Apple watchOS 9 comes with some great updates which include a range of advanced running metrics. Will they be enough to prompt Garmin customers over to the Apple Watch? Here’s our take on the matter.
The Apple Watch is considered by many to be the best smartwatch in the world. However, if you are after a sports watch – Garmin is the way to go. Or Polar, Suunto for that matter.
Up to now there was a clear distinction between these types of devices. Apple-made ones were for those who want a great smartwatch experience, lots of apps, LTE functionality a powerful operating system and more.
Sports watch makers, on the other hand, have streamlined their hardware and software for fitness enthusiasts. To support running, cycling and other activities – Garmin watches spit out a range of stats, including useful performance metrics. This was boosted by Garmin’s acquisition of Finnish-based Firstbeat Analytics a couple of years ago.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
Advanced performance metrics, in particular, is what separates Garmin timepieces from the Apple Watch. However, it looks like the line will be blurred going forward.
watchOS 9 brings a bunch of advanced running metrics
With watchOS 9, Apple has introduced a bunch of running form metrics. What’s more, these features will be coming to older devices as well. watchOS 9 will be available on Apple Watch Series 4 and newer later this fall. The one device that is not getting it is Apple Watch Series 3. This one has been dropped from the list of supported devices.
The new metrics include vertical oscillation which measures how much your torso moves up and down as you run. This bouncing motion is something you can track and analyze. It’s rather impressive that Apple has figured out how to measure this from the wrist. The accelerometer and gyroscope are also utilized to work out stride length and ground contact time. All of this should help you perfect your running form.
But this is not where it ends. Apple has also added heart rate zones on the watch. This will help you train more efficiently and is probably something that should have done before.
The biggest surprise, however, is the introduction of Running Power. The metric is expressed in watts and it measures in real-time the effort you are making when you run. The more power your can generate at a lower heart rate or faster pace, the more efficient you are.
To arrive at its calculations Running Power uses pace, vertical oscillation plus external factors like grade and even local weather. This allows you to tweak your effort so that you do not push too hard too early.
Other related watchOS 9 upgrades come in the form of multiple data pages while working out. And you’ll get support for triathlon and more.
Garmin expands recovery measuring ability of its watches
The Apple news comes hot on the heels of the Forerunner 255 and 955 reveal. The biggest news here is the introduction of a bunch of recovery metrics.
This includes the headline grabbing Training Readiness Score and HRV Status. Both attempt to quantify how fatiqued you are. The first is more encompassing while the second tracks your heart rate variabilty during the night. These are Whoop-type metrics that should enable you to train smarter.
Unfortunately, it seems that Garmin has missed a trick with Running Power. Instead of coming up with a solution that works from the wrist, the feature relies on you wearing one of the company’s heart rate chest straps or its Running Dynamics pod. So not quite the native solution that many were hoping for. And it certainly does not sound as good as the feature Apple will introduce with watchOS 9. That one doesn’t require any acccessories.
No immediate threat to Garmin, but things could change
So should Garmin feel threatened by Apple’s move into advanced running metrics? Will this be enough to entice some of the Garmin enthusiasts to cut their allegiance?
The one stumbling block which currently seems insurmountable for Apple is battery life. You need to charge its timepiece every other day. And we don’t see that changing for at least a couple of years.
It would be a different story if you could rely on one week or more of battery juice on the Apple Watch between charges. That would make it a true 24/7 health, fitness and sports tracking device. Multi-day battery is a major factor.
Apple’s new updates may swing the casual athlete or hobby jogger. But for those serious about their training, Garmin is still the clear choice. Apple will really have to do something about battery life to compete in this space.
Having said that, Apple is slowly catching up to Garmin. Of course, the miserable battery life and lack of proper physical buttons will persist. But it is interesting to see their device evolve into a multi sport watch.
The watchOS 9 updates will certainly make the Garmin range less attractive. And we don’t see Garmin fixing this by making strides on the smartwatch side. It remains to be seen how they up their ante.
Reportedly, glucose, hydration, blood oxygen monitoring, core body temperature and more are just around the corner. As this plays out in the next few years, it will be companies that take advantage of this new tech that will make the biggest headway.
Apple pushing Garmin is a good thing. Ultimately, it will benefit the consumer.
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