Apple Watch 3, triathlon kept Garmin Forerunner 935 on charger

STRYD Review Apple WatchGuest Author – theapplewatchtriathlete

So many athletes look at Apple Watch and disregard it as a serious training tool. They are wrong – I’ve been using Series 3 LTE/4G for my IronMan winter training pretty much without issue, while my Garmin 935 has stayed on its charger.

I’m more than happy with Apple Watch for my training in these winter months.

What the naysayers say

Battery life doesn’t cut it!

My battery at 21:45 after wearing the Apple Watch series 3 LTE since 7:30am and doing 90mins on the turbo at lunch

This is the strongest argument against the Apple Watch for long distance events. My tests so far have revealed a life of around 3.5 to 4hrs for workout tracking with LTE and GPS on; that’s fine for short events and training of course. However there are other options I need to try such as the low power mode combined with a bluetooth HR strap – I’ll be testing this with a long bike ride of 4-6hrs as soon as I get a weekend that isn’t packed with other stuff. Using Apple Watch on a turbo where your phone is nearby and GPS is not needed, appears to not affect battery life in any significant way. And overall for day to day training, battery life is great. Yesterday I had the watch on all day, with a 30min turbo, forgot to charge it at night and in the morning had 30% left.

 

 

 

So more to come on battery life, and it is a limiter as it stands, and certainly won’t last for my full IronMan next year without some creative charging on the bike (though for the event, my objectives for the tech are different to training, I really just want pace/power guidance with the timings provided by the timing chips from the event – not sure if that will make any difference yet – certainly I would like to see a Tri app that recognised the difference between training and events though)

Heart rate tracker is not accurate

This was a common complaint for earlier versions of watchOS and Series 2, but my tests so far with watchOS 4 and series 3 have been impressive.

I have no concerns about the quality of the HR data. Overall feedback from users of this blog have been encouraging too.

One thing to consider is proper placement of the watch (see Apple’s doc here – basically not too loose, not too tight), and I have wondered if the new Sports Loop offers superior performance because of a better fit, especially in the pool. Lets just say that again – Apple Watch delivers quality HR in the pool – Apple have cracked this with their optical sensor and Watch and iPhone algorithms , whilst Garmin are still saying that the quality bar for wrist based sensors is too low and you need to use a chest strap – I think Garmin need to catch up here.

Apple Watch also provides all day HR monitoring. Throughout the day you can get on your Watch your Current HR, your Resting HR, your Walking average, together with average stats for workouts, and details of HR recovery. This is great and simply viewing your Resting HR can be a useful guide to your current health – mine jumped to around 56 recently for a few days as I had a cold, then fell back to my normal 49-52 when I had recovered. Wouldn’t it be great if an app took that into account and then adjusted your training for the day accordingly?

GPS track is poor

Pick any sports tracker and go to the support forum for it and you’ll find large heated discussions about the quality of the GPS track.

With current technology we are not going to get super accurate tracks all the time. I’ve had mostly great results with my Garmin Forerunner 935, but my Fenix 3 before that made me look like a drunken swimmer occasionally, more zig zag than Box Hill in fact. Apple Watch is on par with the 935 in my experience – so nothing to worry about here, please move on.

Hang on – don’t go quite yet! Just before you ask if you can see your GPS route on something other than the multicoloured map on your iPhone, please refer to the next section…

I can’t export my data to my favourite platform (Strava, TP etc)

That was true, but this is now a solved problem.

See RunGap and HealthFit.

 


 

The Workout app is too basic – what about Intervals!

 

Lots of 3rd party apps

I’m often surprised how the Apple Watch functionality is judged on the built in Workout app, and not the many third party apps that can be installed. But maybe I shouldn’t be – it’s the power of defaults, and most people prefer a simpler life if possible.

The Workout app has improved in watchOS 4, now supporting multi-sport (to a degree – see this post), much better swim metrics and new workout types such as High Intensity Interval Training (note this is just a way of Apple Watch better recording HR during Intervals – nothing to do with creating a structured workout).

