What Makes The Apple Watch Different?

apple watch

It seems everyone is talking about the Apple Watch and fitness trackers in general. The market is booming and although there is a lot of excitement about new products and advancements, how do you navigate the options and figure out which is the right for you? Jay Blahnik, Apple’s director of fitness for health technologies, shares how the Apple Watch sets itself apart from the rest.

The Apple Watch: The good…and not so good

For more than 20 years, since shortly after graduating college, Blahnik has worked in the space where hardcore exercise science meets pop-fitness psychology and where product development bleeds into what most companies would call marketing. He’s published a bestselling book on flexibility, consulted with the biggest sports companies in the world, been named an international fitness instructor of the year, helped to create Nike’s social fitness platforms, and was a key voice on the Nike+ FuelBand, the last non-Apple wearable seen on the wrist of his current boss, CEO Tim Cook. So, in the summer of 2013, when Apple went on a Watch-related hiring spree, they brought on Blahnik to lead a cadre of exercise science experts in imagining what exactly an Apple fitness device should do.

Their answer: Silence the noise. “The team really focused on saying, ‘As fitness and activity and trends come and go, what would always be a good recommendation?’” Blahnik says. “It came down to sit less, move more, and get some exercise.” That formula became the foundation of Activity, the Watch’s all-day fitness tracker app.

And yet the Watch has also met with a skeptical press, especially when it comes to its capabilities as a fitness device. Reviewers have called it “nowhere near a complete solution” and argued that “this isn’t a fitness tracker built for fitness fanatics.”

This despite evidence suggesting that the Watch is having a significant impact on wearers’ behavior. According to surveys by Wristly, a research group dedicated to helping wearables succeed (so, yeah, biased), 75 percent of Watch owners claim the device helps them stand more frequently, 59 percent say they’re making healthier choices, and 57 percent note that they’re exercising more often. In a review meets personal essay posted to the Loop, longtime Apple correspondent Jim Dalrymple reported that he lost 42.4 pounds since he started wearing the Watch.

As a Watch owner and dedicated athlete, I’m still undecided on its impact and potential. In the eight weeks I’ve owned it, I’ve come to love my Watch. But there are things—like tracking intervals or differentiating high-intensity exercise from things like brisk walking—that I wish it could do better. So it’s with some skepticism that I listen to Blahnik’s pitch.

OUTSIDE: Do you really think the Watch is capable of changing someone’s behavior in a lasting and positive way?
JAY BLAHNIK: I get that I’m different than many consumers—I work out everyday, I’m enamored with exercise, and I consider myself self-motivated—but there are some things that almost all the Watch users have in common. Like everyone, I’m addicted to closing the rings. [The Activity app displays your progress toward your daily exercise, move, and standing goals as a series of concentric rings.] I’ll find myself going for that extra walk around the block at 9 p.m. if a ring isn’t closed.

We’re also seeing that the Watch’s weekly summaries are really motivating. If someone’s been off the wagon for a couple weeks, Activity will suggest a lower Move goal, and they go, “Wait a minute! I don’t wanna drop it!” And they start being active again. In the fall, when third-party apps will run natively on the Watch and get access to its sensors, you’ll be able to see the weekly summary in the middle of the week. Force-touch the Move ring, and you’ll actually see a beautiful graph showing if you’re above or below your goal.

Isn’t that what other fitness trackers aim to do? What makes the Watch different?
Other activity trackers focus on just one thing: steps or calories. That offers a certain level of simplicity, which is very attractive, but it’s also misleading. Tell me that you’ve burned more calories during the day, and I’m going to immediately ask, “How and when did you burn them?” The Watch tracks three things: movement, standing time, and minutes of exercise. It’s about more than quantity. As I like to say, it gives you three ways to win. And it does so in a visual way.

Full Story: Apple’s Fitness Guru Opens Up About the Watch

thumbnail courtesy of outsideonline.com