Monday, February 20, 2017

Apple Watch Series 2 (42mm, space gray aluminum) - A Fitness Perspective

I've been a big fan of pebble for the last couple of years.  I started with the original pebble and then upgraded to Pebble Time in early 2016.  It had an always on e-ink color screen, amazing battery life, water resistant, thin, light, and worked pretty reliably with my iPhone.  I mostly used it for notifications, calendar, an occasional app, and fitness tracker.  For serious workouts I still relied on my TomTom Spark 2 cardio + music.  That is a great workout watch given the price and size of the thing.  The only thing I wish it had was at least a few smart features like notifications which they promised over 1.5 yrs ago and never delivered.  Oh well.

I've been pretty happy with my dual watch setup up until Pebble being killed off by the Fitbit buyout.  Yes, I know all about the promises of keeping the cloud services alive for a year and all the open source efforts going on but the thing is there will never be another pebble watch made.  What is out there is all there ever will be.  I looked at some other options like Martian, Vector (now also bought out by Fitbit), Garmin, etc.  Nothing really appealed to me.

So my wife got me an Apple Watch for Valentines Day though $400 for a watch seemed like way too much even given the typical Apple tax.  I knew it was more of an everyday watch and it really excels at that but I wanted to really dig into the fitness side of things and see how well it stacks up to my TomTom.  I'm already pretty invested in apple stuff (iphone 7 plus, macbook pro 15" mid 2014, ipad air 2). They only thing I really miss from my pebble so far is the always on face.  No real custom watch faces is also a bit annoying but with complications and photo watch face you can kind of create your own.

I went with a standard black sports band and also picked up this black Milanese Loop for $14.  I highly suggest you swing by an apple store and just try a bunch of bands on with your watch and see what looks and feels nice to you then go after market.  Because $200 for a Milanese loop band is INSANE.

Indoor Gym - Workout app (47 min)
- 47 min strength workout.  I used the built in workout app and picked other.  It seemed to work ok but calories burned was quite a bit lower than my TomTom.  Everything feeds into activities and health kit so myfitnesspal has no problems reading in the data from health  kit.

Outdoor Run - Workout app (3.2 miles)
- GPS map and distance - pretty spot on with my tomtom.  It was .01 miles shorter.  Heart rate seemed fine though I wish it had a heart rate/pace graph.  At least there are splits for the pace.  Music over bluetooth was FANTASTIC.  It paired fine with my mpow headphones and never lost connection, never skipped, and no static.  Compared to my tomtom I have to wear that on my right wrist and even then if I put my right hand down it would cut out for a bit.
- Display was bright and very legible during daylight.  I really like how you can see 5 stats all at once plus the clock is always there in the upper right.  I like to see running time, distance, current pace, average pace, and heart rate.
- Pacing data seemed fine for me though I didn't change pace much.  I didn't have any of the weird stuff going on like DC Rainmaker had in his review but then again I'm a LOT slower (10-11 min/mile).
- Calories burned seemed in line with tomtom.
- Why can't I view my workout I just completed on my watch?  It seems like I have to go to my phone for that.  Annoying.
- Overall I'm really happy with this watch for running and can easily replace my tomtom for that.  I just wish it had some graphs added to the activities app/workouts section and also a way to export the data to at least a few different popular online sites.  For some heart rate graphs I like HeartWatch (really good complication) or Cardiogram.  Both do a pretty good job at displaying heart rate data in all sorts of interesting ways.
- Battery life was just fine.  After a full day of use + the run I still had about 50% left.
- I briefly looked at nike run club and what the display options during running looked like.  It was basically worthless so I deleted it.

Outdoor Run - Runkeeper
- As one of the few apps that support the gps on the watch I decided to give this a try.  It's kind of horrible.  My pace was all over the place, heart rate dropped out a few times, and it crashed mid run.  You can display only 4 stats simultaneously.  Sure you can cycle a few of the areas through different stats and show some fancy graphs but I don't really care about that during the run.  I much prefer the clearer, bigger, and more information dense display from the workout app.  Yeah, I think I'll stick to the default workout app for running.  Maybe strava will be better when it's released in a few weeks.  UPDATE: Runkeeper does have one unique advantage.  You can create custom workouts (very customizeable, beyond just HIIT) and then pick those from the watch.  So if you want interval training I would suggest giving Runkeeper a try.

Indoor bike
- Seemed to work well enough.  Calorie counts were quite a bit lower than tomtom.

Pool Swim (30 min)
- Just fantastic.  It's hands down better than tomtom.  I was able to input 25 yd pool length.  It counted my lengths, distance, pace (with splits), and even heart rate (which tomtom disables during swim) all accurately.  I did the water ejection thing a few times and the speaker was pretty much back to normal.

Outdoor bike - (13 miles)
- I used the cyclemeter app since my setup is all bluetooth wahoo stuff (speed + cadence + rflkt bike computer).  Cyclemeter fully supports apple watch and lets you really customize the display.  I set it up with 6 stats which is basically how I have the RFLKT setup (speed, avg speed, heart rate,  cadence, ride time, ride miles).  It's a bit tiny on the watch and the angle isn't the best especially when down in the aero bars but overall not bad.  It picked up the heart rate from the watch and then it also shows up in the RFLKT.  Typically on my training rides I leave the tomtom at home since I always have my phone with me.  I used a Mio Link for heart rate data (hate chest straps).  This basically lets me use the apple watch instead of the mio link and as a bonus I get the convenience of answering calls and notifications on my wrist.  Overall, heart rate data was acceptable but seemed to lag a bit more than the mio link.

I've had the watch for a full week now wearing it pretty much everyday.  It really is pretty great as an everyday watch.  What is surprising is I think this can also be my everyday triathlon training watch.  I think at this point it is probably good enough to replace a TomTom.  I still won't use it on race day though since it doesn't pair with my bluetooth speed and cadence sensors.  Also, there is no way it's going to compete with more serious multisport watches like a garmin 920xt or fenix 5.  But for the more casual multisport enthusiast the apple watch is probably going to be fine for most people.

UPDATE: 2/27/2017
- Outdoor run - strava:  Works better than runkeeper.  Heart rate seemed solid.  Pace seems like it is the current pace though it is labeled split.  It needs an avg pace display.  Other than that it seems to work fine.  I still prefer the built in workout app for running.
- I did another indoor swim, bike, and another outdoor run using the workout app.  I'm still quite happy using this as my fitness watch.
- If you have issues with bluetooth just turn on airplane mode on and back off on the watch.

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