So the current Workout app is very good at what it does, but it does have limitations for triathletes and for structured training (well there isn’t any structured training!). I do have a post in the queue – everything you wanted to know about the Workout app, but were too overtrained too ask – coming soon, but in reality most triathlete’s are going to be looking at other apps they can install.

And that brings me to third-party apps – there are many and more coming. I am developing my review approach for these but essentially I will be reviewing all those that meet the following criteria:

  • They are sports tracking apps (doh!)
  • The can track on Apple Watch without the need for iPhone being around.
  • They read and write data to the Apple Health database.
  • Ideally I’d like to see apps that don’t need iPhone or a web platform at all – that is getting more feasible with series 3 LTE/4G, but let’s not limit our thinking here – Apple will not be letting up on the yearly progress they are making with Apple Watch (I for one am surprised we already have LTE in both 42mm and 38mm watches and a bunch of other functionality without battery life loss over series 2 – really, that’s quite remarkable!), and just think what they may be doing in another three years.

What about my ANT+ power meters? Am I supposed to throw them away?

There are ways to bridge ANT+ devices to bluetooth. You can use the 4iiii HR strap or the CABLE from npe for example. What both of these do is pick up the ANT+ broadcast and then turn it into a bluetooth signal that your Apple Watch can receive. That’s great, but since the Apple Workout app doesn’t look for data from other sensors, you will need a third party app to view and log it. Many iPhone apps already do this (such as iSmoothRun) but we are waiting for Series 3 Watch apps that don’t need iPhone to be around to offer it. They’re coming though, and iSmoothRun have said they are adding it this year.

Here’s an interesting story – I’ve been using Garmin Vectors since the first release for power on the bike. Last week they stopped broadcasting anything at all, and after checking batteries etc, I contacted Garmin support. Their answer? Buy the Vector to Vector 2 upgrade kit. hmmm. (I actually tried that, and had other issues but that’s another story). So I am now selling those, and taking the opportunity to get a power meter that supports BLE as wells as ANT+ – I’ve ended up with PowerTap P1s (for now, I’ll most likely upgrade to the right pedal when it is available too). The thing is, I expect all new devices to support BLE and ANT+ in the future, and I don’t feel like I’ve lost much – perhaps some extra dynamics from Garmin that I didn’t really use (Garmin have opened up cycling dynamics to other companies but it’s ANT+ only as I understand it)

So here are your options:

  1. Use an ANT+ to BLE bridge and get a Watch app (when available) that can read the data
  2. Change your power meters to ones that support BLE and get a Watch app (when available) that can read the data
  3. Do either of the above and use an iPhone app that supports the data now and take iPhone with you.
  4. Stick with a bike computer for now like the Elemnt Bolt – I know this is a bit of a cop out but a bike computer is preferable for visibility and route planning than a wrist worn device. Keep your Apple Watch on and log an outdoor ride as a backup. Unfortunately there is no way to broadcast HR from Apple Watch to another device, so you’ll have to wear a BLE HR band if you want that recorded on your bike computer.

 

Small hint on mounting your Apple Watch on your bike if you want to do that. There are a few mounts in kickstarters or on Amazon such as https://velomounts.com and this one, but I have one of these which seems to work OK. Bear in mind you’ll have lost optical HR, so you’ll need to wear a separate BLE one and connect it to Apple Watch, and unless you want to keep tapping in your passcode as you ride you’ll want to turn your passcode off (which will also remove any cards you have for Apple Pay, which is a bit of a pain)

Edit: As mentioned in comments If you turn  off Wrist Detection in Settings > Passcode on the watch or the iPhone Watch app, then you don’t need to turn off the passcode at all. So you can mount the watch on the bike, tap the passcode in once if needed, use a BT HR strap and then cycle.  You will need to tap the screen to view the display but you won’t need to enter a passcode.  You can increase the time the screen stays on after a tap to 70secs from 15secs in a Settings > General > Wake Screen which gives you more time to look at it. Make sure you turn Wrist detection back on after a ride especially if you use Apple Pay.

