your route while running — and I think that’s the right move.

Apple’s learned very quickly that fitness tracking is the killer app for smartwatches. At least for now. I expect they’ll continue to focus on this aspect of their wearable until third-party developers find that next big killer app. We all know that it’ll come eventually, but I don’t think anybody will be able to pinpoint what it is until it’s already upon us.

Series 2 comes in the familiar aluminum and stainless steel metal casings — just as the original did — but Apple has replaced the incredibly expensive gold model with a slightly less expensive ceramic edition. I have to admit, it’s an absolutely stunning model based on the product shots on Apple’s website. I have no interest in spending over twelve hundred dollars on a smartwatch, but I can appreciate Apple’s interest in exploring new materials.

Building devices out of ceramic may be expensive today. In the future, that might not be the case. But the only way we’ll ever see an improvement in the kinds of materials used in consumer products is if someone actually takes the time to work with them — I’m glad Apple’s still trying to push the industry forward.

Returning to their focus on fitness, Jeff Williams invited Trevor Edwards on stage from Nike to talk about Apple Watch Nike+ — a special edition of the Watch designed for runners. Apple has had successful partnerships with Nike in the past — the Nike+ kit for iPod immediately comes to mind — and I expect this to be no different. The design doesn’t particularly appeal to me, but judging by the current lineup of Nike running shoes, I think Watch Nike+ will become a highly sought-after product.

I think it was a really smart move to keep the existing Apple Watch in the product line. It gives me hope that they’ll continue to support the first model for several years to come and it gives them a much more affordable price point to get people in the door. I have a suspicion that the Apple Watch isn’t going to explode in popularity until they reach a sub-$200 price point. And continuing to sell last years model is a great way to help them inch closer to that pivotal price.

iPhone

It’s becoming harder and harder for Apple to keep the new iPhone under wraps before its unveiling. As with previous years, most of the design details had leaked weeks (or months) before yesterday’s event. But despite the amount of information we already knew about the product, Apple still managed to impress me with the new iPhone.

Apple conveniently broke down the iPhone announcement into ten landmark features and I’ll tackle each of them individually.

Design: They’ve introduced a new finish — jet black — which has a glossy appearance. This gives the illusion, when the display is off, that the entire device is made from a single material. They’ve also introduced another color — black — which looks a lot like space gray albeit in a much darker hue.

Of the two new colors, I prefer the standard black option. Granted, I haven’t seen them in person, but I’m not typically fond of glossy finishes on devices. It is unfortunate that jet black is only available on the two higher-end storage tiers, but I suspect that’s because of the additional engineering work that goes into manufacturing it.

Home Button: Apple has redesigned the home button and, much like the latest trackpads, removed the physical mechanism. The home button is now Force Touch enabled and uses a Taptic Engine to provide feedback when pressed.

This is something that I’ll have to experience for myself before I pass judgement on it. I’ve read mixed reports on Twitter, from members of the press, with some saying it feels exactly like a button and others saying the opposite. I was initially skeptical of the Force Touch Trackpads when they were introduced in the MacBook, and while I haven’t used one on a day-to-day basis, I was very impressed by them when I tried it out in-store.

Water and Dust Resistant: The iPhone 7 is rated as IP67, which means it is capable of surviving immersion up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. That will protect you from accidental spills or drops in a puddle, but I wouldn’t suggest taking it in the pool.

This was my biggest disappointment from the entire event. I suppose I got my hopes up with my theory of Apple hitting it out of the park with water proofing, but I shouldn’t have let that get the best of me. If my theory was true, there would have been many more rumors about it. Maybe they’re saving it for next year’s model.

Camera: Apple completely redesigned the iPhone’s camera system this year. The iPhone 7 feature’s optical image stabilization, a larger aperture lens, a new high-speed sensor, a quad-LED True Tone flash, and a brand new image signal processor. It’s a pretty impressive upgrade from last year’s model.

Apple didn’t stop there, though. They have further widened the gap between the 4.7- and 5.5-inch iPhone cameras by adding an additional camera assembly. Using these two 12MP cameras — one with a wide-angle lens and the other with a telephoto lens — the iPhone 7 Plus will have optical zoom, digital zoom with drastically improved image quality, and a new portrait mode which uses software to mimic a shallow depth of field.

