New Apple Watch Offers Athletes Data Treasure Trove

Fitness and health apps will converge in company's first foray into wearable tech
Courtesy Apple Inc.

Apple Watch

There was an early hint that there would be something spectacular for health and fitness fanatics at Apple’s new-product jamboree in Cupertino on Sept 9 when in the presentation of the company’s new iPhone 6 some of the screen shots showed new diet and exercise apps. What was to follow was the long anticipated iWatch, henceforth to be known as the Apple Watch — that is the word “Watch” preceded by the Apple symbol.

What it promises to do — apart from tell the time and perform a gazillion other functions — is to work seamlessly with an iPhone to be a comprehensive health and fitness companion. Health and fitness is a "very important area for me, and very important area for Apple," chief executive Tim Cook told his admiring audience.

The Apple Watch will run a whole bunch of non-fitness apps such as maps, messaging and Siri. Apple intends this to be a device you wear all-day, every day. The watch's innovative interface — another step advance for Apple in how consumers use and personalize its technology — will gain much attention, but the device's power for the athlete lies in its ability to provide a comprehensive picture of your physical activity — and return all the data you would expect from a top-of-the-line sports watch, and then some. 

The core sensor technologies in the watch are infrared and visible light LEDs with photo sensors to detect pulse rate and a gyroscope and accelerometer to measure total body movement. These will let the watch track heart rate and intensity while connecting with the GPS and wi-fi in your iPhone to track how far you've moved and at what pace. You will need your iPhone 5 or later in proximity.

You can also monitor calories burned during a workout using the built in Workout app, which works for runners, walkers and cyclists, and will monitor your progress during a workout or training session. Another built-in app, the Activity app, lets the watch track any activity with the intensity of a brisk walk or above to let you know when you've done half-an-hour of it a day. It can even monitor how often you stand up to take a break from sitting, now sitting is the new smoking.

Those and other apps, including what is expected to be a launch one from long-time Apple collaborator Nike, will let the Apple Watch function as a virtual personal trainer, setting workout and training goals and tracking your progress towards them.

All this health and fitness data can be stored on your iPhone where another new Apple app, Fitness, will let you see your workout activity over time. It will also share it with a new iPhone Health app, which acts as a dashboard of your fitness data and can also connect to third-party health and fitness apps that you may already be using.

All manner of other fitness apps are likely to be forthcoming from third-party developers. Apple has created a version of its development code intended to encourage software developers to combine health and fitness apps.

A sports-specific version in the collection, the Apple Watch Sport, is lighter and has a more durable casing than the day-wear models, and has a sports strap that is made from a tough, sweat- andchemicals-resistant elastomer that will come in five colors, white, salmon pink, blue, black and yellow. The watch and straps will come in two sizes, large and small, so both men and women should be able to find a good fit for their wrist size. 

Pricing for the collection will start at $349 and the watches will ship in early 2015, Cook says.

Related: 12 Best Sport Watches

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