I’ve had the series 6 Apple Watch since September 2020. That’s almost ten months of daily use.
This review will be coloured by my massive appreciation for apple products as a colossal fanboy! But I purchased this watch, and we weren't given anything for this review.
The Apple Watch isn’t perfect. There are better running specific watches out there. But as the overall smartwatch package, I am all aboard the Apple hype train.
The Apple Watch Screen is stunning. It’s crisp and clear and full of colour. I have never had any issues seeing it in any light. Beautiful.
However, it isn’t great at all when wet. I’ve used some touchscreen watches that worked when covered with raindrops or just after a shower. The Apple Watch doesn’t like either of those situations.
The lack of buttons can also be frustrating when wearing gloves. Yes, it does have two buttons on it, but that doesn’t make it easy to use when exercising.
There’s also a plethora of bands that allow you to customise the Apple Watch. I have used the Sports Band most of the time, but this new Pride Woven Band has been a game-changer.
I love the design watch and how it sits on my wrist. For reference, mine is the 44mm. I am somewhat jealous of my girlfriend, who has the same watch, but her smaller wrist makes it look that much more significant. I wouldn’t mind a bit more size.
This is what you are here for.
There are many limitations with Apple’s Workout App. The standard App allows you to go for a run.
You can go for an “open” run or aim for a distance, time or calories.
On-screen, you get 5 metrics as a default: Heart Rate, Pace, Time and Distance.
It has an auto-pause function, but frustratingly you can’t set the sensitivity of this to fine-tune it. I’ve found it can be very slow to activate and sometimes starts again when I am tying a shoelace up.
It’ll automatically lap each mile too.
A really cool feature is you don’t wait around for it to find a GPS signal. You just go. It’s very cool.
You can only have a maximum of 5 metrics on the screen at a time. There’s an option to edit this to have
Rolling Pace - shows your pace for the mile distance that is directly behind you.
Active and Total Kilocarlies
Average and Current Cadence
The data screens are limited to just this data at the moment.
Apple has teamed up with Nike for an Apple Sport Nike Edition. This unlocks a few extra Watch Faces, but it also adds the Nike Run Club App into the Apple Watch.
This does unlock the Nike Running App, and that has some Guided Runs and Training Plans. This isn’t a deep dive into those features, but I feel it’s a mixed bag of things.
What this doesn’t really help with is making the Apple Watch a really good Sports Watch
A few weeks ago, I took a dive into WorkOutDoors. This is the game-changer for the Apple Watch and allows you to do so much more when running.
This is very much in line with how Apple Works. They create an excellent product, and then people make it better with Apps.
The Apple Watch has a built-in wrist-based Heart Rate Sensor. I have been very critical of these in the past.
I am not alone in having dodgy readings from these units. If you want reliable Heart Rate data, then a chest strap is the way to go. However, they can be uncomfortable and annoying to put on.
I’ve been impressed with what Apple has done. It seems to be accurate and smooths out any oddness you can find.
You can also pair a Bluetooth Heart Rate monitor to the Apple Watch if you own one.
Over the last few years, Running with a Power Meter is something I’ve dived into. I think there are limitations to this. But the Apple Watch will pair with Stryd Power Meter, and you can run with power.
You have to use the Stryd app when running, which means you don’t have the functionality of WorkOutDoors on the run.
This is an area we’ll look to cover in more depth in the future.
The Apple Watch is built with the multi-sport user in mind. The inbuilt workout app allows for workouts of all types - swimming, cycling, yoga and Pilates, to name just a few. You can really track everything.
The swimming function is particularly impressive. With a pool swim, you tell the watch how far a length is and it then workouts out your workout distance and what type of swim stroke you were doing. It’s very cool.
External swimming apps can leverage this, and I had some great fun doing a swimming plan with the watch.
It will track your cycles, but the watch is beyond challenging to look at on a bike ride. It works to track Heart Rate, Distance and Time, but you’d want a Heads Up Unit if you were really into cycling outside.
The watch is excellent for a Spin Class.
Paired with some AirPods, AirPods Pro (review next week!) or any set of Bluetooth headphones, you get your music library on your wrist.
Music can be stored on the watch - you set albums to sync via the App. If you have the cellular watch version, you’ll have access to all your music library (or music on Apple Music!). It’s a fantastic experience.
With Apple Shortcuts and Siri, this is where the Apple Watch can become incredible. I have created a shortcut called “let's go running”, and with that, it automates several features:
-sets my watch face to my sports face
-sets my watch to do not disturb (I don’t want to take a phone call when on the run)
-starts a run
-sets the noise control to “Transparency Mode.”