Screen doesn’t stay on, and I don’t want a touch screen for running

That’s correct, it doesn’t stay on, but it does turn on when you look at it – this works 99% of the time for me (that’s an estimate, but really it hasn’t been a problem).

The touch screen has caused me an issue when I was running with a long sleeve waterproof on in fairly heavy rain. The end of the sleeve which was wet, actually paused the run somehow twice in a single run. No worries – you can lock the screen instead and use the Digital Crown and Side Button pressed together to pause the run if needed (or use AutoPause). With the screen locked you do lose the ability to record a “segment” as Apple call it – or lap as the rest of us do. Normally you do this by double-tapping on the screen, and it will show your segment time, both live and in the summary data at the end, but it does nothing with the screen locked (as you’d expect)

To lock the screen, swipe right and tap the water drop (this is primarily a swimming option).

To unlock, scroll the digital crown until the watch starts beeping (this is to dispel water from the speaker, if you are not bothered about this, just cover the watch with your hand to stop the beeping)

Have I missed anything?

Notes from the5krunner: I am delighted to re-post this artiucle with Ian’s permission. Hopefully it will generate some PR for his future musings on the subject of the best running watch or best triathlon watch but its vey unlikely I’ll write too much on the5krunner.com about Apple apart from the occasional cross-over piece like this one about Apple Watch and STRYD (link to: the5krunner.com). Ian’s article is HIGHLY thought-provoking and I suppose I had gone half way towards arriving at similar conclusions. Perhaps conclusions that I liked to think might not be true. Ian also forgot to mention that the Apple Watch works with STRYD…

Apple Watch + STRYD – Preview

30 thoughts on “Apple Watch 3, triathlon kept Garmin Forerunner 935 on charger

  1. I just don’t get it. Sure, it works, but is there anything it does BETTER than a cheap Garmin or TomTom? A manual lap button, manual start/stop, and an always-on display aren’t just details. They’re kind of the defining characteristics of a sports watch.

    • is there anything it does better?: “look pretty”, “awesome display”. Mo Farah’s has a specific need for both of those two watch features.

      seriosuly tho: the apps offer potential. my tests show the gps is better than many garmins and the OHR as good as many other sports watches (not that that is saying too much). And accuracy IS a defining characteristic in my opinion (which is why i use a chest strap and footpod)

    • It really comes down to what are you looking from a watch. Is it for sports only or do you wear it also daily. Personally if I compare AW3 (42 mm GPS model) to 935 … they are about the same price point. For the price I get with the AW3 is far superior materials, awesome screen, massive app ecosystem and music/podcasts. Something that none of the Garmins have. And looks like AW is getting better and better with each watch OS version. GPS is very good and optical heart rate with watch OS4 looks like is also quite accurate. Very subjective but I just can not justify 450 euros for a plastic watch with a pale screen. Sure the 935 has better battery life and more sports related features.

      • …as a FR935 user, and from my experience with several Grrmin products in the past, I‘d like to throw in, that Grrmin has no clue about making good software (reliable & bug free). The feature set is mostly very good (or even outstanding), but in RL the user experience is (or can be) PIA – looks like they don’t think trough the features. And Grrmin is king in breaking a product with a new update – like green bananas, instantly rotten.

        • well that’s not totally true, the HRM-TRI was pretty cool with lots of potential for data loss. Then there was also the err, err, hmmm, the other one, maybe, perhaps. nice features tho, as you say

          • With “feature set” I meant the “specs on paper” – in my language we say, something like “paper has endless patience”. With “not thinking trough” I meant, that they “don’t play chess” – if want to create good/reliable software you’ll need think like a chess player.

  2. LOL. Those are an ugly bunch of workarounds for what a cheap running watch does out of the box, let alone a vastly superior sports watch like the 935. Someone’s trying too hard to like the Apple Watch.

