8 Things Runners Need to Know about Apple Watch

Fans of Apple first saw the new Apple Watch when it was revealed last September, so when this new piece of gear was announced to be released, runners were eager to hear about the nitty gritty details.

Apple CEO Tim Cook finally revealed the biggest details about Apple Watch, doing his best to answer some of the nagging questions: How does it work? Is it any different from other smartwatches on the market? Are there any other cool features that make you feel like James Bond?

Here are the main takeaways endurance junkies should know about.

What does it track?

There are two main apps on Apple Watch to pay attention to: the Activity app and the Workout app. The Activity app is similar to other fitness trackers on the market that monitor your daily movements, though this shows your daily progress in three colored rings. The Move ring tracks your kilojoules, the Exercise ring looks at your amount of brisk activity, and the Stand ring shows you how much time you’ve spent on your feet as opposed to sitting. You can set your own goals for each ring, and those can be updated by you or suggested by Apple as a form of motivation.

The Workout app is what you’d want for a run or bike ride. You’ll get information like your time, distance, pace, and kilojoules burned, just as any other fitness watch offers. (See more below, though.) It also stores your latest or best workouts, providing you with virtual pats on the back, new goals to hit, and updates along the way.

The back of the watch also has four infrared and visible-light LEDs that track your heart rate. (It wasn’t fully announced if this feature kicks in only when you’re active or if it’s continuous, like other daily heart rate trackers.) Combined with the built-in accelerometer, gyroscope, and your iPhone’s GPS, this allows the watch to piece together all of your health information.

Great. So I can replace my GPS watch?

Not unless you like running with your phone. It hasn’t been a secret, but there is no integrated GPS in the watch as you’ll find in most basic running watches or new daily fitness/endurance sport trackers like the Fitbit Surge or Garmin Forerunner 920XT.

If you want the ability to track your distance, route, pace, or have a handy Apple Map on your wrist as you move around the world, you’ll need to have your iPhone with you and pair the devices through Bluetooth. It also wasn’t announced how Apple Watch Sport does in water. Cook said earlier this year he’s been showering with it, but there wasn’t any mention of swimming with the watch or how it would do in a downpour.

What else can Apple Watch do?

Beside tracking your health, many innovative features make Apple Watch stand out. First, it can store music on the watch, so that doesn’t have to be linked to your phone. How much storage wasn’t initially announced.

“Glances” is a feature that lets you swipe up from the bottom of the screen to see basic information like your heart rate, control your music, check weather, or read texts and emails. (You can use Siri to respond to texts.) Any notification you receive on your iPhone you can also receive directly on the watch, so you can get updates on your favorite sports teams, receive social media notifications, and so on.

“Digital Touch” is another touted feature that allows you to share your heart beat, draw a picture, or grab somebody’s attention with simple taps of the screen. Calling an Uber, using the watch as a hotel room key, and using Apple Pay all can be done right from the watch. Many other apps have been developed for the launch of the watch as well, all of which can be stored on the home screen.

What fitness apps does Apple Watch work with?

You’ll search and download apps through your iPhone’s Apple Watch app store on iOS 8.2. Unfortunately, Monday’s keynote wasn’t heavy on outside apps focused on fitness beyond Nike+ Running. Strava announced it will have an app at launch, according to VeloNews.com.

Will the battery last?

One of the big challenges with any smartwatch is making the thing last without needing a frequent charge. If you’re planning on using Apple Watch for your next marathon (or half), you might want to rethink that.

Cook announced all-day battery life of “18 hours” for most people, but he was quick to gloss over whether that was with heavy use or not. Reports have mentioned the watch might struggle to hold a charge for several straight hours of regular usage. All-day heart rate monitoring might not be in the final version of the piece if there are concerns with battery life. So you’re definitely going to need this to charge overnight (goodbye to sleep tracking for now) and likely give it some juice after a workout.

What’s the build like?

Good question because there are actually three different Apple Watches. Runners would probably be most interested in the Apple Watch Sport. The timepiece is made of anodized aluminum in silver and space gray colors, while the screen (sized either 38 mm or 42 mm) is protected by Ion-X glass. The bands come in five different colors. (The actual weight wasn’t available, but it’s 30 percent lighter than the stainless steel models.)

The standard Apple Watch comes with a stainless steel or black stainless steel case and numerous band types. Then there’s the Apple Watch Edition, which is the 18-karat gold case in rose or yellow.

How do you use the thing?

Ah yes, how do you actually interact with something a quarter of the size of your iPhone 6+?  It has a touchscreen that can tell the difference between a touch – a more forceful push called “Force Touch” – and a simple tap for specific controls.

Because there is no pinching or expanding the screen, the best way to maneuver through the screen is with a dial on the side of the face that Apple calls the “Digital Crown.” You’ll have access to Siri, who can guide you through life with the built-in speaker and microphone, and you’ll receive feedback and notifications by what Apple calls its Taptic Engine – a quiet pulse to your skin to grab your attention, say, when you’re sitting too long.

And expect to have your iPhone around to use the Apple Watch through Bluetooth or Wifi connectivity. (You’ll need any generation iPhone 5 or higher.)

What’s the price, and when can you get it?

Pre-orders for the Apple Watch begin April 10, and you can visit your local store for demos that day. It will be available in all stores April 24. 

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