As expected, the Apple Event yesterday included a round of new and exciting products. This season had a heavy focus on entertainment, photography, and most importantly, health and fitness. Below are some of the highlights of the new Apple Watch Series 3 as it relates to health and employee wellness programs.
Improved Heart Rate Monitoring
Apple introduced improved heart-rate monitoring, which is certainly a welcomed feature as Apple COO Jeff Williams said that their watches are the most used monitor in the world (no source was provided). There is now a watch face that will show a user’s heart rate when he or she raises their wrist. When launching the heart rate app, the device will show resting heart rate and recovery heart rate, two metrics that can be indications of improving or degrading health. Users will also be able to set the Apple Watch to deliver heart rate notifications in the event a user wants to be informed when hitting a certain level of workout or feeling a spike in stress.
With this improved monitoring, Apple is launching the Apple Heart Study as part of its ongoing medical research partnerships. The company plans on using heart rate data to better inform patients, doctors, and researchers of cases of heart irregularity, building on existing research done with the Apple Watch that proved the device is capable of detecting heart irregularity with up to 97% accuracy. At this point, the device is not yet capable of being used for official diagnoses, but it is a useful tool for screening.
The prior two versions of the Apple Watch required pairing to an iPhone to have internet access. As anticipated, the latest Apple Watch incorporates LTE, which means that users can now make calls, send text messages, and use their data plans without pairing an iPhone. From a health and fitness standpoint, it means that users can track runs and stream music without having to carry their phone with them. This model is the first smartwatch that can be used as a standalone device with full communication functionalities.
Big Update, Same Look (And Battery Life)
While packing quite a punch with cellular and LTE connectivity, the Apple Watch Series 3 has similar dimension as its predecessor (the back crystal is only 0.22mm thicker). Battery life still stays at the one day span, which is impressive considering everything that is packed inside the small case but underwhelming compared to the multi-day capacity of most other smart watches and wearable devices on the market. Although cellular was by far the biggest upgrade in this model, customers can still choose a non-cellular version of the watch, which is almost identical to the previous model. In fact, the Series 2 watches are discontinued and are no longer shown on Apple’s website.
Similar to the Series 2, the watch still has GPS, which seems to have grown in popularity among smart watches and activity trackers. It is also swim-proof (unlike the water-resistant Series 1), which will go nicely with the lap-counting functionality that comes with the next software update watchOS 4. Other features of the software update, which is being released on September 19, include personalized progress updates, personalized challenges based on what users accomplished in the previous month, and new training modes, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and the swim-tracking mentioned above. The new GymKit will allow the watches to sync with gym equipment from popular brands, such as LifeFitness and Technogym, meaning less self-reported data and more from verified sources.
One additional sensor that was added to the lineup is the barometric altimeter. This sensor keeps track of elevation, which tracks flights of stairs climbed and elevation gained after each workout. Even though this information is already captured through the iPhone’s sensor, it is a handy addition for users who intend to go without their phones and for future skiing as well as snowboarding apps.