Apple Watch activity tracking

Aug 15, 2015

I’m writing about Apple Watch activity tracking separately because it’s one of the central selling points of watch, and also what I personally have used the most. (For previous episodes in this series, see general thoughts and hardware, and software.)

Activity tracking reminds you to do three things each day, and keeps track of these through the day:

  • Stand up once every hour, for 12 hours or more.
  • Move for at least 30 minutes a day, at the pace of a brisk walk.
  • Burn at least X calories a day, where X is 660 by default.

Some people claim it has been life-changing and they’ve lost over 40 pounds with it. I wouldn’t go thus far, but it certainly hasn’t hurt to have an overview of your record.

Here’s my track record thus far.

I’m pretty happy with it thus far, especially considering that I bumped the calories up to 800, and often even managed to hit that goal. You can see that I clearly have active and passive days, and the activity tracking motivates me to think about how to keep filling up the circles. I definitely met my goals on some days because I saw that there’s just a little bit to go on the circles, and I thought, why not walk a bit further instead of using some other transport.

Some people have also tried the activity tracking in unconventional environments like swimming in the ocean, which definitely has its own environmental challenges, e.g touch screen doesn’t work.

At the gym

I tried the watch with elliptical training. Sometimes I like to go and do a good 1500-calorie session, which takes me a bit over 90 minutes. The calories are reported by the elliptical machine that knows your weight and and also the resistance that you use it with. Watch has a dedicated workout app that also has an elliptical profile, but it doesn’t know anything about the resistance that I set on the machine. So my watch reported much less calories for the training than the machine did.

Running the workout app also showed me a weak point of interacting between apps. Listening to music is pretty common when working out, and I wanted to control the playback while looking at the workout app. This is not easy: there’s no glances in apps except the watchface, so I needed to click the digital crown a lot to go back to springboard first, and from there, locate the music app, and do my thing. Or, I could go from workout to watchface and bring up the playback glance from there.

Music is big for Apple these days, and I expect a lot of improvement when using it together with working out.