    • 🙂 I never wrote it and I don’t like Apple as I have said elsewhere. I liked the tone of Ian’s post as it is thought-provoking.

      FWIW: I think one person i in my tri club has one. quite a large club.

      • If anything, your write-up confirms something I have been saying for awhile now:

        People want a watch that can do all.

        Smartwatch? Yep, Sport watch? Yep, Sensor Support? Yep, Color Screen? Yep. All under one roof? YES.

        The first company that makes what a Fenix/Spartan/Forerunner/V800 (or whatever the next one is), work within the confines of a Apple Watch/Samsung Gear watch; the game is over. That is the breakthrough. Once that crown jewel of a watch hits the market, every watch be this.

        Remember when activity tracking features were unique? Some watches had steps only? Some had sleep tracking etc… Then OHRM popped up and then most now incorporated multiple activity tracker features under one roof? Now pretty much every watch comes standard with all this? It’s like an afterthought in the greater part of the market. That’s going to happen here with the “super sports watch” (my title, all me) that will eventually come out.

        If not next year, it’s going to be in 2019, mark my words.

  3. Reminds me of the time when some people used to go through blood, sweat, and tears to prove the point that the iPad could serve as a laptop if you wanted it hard enough. Funny stuff.

  4. I am in no way Apple bashing as I use hardware such as a MacBook Air, iPad and an iPhone along with video editing in the form of Final Cut Pro

    My comments are related to the lengths people goto to make something work for them and put workarounds in to justify a product. I can speak from expierence, I did this with an iPad and tried to use it as a laptop replacement and ended up half the time needing to get my MacBook out to finish something.

    Yes the Apple Watch 3 has great GPS and accurate HR readings from the wrist based on my own testing against a Vivoactive 3 and a Fitbit Ionic (and others) but come on, how can a serious triathlete really say that an Apple Watch steps up to a Garmin or Suunto for advanced data for serious sports? It does not and by doing so the author lost me when reading it. The entire post is full of you need to buy this or change this for it to work and that in my view won’t help convert people who are invested in products like ANT+

    To further add to this, the name theapplewatchtriathlete and the blog needs the Apple Watch to work for them or the blog is pointless.

    The Apple Watch 3 is a great smartwatch and great at smart things, but It’s fitness side is flakey albeit it does have great GPS and HR

    • hey I love a bit of Apple bashing.
      OK I’m going to play devil’s advocate here…you say “the apple watch has great GPS and accurate HR”. I can tell you for sure that Garmin hasn’t got either of those in a GREAT state yet many triathletes buy their products (pretty much everyone at Kona from what dc reported)

      Ian has already addressed many of the common lines of attack against the AW3. So I guess I need you to expand on ” It’s fitness side is flakey” and then maybe Ian can come back and rebut any specific points you make

      • My comment about flacky fitness for the Apple Watch stems from the fact it’s very disjointed. For instance

        the heath app is littered with data that can misunderstood by even the above average user

        In order to get anything meaningful out of the Watch in terms of data, you need to use third party apps.

        No ANT+ support, ian proposes moving everything to Bluetooth and buying new

        The workout app is not the best and again you need third part apps to replace it.

        Swim tracking (I have the data) under and over measures distance despite the lengths being correct. I have had times when it would show 350 and 15 lengths even though I did 16 and 400. No swolf or advanced swimming data. How can anyone train like this?

        HR rate analytics – well Apple are having a good stab at it, but it’s way off where it needs to be Addressed

        What I am confused about is you playing “devils advocate” we are agreeing on the point, the Apple Watch has great GPS and a good HR sensor. What I am more surprised at is the comment “lines of attack” and rebut. This is debate and these are common short comings of the Apple Watch that cant be ignored.

        if am perfectly honest the fact Ian’s blog is Apple themed suggests to be that it’s not going to be totally impartial. I have never met Ian until I read his blog and have nothing personal against him, just struggle with a blog that suggests someone actively promotes a product in sport.

