Another hairy arm with an Apple Watch

by Volker Weber

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I have said a few things about activity tracking on Apple Watch, I told you about my personal preferences. The bigger question is: is it worth having? Will you wear it after the novelty wears off?

I believe the answer is a solid yes.

Watch goes on the charger as I go to bed. It sits next to my toothbrush. If I get up in the night, I put it back on my wrist. If not, it's the first thing in the morning. I never ran out of battery during the day, not even on the first day, where I played a lot. I have about 30 to 40% charge left when I go to bed.

I am using Apple Watch exactly like I used Pebble: notifications and activity tracking. With the Pebble I could see the step tracking from iPhone right on the watchface. With Apple Watch I swipe up to get to the Activity glance. As much as I am doing the same things, they work better on Apple Watch. I can read the whole email, I can archive it right from the watch. Tap Engine is better than vibrate, the sounds are really subtle.

I have mixed results from answering the phone from Apple Watch. Sometimes I am simply too far away from the phone for a stable connection. If the phone is on me, results are pretty impressive. It works very well in the car for instance. When a call comes in, simply tap the screen to accept and leave the hands on the steering wheel. Sound from the watch is quite impressive and it has no trouble picking up my voice.

So far I have not been using any apps. By the time an app starts I have already picked up the phone and used it there. I am sure this will change when developers go from Watch Kit to Watch SDK.

Most of the complaints are b/s. Apple Watch is easy to use, easy to understand, does not run out of power. The display isn't always on but it does come on exactly when I need it. The only environment it does not work in is very bright light. If the sun shines directly on the display, you won't see a thing.

Caveat emptor: if you buy an Apple Watch, you are never going to use anything but an iPhone. At least not in the foreseeable future.

Comments

Volker,
no fan of Pebble anymore? I already thought of getting one, i like the 7-day autonomy of needing a loader...
If you do not like your Pebble anymore tel me ;-)

/ Ralf

Ralf Pichler, 2015-06-18 09:39

I still like Pebble, and no, you can't have it. ;-)

Volker Weber, 2015-06-18 09:54

Something you should have a look at: Since I have an Apple Watch I noticed a difference in the step count between Withings and Health on the phone. From what I understand Health is supposed to combine the step count of the iPhone and the Watch. My impression curently is, that some steps get double counted.

Oliver Stör, 2015-06-18 13:25

@Oliver: Same with Jawbone UP App! I like the UP App for Food- and Step-tracking but since the Apple Watch sends steps to Health App und UP App imports steps from Health App, there is a difference in counting steps. Sometimes Health counts 10.000 and UP 12.000 at the same time.

Marten Andresen, 2015-06-18 14:27

"A man with one watch knows exactly what time it is. A man with two watches is always in doubt." - Seems this also applies to step counters ;-)

Oliver Stör, 2015-06-18 15:55

I have never linked Health and Withings. They draw from the same sensors. And funny enough, Withings often corrects itself by reducing the step count by several hundred steps.

Volker Weber, 2015-06-18 15:58

@Oliver, I wonder how you get double counting.

For me it seems that Withings "only" counts the activity from the iPhone and totally ignores the watch steps. So I get less steps in Withings than it should be.

So far I switched of all things in Withings except for the blood pressure monitor as this is really annoying.

Harald Gärttner, 2015-06-18 22:17

@Harald: Well, firstly when I go into all data for steps in the Health app and see 85 steps from the iPhone and 71 steps for the Apple Watch in the same minute, I suspect that something may be double counted. Secondly, I recognized, since I started using the Apple Watch my step count has risen remarkably. Thirdly (is that a word?), Withings counts much less steps than iPhone+Apple Watch combined.

Or my step count is now correct and Withings missed a huge number of my steps in the past.

Anyway, I deleted Withings completely, because the (in my case) huge difference in step counting annoyed me immensely.

Olver Stör, 2015-06-18 22:51

@Oliver,

yes that got me confused in the beginning too: Steps form iPhone AND watch at the same time in addition to a risen step count.

The point here is that Apple notes in the health app that in case of double counting they have a priority list. Just go to Steps and Distance and look at the data sources.

You will find there the watch, health and most probably your iPhone as the first three entries. Go to edit and you will see all three checkmarked. You can't uncheck them but you can change the order.

I made sure that the watch is on top, health is second and the iphone is third.
That way in case the watch and iphone count steps the same time only the count from the watch should appear in your health data graphic (although both are still listed in the raw data).

In addition I don't allow any third party app to write steps or distance (and now training too as I use the watch workout app for training time measurement). Usually the priority rule should work there as well but I got some misreads from apps in the past. Again Withings was in some prior versiona the one how doubled my step and distance data in the health app!

Why am I sure there is no double counting with watch and phone? Well, when I go for a 10km run I get indeed the 10km distance and appropriate steps instead of double of it. With that distance I would surely recognize the difference. Or you just look at the total stepcount of today go into the raw data and delete some of the phone steps that are created at a time both watch and phone were in use ... go back top the overview and you will see that the step count hasn't changed.

There are apps that have/had trouble with that on reading data. Lifesum for example for some time showed almost double the steps in their app obviously reading both watch and phone steps without prioritizing. This was fixed in the last update.

So why is your stepcount significantly higher? For me it's definately because I had a lot of times (at work, at home etc.) were I don't carry my phone with me. So I get now credited for this.
But that doesn't add up for the total difference.

Unfortunately there is more to that: A wrist device will be in motion a lot. Not only while walking. So some motion might be miscounted as step movement. While sitting here at my desk and writing this and doing some other work stuff (without walking) the watch credited 51 steps to my data. It's 51 steps I never made. It's not that much as it happens in a half hour time range but depending on how much non-walking movement you have this indeed adds some steps to the total over the time of a whole day. (With that rate it might add up something between 500 - 1500 steps over a whole day).

I think we have to live with that the same way as heart rate on a wrist device is never as good as from a chest strap (although the Apple Watch is quite precise in comparison). Maybe they can optimize that over the time but some error rate will still remain.

And for Withings, it's exactly what you assume: Your health data is correct (including the mentioned movement error) but Withings only counts the phone data.

Again simple test: go for a longer run with both watch and phone and Withings will match. Go for the run just with the watch and Withings will miss the steps. The reason is quite easy: Withings health connection only writes data but doesn't read data. Therefore as Volker said they can use the iPhone sensors but most probably can't use the watch sensors (and they don't read from health data so there's no way they can get that data). And I also assume that won't change until they can provide a native app with watchOS 2.0 that has direct access to to the watch sensors.

Harald Gaerttner, 2015-06-19 11:11

@Harald: Thanks for the explanation. I think I get it now.

Oliver Stör, 2015-06-19 12:22

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I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.

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