If your Apple Watch is already your most consistent gym partner, the new updates coming to watchOS 4 this Fall are primed to turn it into your gym BFF. Jay Blahnik, director of fitness for Health Technologies at Apple, promises the new iteration will be "more powerful and easier to use than ever." I had a chance to preview some of the changes and improvements to the device Apple is rolling out in the coming months — here are a few of the ways they could transform your workouts:
- Smart Activity Coaching: The new iteration of the Activity app will be more intelligent than before. It will learn what time of day you tend to be most active and prompt you to get moving around those hours. If you're not on track to close all three of your activity rings — which set daily exercise, standing hours, and move goals — it will even give you a recommended walking time to help you meet your goals before your usual bedtime.
- Quick Switch Between Workouts: One of my least favorite workout hassles will be solved by the Apple Watch's next iteration. When I do hit the gym instead of taking a boutique class or going on an outdoor run, I really prefer to mix up my workouts — often starting on the StairMaster before transitioning to the elliptical or hitting the treadmill for an indoor run. What I don't love is having to end one of those workouts on my Apple Watch, save it, then press another two buttons to start a new one. The watchOS 4 update will solve this, allowing you to more seamlessly transition from one workout type to another by swiping right and hitting a "+" icon to simply add on to your existing workout.
- HIIT Workouts: Orangetheory and Tabata devotees will be pleased to know that watchOS 4 will add HIIT (high-intensity interval training) as one of the categories in the Workout app. The Apple team created custom heart-rate algorithms and motion measurement to make the workout data as accurate as possible for HIIT.
- GymKit: If you're an Equinox member, you might already be familiar with The Pursuit, a Spin workout that incorporates Apple Watch data into the class itself. This Fall, Apple Watch will offer gym-goers even more integration with GymKit, which will allow users to simply tap their watchface against cardio equipment to sync data including heart rate, pace, and calories burned — and it's working with major gym equipment companies like Life Fitness and Technogym to bring the capability to their products.
- Tennis and Surfing Tools: If you're a surf or tennis aficionado, watchOS 4 will offer new ways to measure your sessions and matches on your watch. Zepp, a new tennis app and sensor that tracks spin, ball speed, and heart rate, will be syncable with the watchOS 4 Watch. And surfing app and sensor Xensr will offer similar capabilities for surfing, tracking how many waves you caught and missed, ride length, and calories burned, among other stats. The capability is new to watchOS 4. "We know there are many situations where our customers want to be able to connect directly to their Watch without their phone," Blahnik says. "So with watchOS 4 and core Bluetooth, users will be able to do this."
- Auto Set Detection For Swimmers: Swim workouts completed with Workout in watchOS 4 will be able to instantly measure each set by detecting when a swimmer pushes off at one end of a pool, recording data for each segment of a swim. (The Apple Watch Series 2 already can detect which of four major swim strokes — freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke, or backstroke — a user is doing in the water, simply by the motion of the wrist.)