        • One more thing…. I have numerous times had muitple apps write data to the heath app and distort the data

          I want my fitness watch to be a fitness watch and focus on that. The Apple Watch is great for someone that wants simple,

  5. Hi All

    Many thanks for your comments – all great feedback.

    My overriding thought is that yes, other watches such as the 935 are currently better triathlon and general sports watches for those specific uses if you need the level of features they support but on the flip side they are nowhere near the all day smartwatch that AW3 is, and they are way behind in potential – for both developers and for what Apple will add. So my experiment is based on wanting to wear only one watch all the time, and discovering if the AW3 will cut it for me as I train for my next IronMan. On a side note, I am such a tech geek I have been stacking up on so much tech and data I wonder if I have gone too far, and am looking for a simpler life. Do I really need to have all the fields and customisations that the 935 offers (I don’t have the answer for that yet)

    On another angle. given Apple are only on their 3rd iteration, having pivoted to health and fitness as a primary objective in series 2, and are killing Fitbit (see financial results just released from both) and are now the biggest watch supplier in the world in terms of revenue, where do you think they will be in three iterations from now? That may not be a question that someone training for an event now is likely to care about, but I am intrigued. That’s what my blog is about and yes I’ll be trying hard to make the AW work for me, with both the expectation that it will take less effort in future versions but also in the hope that I can even influence the direction in some way, if not with Apple, but with app developers creating Tri and sports apps (I have already had 4 dev teams contact me for opinions, and inviting me to their beta programmes)

    Anyway hope you enjoy the blog, and feel free to contact me about anything related to Apple Watch!

    Cheers

    Ian

  6. This is a great article. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

    Have you done any open water swimming with AW3? I found the GPS accuracy in running and cycling to be fine on the AW2 but OWS was way out, especially for repeat distances out and back. It would get it right on the first lap (340m) and sometimes the return lap (670m) and then go bananas after lap 3 (1.7km+). It obviously meant my split were incredible, but totally inaccurate.

    Any insights on how well the AW3 handles OWS?

    ta
    Mal

    • there is no GPS once submerged.
      so the algorithms need to be tweaked . I don’t think Apple have them tweaked for this type of sport usage. they probably could if they wanted to. maybe they have

      • Apple do have a specific Open Water Swim workout in the Workouts app, so knowing how they like to do things I expect they will have tweaked as much as they can before release. That said in the one OWS I did, the tracking seemed fine to me, and with additional data through use, I’m sure Apple will aim to improve.

      • That’s fabulous Ian!! Thank you for the link. I’ll go through it now. I’m pretty much sold on getting one. Just checking off a few things that I experienced when I owned a Series 2 Watch. Very exciting!!

        I have a Forerunner 935 as well (bought it after I sold the AW2) and have found it to be much more accurate than than the AW2. But it seems that AW3 might rival it.

        Thanks again! Time to read the link.

  7. I think the biggest knock against the Apple Watch is the inability to use the touch screen when you sweat. It’s a sport watch which becomes inoperable when you do sport. Apple has recently added a hardware pause but not all apps support it.

    • true but at least you can use it when not doing sport.
      unlike the garmin edge 820 where you just can’t use it at all and/or it decides that a passing midge is a screen tap.

    • I’ve not found sweaty hands much of an issue to be honest. Gloves are though – they seem to be ok for taps, but swipes are tricky.

      Having said that the Workout app requires swipes to control music but you can also give Siri a go if you have Airpods,or tap them to control music. You can pause/resume the workout by pressing the digital crown and side button together, and you can record a segment in a run by double tapping the screen which works fine.

      Overall I think it’s not any worse in terms of experience to a Garmin unless you like to have multiple screens of data while running (I typically just have one). Cycling is different and I am still working through options for that. And swimming I only look at the screen when I stop and that works fine 🙂

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