The new camera features really have me torn — along with many others, I presume. As much as I enjoy having a 4.7-inch iPhone that actually fits in my pocket, the two lens camera is intriguing to me. I don’t take photos as often as I’d like to, but when I do, I’m usually taking pictures of my nieces and nephews. The shallow depth of field effect in the new portrait mode looks like a killer new feature. And I suspect there will be a lot of users who upgrade to the larger device just for that feature alone.

Retina HD Display: The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus displays are now 25% brighter and sport a wider color gamut. There isn’t too much else to say about the new iPhone’s display. It’s always been impressive and nothing’s changed there. The additional brightness should help when using the device in direct sunlight and the wider color gamut will allow for more rich images.

Speakers: For the first time in an iPhone, Apple has added stereo speakers. This will allow for twice the volume output of previous iPhones and offers an increased dynamic range. Even though I have Bluetooth speakers, AirPlay devices, and headphones, I still find myself regularly using my iPhone’s built-speakers. I’m happy to see they’re making improvements on this front.

EarPods: Apple is removing the headphone jack from the iPhone 7. There’s been plenty of articles written about why that is or isn’t a good idea, but truthfully, I don’t really care. In my life, there are only two items that I connect to my iPhone with an audio cable — the Apple EarPods that ship with the device and my car stereo. Both of these are easily fixed when I eventually upgrade to a device without a headphone jack. I can simply use the Lightning EarPods that Apple ships with the iPhone and I can use the included Lightning to headphone adapter in my car. Super easy.

I understand that this is a major concern to people who regularly use the same pair of headphones with a handful of devices. Not all of them have a Lightning port and some of them don’t support Bluetooth. The good news is that you can continue using your headphones with the Lightning to headphone adapter. It isn’t the most elegant solution, but it’ll certainly get you by until all of your devices support the newer technologies.

I think Apple did an excellent job explaining why they were moving on from the headphone jack. The key to it all is that handset manufacturers are doing everything they can to pack as much technology into their devices as possible. Space is at a premium and it doesn’t make sense to waste so much of it on a single-purpose connector. As annoying as it may be to a large number of users, I think any rational individual can understand why Apple’s doing this.

AirPods: Apple has removed the wires from their EarPods and engineered their own W1 Bluetooth audio chip to produce a set of wireless earbuds. They use infrared sensors to detect when they’re in your ear which will prevent them from wasting energy by unnecessarily playing back audio. They last up to five hours with their built-in battery, but come with a charging case that can provide a total of 24 hours of listening.

The pairing process is quite impressive — which is exactly what I would expect from an Apple product like this. You simply open the AirPods’ case near your iPhone and tap the connect button. The headphones are then automatically setup with your iPhone and Apple Watch. They even use iCloud to propagate the pairing to your iPad and Mac.

Apple’s AirPods are impressive from a technological standpoint, but I don’t think I’ll end up buying a pair. They’re fairly affordable, at $159, but I’m not too keen on truly wireless headphones. Having two independent earphones leaves me worried that they’ll get lost too easily.

And I’m not thrilled about the five hours of battery life either. I frequently wear headphones at work for several hours at a time, I don’t want to take them out for a recharge just to make it through an entire day. Until they offer battery life in the neighborhood of eight hours, I’m just not interested.

Apple Pay: The iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2 will support the NFC standard used in Japan for contactless payments. Apple will be using this to rollout Apple Pay for Japan in October.

Performance: The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus include a brand-new generation of A-series chips called A10 Fusion. It features a four-core CPU — two high-speed cores alongside two high-efficiency cores. This allows the iPhone 7 to achieve significantly improved performance on CPU intensive tasks while allowing for better battery life while running less demanding applications. The A10 Fusion will offer improvements by just about any metric and really shows the advantage Apple has over other handset manufacturers — no one else has access to chips like this.

The story of performance is just about the same every year — massive improvements over last year’s model. What’s most interesting to me, though, is that the iPhone 7 is likely at or beyond parity with the performance of the most powerful machines in my house. I haven’t seen benchmarks quite yet, but based on the increases over the iPhone 6s, that means the iPhone 7 will be the most powerful computer many people have ever used in their life. And it fits in their pocket. That would have been unbelievable just a few years ago.

