More new gear

For a couple of years now, I’ve been enjoying my first mechanical watch, a TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 5. There’s something very appealing about classic accessories, especially ones full of gears and springs. I have to admit I’m a sucker for luxurious items, and the fact that it’s something I feel the need to admit says a bit about my relationship to them. I love good quality and good design, but the last thing I want is to come off as somebody who wants to show off. The Carrera is a great watch in this sense, as it looks kind of ordinary. It could be any watch really. Still, it makes me feel a little bit taller when I put it on in the morning, and that’s exactly what I want – beautiful items for my own enjoyment.

With my more or less constant desire to get into better shape, the Apple watch has appealed to me from day one. Gamification and other habit-building gimmicks work well on me. The Nike Fuelband is pretty much just a fancy pedometer, but I wore one daily for a very long time (until it broke down), and it definitely made me move more. No doubt the Apple watch would do the same, and it does so much more than just tracking movement. The lack of GPS in the first version made it easy resist, but when Apple introduced the inevitably GPS equipped Series 2, my trusty Carrera was the only thing left preventing me from getting one.

To be torn between wearing a mechanical watch and a smartwatch a pretty embarrassing first world problem, but thought about it on and off for months. I actually know people who wear two watches, and as long as you wear a long sleeved shirt you can probably get away with it. But still, it would feel a bit … weird.

Either way, the WWDC Keynote finally pushed me over the fence. The new Siri watch face that tries to show you the information you need in different situations (as opposed to having the same setup all day, every day) would be really cool to try, but mostly I was reminded of the fitness features. With a long summer full of opportunities for walking and running ahead, I decided to give the Apple watch a try. Hopefully it will serve as motivation to keep moving, and if it doesn’t, the second hand prices are high enough that I could sell it and count the loss as a pretty reasonable monthly rent.

The good

I’ve actually never liked the looks of the Apple watch. I don’t like that it’s neither round nor square, and why they didn’t center the crown vertically is beyond me. However, it’s hard to argue with the fact that it’s a very well-built piece of hardware. To avoid spending too much, I settled for a 42 mm aluminum “sports” version of the watch. The stainless steel version cost almost 50% more, and I couldn’t really justify that price for what I considered a test. Should I fall in love in the watch, I don’t mind getting a more expensive one when the time for an upgrade comes.

There was a lot of trash talk about the battery life of the first Apple watch, and while the Series 2 is supposed to pack more juice, I had my doubts. It turned out I had no reason to worry whatsoever. Even after a full working day and plenty of fiddling with the watch, plus a 5 km run in the evening, I had almost 70% battery life left when I went to bed. The lowest battery level I’ve ever reached is 64% I think, and that was after a long working day and an 8 km run with Runkeeper, which probably consumes more power than the built in Workout app. More on this later. So, the battery is no problem at all, I could probably get away with charging it twice a week, but since I’m taking the watch off as I go to bed anyway, I might as well place it on the charging pad.

One fun thing about the Apple watch is the wide selection of bracelets and straps. Aside from Apples own selection, there are a lot of third party ones out there, and they’re usually much more affordable. I think it’s great fun to browse for different designs, but the first strap I bought turned out to feel just as cheap as it was. It looked horrible, felt horrible, and smelled … funky. Needless to say, I’ll be returning it. I’m now aiming at a slightly higher price tier, and have ordered a beautiful Nomad strap.

One last nice detail I have to mention is how effortless it is to go running with the watch. Up until now, I’ve been using a Garmin Forerunner 225 as my running watch. It feels pretty dated and bulky, but once it’s up and running, it does a good job of tracking my runs. One thing that really annoys me is that I have to wait a couple of minutes for a good GPS signal before I can actually start running. When you just want to get going, that feels like forever. With the Apple watch, you just tap Start, and that’s it. No delays, just go. Such a relief!

The bad

The biggest downside with the Apple watch I’ve discovered is that the activity data from the built in Workout app is pretty locked up. It’s exported to Apple Health of course, but none of the running apps I’ve been using reads data from there. The Garmin watch has it’s flaws, but it syncs perfectly with my favourite running data service SmashRun. They actually pay Garmin for the integration, which feels so much more reliable than an integration based on semi-public APIs that might change any day. I tried an app called RunGap that’s supposed to sync running data between different apps and services, including Health.  It synced my data from Health with SmashRun, but the import caused a lot of duplicates, and a lot of empty runs with no time and no distance. No good, man.

At the moment I haven’t found any reliable way of using the native Workout app and get good data into SmashRun. Instead I’ve started experimenting with third party running apps. As I suspected, they seem less integrated into the platform than Apples own app. I’ve tried Runkeeper and Strava so far, and while they both work well, they feel a bit clunkier than Workout. For example, there’s a noticeable delay before they light up the screen when you lift your wrist. With the Workout app it’s instantaneous. I don’t blame the developers behind Runkeeper or Strava, Apples own apps tend to have privileges third party apps can only dream of.

If I get too desperate, I might try to build a better SmashRun sync app myself. I mean, come on, how hard can it be? 😬

The verdict

I’ve had the watch for almost two weeks now, and so far it’s done a good job of keeping me on my feet. I’ve had my Move goal set at 1000 since the beginning, meaning I have to burn 1000 active kcal per day to reach it. The Apple watch uses its heart rate sensor and movement sensors to separate active calories from resting calories, so the energy you spend by just living doesn’t count. Which is good. I’ve reach my goal all days except one. So, so far so good I would say. The battery life is still great, I keep an eye on my activity goals throughout the day, and more than once the watch has reminded me to get up and move around a bit when I’ve been sitting for too long.

I miss my mechanical watch, and I even miss browsing watches that are way out of my price range, but as long as the Apple watch keeps me active, it’s earned its spot on my wrist.

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