The New Apple Watch Is All About Fitness
The Watch can still do a little bit of everything, but Apple is doubling down on features that fitness fanatics will love.
When the Apple Watch was unveiled in March 2015, it was billed as the company's "most personal device ever": a wearable that provided instant access to information and communication — from news and calendar alerts to phone calls and weather forecasts — as well as tracked your fitness.
A year and a half later, the Watch can still do a little bit of everything. But in a nod to the athletes who are becoming some of the Watch's most fervent fans, Apple is doubling down on features that make it significantly more of a health and exercise tool.
During its keynote on Wednesday, Apple unveiled a slew of wellness-related updates to the second-generation Watch, known as Series 2. For the first time, it'll be water-resistant up to 50 meters, not merely splash-proof — "so you can wear it whether you're swimming or surfing or just doing the occasional cannonball," Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams said, adding that 700 swimmers in Apple's fitness lab had put the feature through the wringer. (Notably, it comes a week after Fitbit announced its first swim-proof wearable.)
The Watch will also come with built-in GPS, so runners can go for a jog without their phones and still record a map of where and how far they've gone. And it'll have its first-ever hiking app, ViewRanger, which downloads maps of places like Yosemite so you don't need cell service to see where you're going.
There's even a Pokémon Go angle. In the wake of this summer's augmented-reality game craze, which got hundreds of millions of people trying to catch 'em all (and walking a stunning 4.6 billion kilometers in the process, according to Nintendo), a version of the app is coming to the Watch. It'll show trainers a daily summary of not just which medals they've won, but how far they've walked.
The biggest fitness news, however, is a brand-new line of running-oriented watches designed with Nike: the Apple Watch Nike+. With neon-colored, perforated designs that make them clear fitness devices, they'll show you your distance and pace at a glance. But they'll go one step further than just showing your stats. They'll try to prompt (guilt) you to work out, with messages like "Are we running today?" and dashboards of your friends' progress in comparison, a social "running club" that provides tips and encouragement, and standing invitations to run on Sundays (because, Nike President Trevor Edwards explained, those who run on Sunday are more likely to be active the rest of the week).
"This isn't just a watch, it's your perfect running partner," Edwards told the crowd. "It's simple, it's fun, it's easy to use, and we think it delivers the best running experience that's out there."
Running, hiking, Pokémon-catching, swimming, and (previously announced) guided breathing exercises: Apple's vision for its smartwatch is clear. In Williams' words, "The Apple Watch is the ultimate device for healthy lives."