Sports Watches: What are the killer apps/functions for 2017 and beyond?

Source: ehealthnews
Source: ehealthnews

With the Fenix 5, the killer “app” will be MAPS and the gargantuan, cumulative effect of a shed-load of individually-trivial functionality.

Think about it though…

In the market for devices for casual runners, this MAPPING feature is worthless.

So there are lots of different killer functions and apps for sports watches depending on the segment targeted. There is also a trickle down effect where one year’s high-end function on an expensive watch gets passed down to a lower model in subsequent years. 2016 saw optical HR doing this whereas in 2014/5 it was decent smartphone notifications and before that activity tracking; and so on into the past.

In cycling, Garmin are integrating with in-ride sensors and functions; Group Tracking and Varia lights, for example, as well as integrating automated bits of gadgetry like heads-up displays and gear shifting. Of course also integrating with STRAVA and other ‘social’ and performance functions – these are also ‘killer’ features to varying degrees.

Here are some ‘attractive areas’ for the future, no doubt there are many more for the list. These are potentially SIGNIFICANTLY LARGE IMHO:

  1. Untethered music – this will appeal to many segments. This is happening NOW in 2016/17.
  2. New sensor types eg hydration from BSX’s LVL.  But rather integrating such a sensor type within, for example, an existing oHR chip or putting a new sensor type into a watch. So  rather than ‘an optical sensor array’ you would have ‘an optical hr and hydration sensor array’
  3. Running power (currently only on STRYD, yes I know there are sceptics out there)
  4. MAPPING – ever heard of Google Maps? It’ll never catch on, I’m sure 🙂
  5. HRV based training: used holistically and making it work properly ie MUCH more than what Garmin have done so far; and Garmin already do more than most.
  6. More and better smartphone integration – eg integration with other smartphone apps/widgets via AndroidWear/WatchOS
  7. Fashionable ‘proper’ sports devices

Of course there will always be new, highly-specific, bits and pieces but I wouldn’t class those as ‘killer’ apps/functions/hardware eg a more sensitive HRM might sway some people but not many. those are MUCH more targeted bits of functionality for smaller market segments.

There are other gadget areas bandied about as potentially important, like ‘hearables’ and devices built into rings. I’m sceptical about a lot of this stuff, at least in their current technical incarnations. Yes a Bluetooth earbud that also doubles as an accurate optical HR sensor is great but that is 2015 not 2017; nothing new needs to go in an earbud other than that. There are also things that are of interest to me personally like Muscle Oxygenation or Gait analysis – but I doubt the mass markets exist for those.


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11 thoughts on “Sports Watches: What are the killer apps/functions for 2017 and beyond?

  1. I want to add that there is no single product for someone like me on the market. The fenix line ticks off most of the boxes, but really it does most of the things I want really and barely supports the other things I do. For example:

    I primally do 6day/wk HIIT Training year long(Former: Gamma Focus T25, current: Insanity max 30). This does well for me since I live in the Upper Midwest of the U.S. and i’m frozen indoors for most of the year (example it was 1 above yesterday– -22 with windchill, i’m not going out there for anything). When the ice sheets eventually recede for the year, I hit my hometown’s many trails to run/cycle. I don’t switch my focus to these things, instead I opt out a 1, maybe 2 workouts for this. either 5k or 10k takes one day, the other being a 25-50 mile bike ride (trust me when I say it’s a brutal ride, the elevation climbs in my area are pretty nuts).

    Through all this, the higher end watches like the Fenix cover nearly everything I need. The advance run metrics with the HRM-Tri have truly helped me fix my running form. My Vo2 max estimate climbed all through the summer last year due to correcting my form, picking the right shoes and not using energy poorly due to bad form. When I cycle, I have at least a speed and cadence sensor on my bike for some extra info (i’m not spending nearly 1k american for a power meter). When I work indoors, I can use my HRM Tri to get at least accurate HR measurements (and training zone info) with the Fenix 3 HR. The problem is these things (and the supported options) all show up on this watch alone…and I need them all.

    The forerunner line (even the 735xt) has most, but not all of these options, the vivo line has less. I don’t want to be moving between multiple watches for different things (I’m in no ways loaded with oodles of cash) So when this one watch does everything I need, with a bunch of things I’m never going to do (There’s no rowing in sub-arctic climates for example). I reason it away as while I will probably never use these functions, I might one day. Better to have and not need it than not have it and need it.

    If any of these companies put out a watch that will support advance run metrics, cycling, workouts (with a potential support for additional metrics other than HR/Cals burned/HR zones, With a good OHRM to tracking all day HR (correctly) plus calories and steps/sleep/stairs, has built in GPS/Glonass….and does it better than Garmin (or just puts everything under one device)…please tell me, because that’s what I want; otherwise I’m going to have to keep paying a premium price for the Fenix line that gives me all I need/want with a bunch of things I won’t use.

    Think of it like having to buy groceries. All you need are bananas, lettuce, oatmeal and some chicken….but you also have to buy like 30 other products every time because they only come in a package.

    1. sounds like a fenix to me. although I think some of the things you are doing there are not essential to athletic improvement. a cheap way forwards in one aspect for you would be to consider waking HRV eg by elite hrv or ithlete, that provides a leading indicator on the best kind of exercise to do today. I suspect 6 HIIT/week is too much.

  2. Someone should work on training plans provided by Garmin and other companies. They provide a set of training plans but I don’t think they all fit the millions of people who are using the watches. What I see is that these watches generate massive amounts of data (heart rate every sec, temperature, gps localization, running dynamics, performance data etc.). In my case, Garmin Connect also gets my weight and other data from other apps. What about going through all of these data and see what works best?

  3. There are lots of external training plans out there. The Garmin plans are so unappealing to me that other than this post, I have put them out of mind. Not to mention I’d kill for a solid 12 week period where I could follow ANY of their programs (weather does not play well for me. Why do I live here?) For me, i’ve had to balence in-home programs (part out of necessity, mostly because I hate gyms) with taking advantage of great outdoor weather when I can (which is a smaller window)

    And don’t get me wrong, What I do works well for me. I’m not training for an event, or to show off. I do what I do for health and pushing my limits. I compete with myself. All my vitals are solid, and have been for years. What I need (and partially found) with Sport Watches/external sensors is how to get the finer detail to improve at whatever I do. The run dynamics from the HRM-TRI last summer…made me a much better runner, couple that with other training activities I did/do, I pushed my health even higher, not to mention not getting hurt from poor form. I just ordered a Stryd for the spring because I know the sensor is going to help push me further; though I have a question about it.

    I only got the one….do you need 2? Do they both work together like a normal foot pod if you use two, or does the one do the job of a set? How does it work with the Fenix 3HR? Like will I see those added metrics showup on GC, or just via the stryd app (or a mis-mash of advanced run dynamics from the HRM-TRI AND Stryd?)

    As for my above post of 5 day HIIT training….I’m so used to describing it like that because explaining that there are cardio days interwoven in makes no sense to people that don’t understand the difference. There are 2 days of actual HIIT, the rest are cardio-like. It’s not for everyone, some people hate these programs. For me, they are perfect.

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