Digital Marketer • Ecommerce Leader • VR / AR / MR Evangelist

Is Apple Watch 3 good enough to be a fitness device? A runner’s perspective

When the first generation Apple Watch came out I picked one up as soon as I could.

Although I claimed this was part of my job to know & understand this tech and how it related to my duties as a digital marketing strategist, in reality I was just looking for a fitness watch / device that did not suck.

I've gone through many watches over the years and most sit unused in a box somewhere. I've had a few generations of Garmin watches, Suuto, Mio, Polar and now the Apple Watch.  My biggest complaint about all of them is that they are too complicated to use and often too clunky to wear.  They never enhanced my experience enough to justify carrying them with me.

After getting lost in a rain storm in the mountains of Park City where fog reduced visibility to nearly zero a few years ago,  I decided that I needed a watch with GPS capabilities to guide me back to my car in case I became disoriented. I never figured out how to make those capabilities work for me in either my Garmin or Suuto watch.  At over $300 each, it was getting expensive to run with some peace of mind - so it became better & easier to carry a battery charger for my phone and call for help using my phone's GPS in the event I needed help and / or a rescue.

Apple Watch soon found itself among the box of discarded watches I had abandoned for fitness tracking & training - although more accurately it was left for months on the fancy wood charging station I bought for it.  I tried wearing & using the watch on four different occasions in the first 12 months - but it never stayed on my wrist for more than a few weeks before I would abandon it again.

As a lifelong runner, I was really disappointed in the Apple Watch.  Daily charging, the need to pair with a phone and ultimately the absolute failure of pulling data made me think this was the worst watch I had ever bought for fitness.

Because the Watch needed to "wake" your phone to get data via bluetooth (like when I wanted to know my pace or distance inside the Nike+ running app), it could take literally many seconds for me to get the information I wanted.  So there I was running the trails of Park City carrying more gear that gave me less information and with a diluted experience.

To this day I'm amazed that this absolute failure of timely "pull" data hasn't been covered more in the media. Perhaps it's because most reviewers (and users) are used to mostly getting "push" data - or data that is pushed as an alert from their phone and therefore it always seems to arrive just in time.  If you don't know the data is coming - you have no idea (nor do you probably care) that when it arrives it was actually processing many seconds before.

Although I'm yet to get my hands on an Apple Watch, Series 3 device - it looks like Apple has finally built a watch that on paper would be good enough to try again as a fitness device.  Having cellular connectivity means I don't need to bring my phone and in theory that means my apps can run on their own without waiting for data through slow bluetooth from the phone as well.  This means that a quick glance to get my pace, distance or heart rate should be highly responsive - or finally as good as what you can get from a $20 fitness watch.

The new barometric altimeter sensor to add elevation gain (and loss) data to my runs and an easy SOS button that sends my location are two very important features for a trail runner who spends most of his time in the mountains away from civilization.

These new features & functions aren't revolutionary and feel more like Apple is finally addressing the final glaring gaps to make the Apple Watch a legit fitness device and not just a fashion accessory for Apple fan-boys.

Suddenly this looks like something Steve Jobs would have released as a first generation watch.  I will reluctantly go out and buy one of these in a few months and hope that I haven't blown $300+ once again on a device that doesn't suck less enough.



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