Apple announces Watch OS 9 with important new sports features


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Yesterday was held the Apple WWDC, the event of the American company where they announce what are the software innovations that will come to their products in the coming months.

As part of those presentations there was of course also the Apple Watch, whose new firmware version will arrive in autumn under the name Watch OS 9 (intended for Apple Watch Series 4 or higher).

Usually Apple has been focusing mainly on the health and activity tracking functions, not because they are easier or simpler than sport, but because they are functions that interest the vast majority of users while the sport functions are a large minority.

What's New Apple Watch OS 9

However, in this edition they have turned the tables completely. Yes, they have also made some announcements concerning health functions, but the strongest part has come on the sports side with several highly relevant announcements in their training application:

  • Running power estimation directly on the watch, without the need for external sensors
  • New running efficiency metrics (associated with power estimation): vertical oscillation, ground contact time and stride length.
  • Complete triathlon support, also including automatic sport changeover detection
  • Support for heart rate zones
  • Alerts for heart rate zones, cadence and more to be added
  • Ability to compete against past activities and see if you are running faster or slower than before
  • Support for creation of complex time- or distance-based workouts

These are the most important new features at the level of the native training application (of course we must not forget that 1TP11We can use third-party applications). And they are important because they already enter the realm of more specific products for sports practice, beyond the occasional run.

Of course it is just an announcement and it remains to be seen "how deep" all these features are, but I am already hearing the concern in the offices of Garmin, Polar, Suunto or COROS following this announcement.

Power to run on Apple Watch OS 9

Undoubtedly the most important feature is the native inclusion of running power. This metric is far from new, but lately it is gaining quite a lot of traction because just a week ago Garmin also announced it for its new Garmin FR255 and Garmin FR955although this time Apple has done a much better job than Garmin.

Apple Watch OS 9 - Power to run

In the case of Garmin the adaptation they have done has been quite poor, after many years in which users were demanding it, since they are the only manufacturers that still rely on external sensors to display it (and also only theirs, there is no native compatibility with race potentiometers). Apple, like COROS or Polar, performs all calculations with data from the watch and without relying on external sensors.

Perhaps the important thing about this announcement is not that the Apple Watch is able to show power (it already had for example application for Stryd), but that after its adoption and that of Garmin to a lesser extent -because it needs sensors- it will finally become "mainstream".


However, one thing you must be clear about is that nowadays absolutely all manufacturers give power data through an algorithm, and we always talk about estimated power and not real power. Therefore the data between different devices are not the same since each manufacturer weights the values of its algorithm in a different way. There is no real value, as it can happen in cycling, so there is not a racing potentiometer that is "the most accurate". What 1TP11We can ask at least is that it has consistency and that the data is comparable between different workouts.

Career efficiency metrics

Related to the running power estimation we also have the performance and efficiency metrics: stride length, vertical oscillation and ground contact time. These are data that necessarily have to be in the algorithm to calculate the power and, since they are being calculated, they will also be displayed by the clock.

The doubt will be in how Apple will be measuring, since it does not rely on an external sensor to measure the movements of the torso but everything will be done based on the movements of the wrist.

Although in this case it will be possible to compare it with other devices that do use these external sensors to see how Apple's estimate works.

Triathlon on Apple Watch

Along with running power, the other major announcement is that Apple has added a triathlon profile for its watch. And not in a simple way where it simply allows you to switch from one sport to another, but supports automatic sport identification.

This is something that Wahoo introduced in its ELEMNT RIVAL just over a year ago and that no other manufacturer had yet picked up the baton. Apple has now done so by adding it to the Apple Watch.

What does automatic detection mean? The watch will go straight from swimming to cycling to running without you having to touch anything on the watch, it will detect everything automatically.

Apple Watch OS 9 - TriathlonIt will be interesting to see how well Apple integrates the feature. In the Wahoo case the performance was frankly good, which is not to say that the detection was absolutely accurate in detecting each and every line of mounting, dismounting, exiting the water, etc.