MacStories Reviews Activity++ ➝

Jake Underwood, writing for MacStories, on David Smith’s newly announced Activity++:

Activity++ is very similar to Apple’s own Activity app. And for those unfamiliar with Smith’s “++” branding, the app could be confused as a tool which adds more functionality to the stock Activity app. I’ll strike that down right now – while Activity++ does offer improvements to both the iPhone and Apple Watch Activity apps, these improvements aren’t related to new functionality.

Activity++ will make its way onto your devices because of its convenience. On either platform, the app presents activity data in digestible sets of information that are accessible and void of any clutter. Don’t think, however, that the data is simple; rather, consider that Activity++ has a form of presentation superior to Apple’s own Activity app.

I installed the app yesterday morning and have been very happy with it so far. I find the “streaks” visualization to be much more enjoyable than the way Apple’s Activity app displays similar data.

Apple TV and Fitness Integration ➝

Erica Sadun:

At this point, Apple is wasting a strong health branding component with its Apple TV product. Between the watch, iOS Motion, and Health Kit, Apple TV should be much more proactive than apps limited to logging meals (still easier to do on an iOS device) and offering coaching advice.

Imagine if there was an Apple TV app that communicated with the Watch. It could offer customized workout videos based on how active you are in everyday life and take into account how your body reacts to different exercises to get the best results possible. It would be a bit expensive to get started, but I think a lot of people would get really excited about this type of integration.

(Via Pixel Envy.)

Conor McClure on Cardio > Everything ➝

Conor McClure, regarding my comments on the Apple Watch’s focus on cardio workouts:

Strength athletes have always tracked their workouts, but even in 2015, most coaches still recommend simple composition notebooks, because no digital alternative has proven to be comprehensive or reliable enough. I think it’s a stretch to say that “having to input the type of exercise, number of reps, etc. into an application” is “not ideal” for the Apple Watch. It’s entirely plausible (I’d design the app myself if…), and it’d only take one well-designed third party app to get me on board the Apple Watch train.

He further clarifies on Twitter that the Apple Watch would be ideal for tracking strength training workouts and that manually inputing data is the only way to go.

Conor is currently pursuing a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree and clearly knows his stuff. I, on the other hand, don’t really know that much about fitness.

Cardio > Everything Else ➝

Joe Darnell, regarding the Apple Watch’s fitness tracking:

For example, isometric exercises like push-ups and spider crawls aren’t accurately tracked because they burn calories at a different rate from standard cardio exercises like running and cycling. If I walk on an elliptical machine for thirty minutes, the Watch will accurately detail the calories burned and the minutes performed. If I’m bench pressing, then it will not accurately calculate the calories I’ve burned. My trainer who’s tried the Watch for himself says that it’s off by a long shot.

This is where trackers often lack. It’s not that the Apple Watch is inferior to other devices, it’s that tracking exercises from a person’s heart rate on the wrist isn’t accurately gathering data for a variety of muscle groups. The good news is that runners and swimmers have accurate tracking with devices like Apple Watch because their physical activity is primarily cardio in nature.

I’d love to see Apple address these issues, but I’m afraid it would involving having to input the type of exercise, number of reps, etc. into an application. That’s not ideal and requires a much more hands on approach to fitness tracking than cardio workouts do. But who knows, maybe Apple will come up with a clever way of determining most of that information without you needing to tap around on your wrist in between each set.

Joe does mention that he still starts a new workout on his Apple Watch every time he goes to the gym. Although it doesn’t accurately count calories burned, it does help him keep tabs on how much time he spends working out. Which actually might be a more important metric for many Apple Watch owners.

Pedometer++ Reaches One Million Downloads ➝

David Smith:

The response to it blew me away. I had put it on the store more as a whimsical tool for playing with the new hardware but it took off from day one. With 12k downloads in its first day of availability, and 30k its first week. Seeing this opportunity I worked over the next few days to get a better, more capable application ready.

I started using Pedometer++ the day it was released. I’ve tried other activity tracking apps, but I’ve always ended up coming back to Pedometer++. I couldn’t be happier about the success David’s had with the application and I hope he continues to see a steady number of downloads going forward.