-starts my Running Playlist
It’s very cool and just scratches the surface of what’s possible. I could set it up to text someone to let them know I am going for a run or maybe switch your lights to a specific colour at home.
Lack of data
You do get a lot of data from the Apple Watch. It tells you your Blood Oxygen levels, has an ECG built-in, Heart Rate Variability and gives you a VO2 Max value.
What Apple hasn’t really done is translate all this data into stuff that’s that useful. I have a sense of what this all means, but I don’t know how actionable this data is. Or how best to translate it into a way that becomes useful.
What you don’t get with the Apple Watch is the impressive metrics you see on Garmin. There’s nothing like the running metrics, fatigue levels or hydration information. I do think that this information can be overwhelming at times, but I do envy Garmin users.
The Apple Watch is undoubtedly missing some data for really keen runners.
Exporting YOUR data
Depending on how you track your data, it can get locked into the Apple ecosystem.
Using the apple workout app, you can’t connect this to any online sites to upload your data. However, WorkOutDoors has Strava integration, the Nike Running Club App has an online portal (and can sync with Garmin Connect), and Strava has an app, too, if you want to use that.
It requires workarounds to get the most out of the Apple Watch.
You are only getting a single day of use from the Apple Watch. And that isn't 24 hours of use either. It's a battery hungry device. I have learnt to work around it and charge up before bed (that way, I get the sleep tracking metrics).
If you have the cellular version of your Apple Watch, it eats battery when not connected to a watch.
Working out does also draw lots of power from the watch. There are power-saving features you can enable, but 5 hours of a workout will stretch the Thai.
Each series apple delivers, the battery life improves. As it stands, this is undoubtedly a deal-breaker for many.
As a Smart Watch
I don’t think there is anything better out there. I can reply to text messages, see my calendar, get directions sent to my wrist, control my music, and pay for anything with Apple Pay.
I really appreciate I can sit at my desk, and the Apple Watch unlocks my mac, no need for me to enter a password! It’s little things like that I get a lot of joy from.
It connects to the Apple ecosystem superbly.
Stand, Exercise Time and Move
Part of the Apple Watch is ‘closing your rings’. The Apple Watch tracks your Stand, Exercise Time and Movement with the aim of completing those rings each day.
Stand - the number of hours in the day you get up and move for at least 1 minute
Exercise - prolonged periods of Increased Heart Rate
Move - calories burnt through moving
You set your goals up, and away you go.
It is very addictive to hit these each day. I love that feeling of “completing” the day when I have got all 3 done.
One area of concern is there is no good way to recognise a rest day. You can’t train hard every day, and good training is about having a flow to this.
The hack I use is to adjust my goals down on those rest days (setting 10 minutes for exercise!), allowing me to keep my streak up. Whether that is physiologically healthy is a debate for another day, but I love the goals and feel motivated to stay active each day.
You also get monthly challenges, ranging from travelling a certain distance over the month or hitting a specific Move Calorie goal. These are great and have certainly encouraged me to do more in the month. But the algorithm does need some tweak as it just keeps asking for more, and eventually, you reach a peek of what’s achievable in a month.
There’s a cool social side to this too. You can share your activity with friends and family. You’ll get notifications when they complete a workout or hit their goals. You can even compete with them for a week. It feels supportive. And it’s personal too. You get to hear from those close to you. It’s potentially less exposing than a Strava can be.
Who is this for
This is the big question that comes out of all this. Perhaps it’ll be easier to start by answering who this isn’t for:
An ultrarunner - you aren’t getting enough battery life from this to work - even with lots of power-saving features activated.
The athlete that wants lots of data. Other watches give you more. It’s also harder to connect the Apple Watch to other online systems.
The Apple Watch does work out of the box, but it’s an advanced piece of technology. I would say that those who aren’t comfortable with tech may struggle.
It’s intuitive but not as much as something like an iPad.
Only having two buttons does make it more challenging to use. But the watch would work for someone who owns an iPhone or is heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem
Enjoys exercising, does lots of different activities and wants to track them
Likes training to music.
Doesn’t mind playing around with technology to make it work for them.
I’ve found real joy training with my Apple Watch. It isn’t the perfect training companion, but it works.
When I was in heavy training, I would have both this and a Garmin. The Garmin for training and Apple Watch for day to day use. It was the best of both worlds.