race route For Apple Watch – Like cr*p, but worse

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Image Credit: basicappleguy.com
Image Credit: basicappleguy.com – worth a visit

Apple Race Route – All you need to know

Apple’s new Race Route is an uninspiring new feature, badly implemented and one that’s best to stay well clear of for now. It should work as a simple way to race yourself on one of your regular runs or rides.

Competing sports watches have had similar features for years and consequently, their 2022 versions actually work and are significantly more advanced than what Apple has on offer today. But you have to start somewhere, I suppose.

Must Read: Critical Apple Watch Ultra Review

Getting Started

This post will probably get a lot of hits. Mostly it will be from other review sites that have extensively Googled the net in search of information other than the basics put out by Apple’s PR. They will be trying to find out how Apple Race Route actually works and I’m sorry to say that it took me 3 goes to figure out how it might work. But I never managed to get a whole Race to work as expected.

Basics: On your Watch, do this:

Apple Workout App> 3 dots from either the Outdoor Run or Outdoor Ride sport profile>3 horizontal bars>choose Route (or All, see image below)

 

 

 

At this point, you would expect to see a choice of several routes. Your expectations will be immediately dashed.

Other alternatives start points are to create a route or present a choice of routes from a massive list of all your runs/rides ever or maybe just the recent ones. You’d be right that these alternatives also fail to give a good experience.

All that Apple gave me was one route of 0.0km. A choice of that route or nothing.

Workout View setup - map thumbnail overview

I’m not even sure where the route is. It looks like it goes to the Post Office Sorting Office. I think I went there about 2 years ago, pre-Covid. It’s hard to tell as the map view is not great.

Had I chosen RIDE rather than run, I would have got 2 (yes TWO!) routes to choose from. Which is great! However, I didn’t want to follow either of them and so I deleted them or somehow removed them and then…nothing. No way to get them back and no other routes automatically took their place. This is a shame as they would have made a much better image than the straight line ‘route’ I showed above. #Shrug. That’s all I have and I’ve used an Apple Watch for 99% of my workouts over the last 3 years or so…the source data IS there.

FYI: When a proper route does appear a moving light illuminates the route overview from start to finish. This looks quite nice and indicates to you the direction of travel. A simple arrow could have worked equally as well but, what do I know?

What I think Apple tries (but fails) to do here is to present you with a few routes based near your current location and the number of times you’ve completed the route. Apple seems to have decided that it makes sense to show you the proposed route pictorially rather than as a list of completed workouts, which I guess makes sense…unless it shows you a straight line. (above).

You’re also shown the elevation profile of the route overlain on the route map (below) and have further options to personalise the alerts delivered during the race. For example, you can set a target heart rate range as well as be notified if you are ahead or behind your Personal Best or Most Recent attempt on this route.

Finally, you choose the Workout Views. The choices are the same as for a normal run or ride but with a new option (below) which shows your progress through the workout in relation to your schedule.

 

 

The choice you have here seem reasonable.

In-Workout Notifications

There are on-screen notifications that periodically keep you on your toes plus an off-route warning. Clearly, behind the scenes, Apple already has several of the features needed for its future introduction of route navigation in workouts, for example, it must have the breadcrumb route and it must know that you have departed from it. (Having a breadcrumb route is not necessarily linked to Apple Maps)

 

Post Workout Summaries

I didn’t complete this ‘race’ however I still would have expected to see the target distance and the target pace.

 

Summary

If you google “Apple Race Route” you will find several bemused testers wondering how to get this feature to work. It really is not intuitive Mr Cook.

I’m not superhuman. I couldn’t get Race Route (beta) to work. The way that Routes are selected by the runner was surely wrong and several pieces of distance and pace data were incorrectly blank.

At the time this is a beta feature so, no doubt, it will be improved before we get to use it in anger. However, the basic flow of how you interact with the app will probably not change. And that is Apple’s problem.

Apple Watch is mostly organised by a large number of discrete apps each covering a tightly-controlled set of mini features. It’s usually super-easy to interact with these ‘simple apps’. That underpins why every reviewer will say that the Apple Watch is the best smartwatch ever…because it is. But it isn’t the best sports watch ever.

Apple’s Workout app has historically delivered simple workout features that appear to be complex because many 10s of sports profiles are supported. In reality, each sport profile offers the same, highly limited number of mini-features.

But what Apple wants to do now is pitch Watch Ultra against the Garmin Fenix 7 or Garmin Epix 2. This requires new and complex features. Sure Apple managed to cram in running power easily enough as it’s just another simple metric albeit calculated in a complex way but an example of the difficulties posed by the Watch user interface is that the Heart Rate Zones need managing on your iPhone. That will be confusing for some Watch owners who expect everything to be on the Watch.

Apple WILL soon be able to get the current Race Route working properly on the Watch. But once Apple expands its features to include the creation, curation and navigation of routes it will struggle. How do you reverse the route? How do you store your favourite routes? How do you navigate to a part of the route like POIs on a map? how do you offer popularity routing or shortest, fastest routing? Apple probably will eventually do all of these but its naive Watch interface will not easily adapt to handling complex sets of mini-features.

I suspect Apple has considered this and will be torn between the minimal feature sets we see now and providing a sufficient set of features in the future to be seen as competent and appropriate for the task they claim the watches to be able to perform eg navigation for Ultra athletes.

Garmin will be smiling. But I suspect that very many people will still buy whatever the current generation of Apple Watches morph into rather than a Fenix or Epix simply because they won’t have a need to frequently use a complex, do-it-all-sports watch. The rest of us who need advanced sports or outdoor tools will continue to buy Garmin. But there aren’t THAT many of us in the grand scheme of things. And that is Garmin’s real problem.

Sorry I’ll get off the fence next time and say what I really think

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10 thoughts on “race route For Apple Watch – Like cr*p, but worse

  1. Thank you for this, thought I was daft but I couldn’t work out how to add routes. I have 2x 5k routes one from last week and another from 2 months ago. None of the 10k efforts over those weeks or half marathon routes! Totally confused how it’s supposed to work but at least there are two of us in the same camp now!

  2. Some of those will buy both and use whichever one suits the day. I sent my Ultra back and got a stainless Series 8…which effectively does everything that worked properly on the Ultra bar the siren and one or two other tiny points. My Fenix 7X stays on for bigger days and whenever I need maps and don’t care about a terrible music experience.

    1. you and me are probably in the top 0.1% (or less) of tech buyers that need advanced sports/outdoors features and who can/need to spend thousands of NZD/GBP on sport tech. Apple targets those in the other 99.9% that have iPhones and who can afford it.

    2. Dave,

      If Apple didn’t have LTE and all of the smart integration that basically makes it an iPhone on your wrist, it would probably last longer than the Epix 2 if it was just sports.

      I love the Ultra and as Mr. T5K elegantly states, 99% of people who exercise are not hard core. We like to run 3 to 5 miles at a grandpa pace. Do a stair climber for 30 minutes, hit the indoor bike for 30 minutes, Swim laps. Nothing competitive, but to stay in shape.

      1. I’m absolutely not slating the Ultra – the main reason I sent it back was that I found it too big to sleep with! I’d seriously consider it again next year, features dependent. I did a great row with Fitness+ today with my Series 8 and Apple’s progress there will, I suspect, ramp up loads in the next year or two.

  3. Hi
    Besides Garmin, could you please let me know about other smartwatch brands that implement this feature for running?
    Thank you!!

      1. I’ve always liked Suunto, but they are so behind display technology, and still love HUGE bezels. Yeah, I care about the screen. A Lot. 🙂

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