However the app gives absolute control to move the time bar and set it at the exact point to have total precision, exactly as if you had pressed the button (better, because we always forget to press the button in some transition). I recommend you take a look at the test of the Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL to see how this option works.

A statement of intent

Undoubtedly this new version of Watch OS is the one that brings more new features focused on running and sport. Until now the Apple Watch was the best smartwatch, possibly the one with the best health monitoring, but in terms of sport the proposal it had was for the occasional and less demanding user.

This announcement shakes the foundations of the offices of the Garmin / Polar / Suunto / COROS / Wahoo of turn, because they are novelties that are focused directly to rival them. So far they were not worried about Apple, but if I were them I would start to worry.

Not only for adding these features, but because they demonstrate what Apple's focus is for its future and the trend it is going to follow later on. And after laying the foundation of health it seems that the next target is sports.

And with that... thanks for reading!

Eduardo Mateos

I've been surrounded by electronic devices of all kinds for more than 25 years. Using them, testing them, taking them apart and dissecting them. Long distance triathlete: I swim, run and cycle for a long time. Maybe too much.

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  1. You are right! If I were Garmin and company I would be very worried, but very much !!!

    This year, Apple has bet a lot on the segment of sports enthusiasts. And considering that an Apple Watch costs the same as a Garmin or even half, depending on the model. And it does a lot more than a Garmin. So it is to be concerned. Because until now Garmin and company, had virtually the entire segment of Sports Enthusiast. But with the new additions of this year (and with the path of improvement that is foreseen in the following years) basically you will only be left exclusively with the ultramarathoners who need 10 hours of Gps or more. If you think about it, if the segment of enthusiastic athletes was already small compared to those who just hang out, then the segment of ultramarathoners is even smaller.
    Considering that an Apple Watch covers you perfectly (by battery) to do and train up to a Marathon (5 hours of continuous Gps). Only the ultra-marathoners are left exclusively to sports watches.

    With this in mind Eduardo, what do you think is missing from an Apple Watch (apart from a bigger battery which never hurts) but let's say for athletes who will never do more than 6 hours of continuous GPS activity, i.e. Marathon runners (42 km) and below, i.e. 90 percent of sports enthusiasts. So that they do not miss the dedicated sports watches. What essential features are missing! I think that with the announced, if not, 90 percent of the "must-haves" it lacks little.

    Well, the question is that, apart from a bigger battery for Ultras and others, what do you think is missing from the Apple Watch and its operating system to finish giving the Garmin and company the puntillista to Garmin and company?

    1. Apart from battery, it still lacks a lot of compatibility with sensors, synchronization with other platforms directly (Strava, TrainingPeaks...), route navigation... All this natively and without depending on other developers. They still have a long way to go.

  2. Hi, every how many seconds does the Apple Watch 6 track GPS activity?

    It's just that I used to have the Suunto Ambit 3 Peak and it tracked every 1 second.

    But there is no info on this topic on Apple's website.

    I hope you can help, thank you!

    1. It uses an algorithm and makes a filtered track to show it more beautiful, and makes the recording every several seconds. I don't know if with the new version there will be changes in this regard.

  3. Hi, Eduardo.
    A little to the thread of what salomon100 was saying, about the apple watch being on par with mid-range watches from other manufacturers, and higher ranges, with this new update of watch os, I remembered Polar and the new Pace and Pace pro, offering advanced functions in an affordable way, at a lower price (and eye, it is not that it is cheap), but the new Polar pace pro, have a problem with the apple watch. Almost the same price, and more running data in the apple watch, because the mechanics of the race, Polar has not put it so far. It's not like they knew what was coming. In short, that between Coros and Apple, maybe we soften the prices of a market, which has long been going out of control.
    Thank you Eduardo, best regards.

  4. Hi. Honestly Eduardo, is the Apple wach worth it for swimming? I am a Garmin user and it works great. On several occasions I have tested my wife's Apple in open water and it gives me a feeling of total fragility.

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