Yesterday, Apple had their September keynote that revealed their new iPhones and their new Apple Watch Series 4. Earlier this week, I gave a few things that I said could pull me from Garmin to Apple for running and everyday use. Unfortunately, it really did not tick those boxes the way I wanted – but there are a few new features that still have me thinking about it (but I would still keep a backup Garmin 🙂).
4 New Features of the Apple Watch Series 4 For Runners and Travelers
Link: Apple Watch Series 4
Since this audience is made up of 3 main segments – runners, travelers, and deal hunters – I wanted to highlight some of the things that I thought fit the best with the running and traveling markets. I will be getting an Apple Watch Series 4 to test and compare against Garmin and will have a full user experience review later, but here are the 4 things I came away with.
1. Battery Life
Here is something that is somewhat of a mystery to me. Apple has sort of always pushed the battery life numbers a bit on the high side for their devices (for people that do not use energy hungry apps a lot, the numbers are pretty spot on). Yet, with the Apple Watch Series 3 and 4 watches, they have been maintaining this “18 hour battery life” spec. When I was using the Apple Watch Series 3 for a few months, I found I could easily get up to 2 days of battery life out of it – running 2 1-hour runs each day – before it would really need a charge. Sometimes, it would be less, maybe 1 day and a half, if I was using it a lot. But, 18 hours was a time I could easily clear.
I think that Apple selects this time because they really do not want to push it as a sleep tracking device just yet. Maintaining that it “only” has 18 hours of battery life allows them to skip providing that aspect of the smartwatch system to users and encourage them to charge it during the night.
But, the reason I mention this is that they actually kept the claimed 18 hours while adding an hour for GPS time for outdoor runs! This means that runners can now expect 6 hours of battery life with GPS activity. That is an increase over the previous 5 hours. This now puts it much closer to the claimed time of some of Garmin’s running watches that came out in the last year or so.
I have to believe that the overall battery life has improved if they can give an extra hour for the battery-hungry GPS module. I will see when I get my hands on it! At least for runners, you now get 6 hours of battery life for your runs on a charge. This covers just about every marathon’s cut-off time so should work for all marathoners.
For other things you do during the run, that will cut into your battery life even more.
2. Heart Monitoring
The big news in this department is the addition of better heart rate monitoring to alert you from background monitoring if your heart rate has changed and you are experiencing a certain condition. Part of that news is the new ECG app (coming later this year). This installs new sensors, including in the digital crown, to give you the ability to take an ECG to see what is going on with your heart. Your app then saves this data that you could share at a later date with your doctor.
Apple is touting this as the first over-the-counter device that does ECGs and it is approved by the FDA for this purpose (potentially, this ability could make it count for some insurance purposes?).
For both traveling and running, I am a big fan of this. I have many fellow runners who have either died or had significant heart trauma events – when they had never experienced any illness in that direction (or had it show up in physicals). Some of these runners have been in incredible shape. Having a device that would warn you of changing heart rate patterns could be a huge help in early identification of something like this.
3. Larger Display = More Information
Apple did not give us the customization for data screens for running that I wanted, but they did increase the size of the display by 30%. Not only does this allow you to keep more data on your actual watch face (things like your upcoming flight schedule, maps, notifications, music, hotel information, fitness features, etc.) but it also makes room for 3rd party app manufacturers to use that space with their updates to allow more data screens for activities. Being able to have some much information on your watch screen will keep you from diving into apps or other watch faces to check on things like your upcoming flight or other travel related items. This can also help to improve your battery life.
For runners, Apple is giving us some more metrics with this increased screen real estate. You can now see things like rolling pace alerts to let you know how you are doing based on previous miles, your cadence, and how you are doing on your goal. This comes with Watch OS5 so nothing new but the larger display gives you a better look at that information.
4. Fall Reporting
Ok, at first glance, you may not think this means that much to most healthy people. However, especially for runners and travelers, this is actually a big deal and a great addition. I am mostly a solo runner and traveler and that means that there are many times and places where something could happen to me – accident, trip and fall, slip and fall – and no one may know how to get a hold of my family or be around to do so (because of my asthma, I wear a Medic Alert necklace but sometimes people might miss that).
This new feature will pop up a screen if a fall occurs that it sensed their was a fall and ask if you want to make a call. If you don’t respond within a minute, it will make the call for you. For both runners and travelers, this could be a huge help and potentially life saving.
The cost for the new Apple Watch Series 4 has seen an increase from $329 and $359 for the 38mm and 42mm on the Series 3 to $399 and $429 for the 40mm and 44mm on the Series 4. Getting it with cellular capability (which is still locked to a carrier) is an extra $100. Is it worth the extra money, especially when the Series 3 is now cut to $279 and $309. This means you would need to pay $120 more for the new model – slimmer and more features included.
It could be a tough call for many but I think anyone that likes the idea of tracking their health a little bit more and safety may not mind the increase in price. While I am disappointed that Apple did not do what I wanted with the Apple Watch Series 4 for runners, they did surprise me a little bit in these other areas that could be more helpful for runners and travelers that are solo and want to be more safety conscious.
These will go on sale from Apple tomorrow, September 14. The Nike+ version (which essentially just gives you a different band and exclusive Nike faces) will not ship until October while the other ones should be in people’s hands September 21.
What do you think of the new Apple Watch Series 4 for a runner or traveler?
All images from Apple