Apple unveils fitness focused watchOS4

Interval training, new heart rate and motion algorithms and more

Apple has just had its big product launch for the year, and while the big item of the day was yet another voice assistant speaker that will ‘Call Scott’ when you ask it to open Spotify, buried among the fanfare, it announced a firmware update for the Apple Watch with a fitness based focus.

Most notably, the updated Workout app now includes a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) option which utilises new motion and heart rate algorithms to gather data during interval workouts.

Beyond the fitness features, there are also new watch faces and bands, updates to Apple Pay, as well as improvements to Siri

While Apple doesn’t expressly say this is what the new HIIT app does, an educated guess would be that this new addition guides you through an interval workout, giving you start, stop and progress notifications based on personally defined heart rate goals.

Based on what we know about Apple's Workout app already, it's a safe bet there won't be integration with a third party app like Training Peaks that would allow workouts to be uploaded.

The new OS also sees a Quick Switch feature, which will please the triathletes among us. So, instead of having to stop and log two separate workouts, you can just switch activities in the same session, and get a single set of metrics at the end. To Apple's credit, some high-end watches don’t even offer this feature.

 The Workout App now features High Intensity Interval Training, which utilises a new algorithm for capturing heart rate and motion
The Workout App now features High Intensity Interval Training, which utilises a new algorithm for capturing heart rate and motion

Apple also announced GymKit, which allows users to pair their Apple Watch directly to cardio equipment like spin bikes, and have the watch record data directly from the machine.

While spin classes may not be a part of your training routine, this is an interesting development and might signal an opening for the likes of Wahoo and Tacx, or even WattBike to allow the Apple Watch to connect and collect data directly from them.

The new watchOS4 also sees an update to the Activity app which is now said to offer intelligent coaching with 'a tailored encouragement to help you close Activity Rings more often and achieve longer success streaks.'  They are also revamping the achievement badges with new visual celebrations, and each morning you’ll get a notification if you’re close to earning one. The watch will also outline exactly what you need to do to close your Activity rings throughout the day.

Something that’s caught our attention as well are the new ‘unique monthly challenges’ tailored to each user. While this is a rudimentary substitution for a coach or training plan, we’re interested to see what these actually entail and if they can be customised to help you peak for a goal or event.

Beyond the fitness features, there are also new watch faces and bands, updates to Apple Pay (which is quite useful on your group ride coffee stop), as well as improvements to Siri.

Beta testers and developers already have their hands on the new operating system, but for the everyday user, the update won’t be available until September at the earliest. In the meantime, check out our review of the Apple Watch 2.

While many of the new features are not necessarily cycling specific at the moment, they seem to offer interesting options for developers and cycling tech brands
While many of the new features are not necessarily cycling specific at the moment, they seem to offer interesting options for developers and cycling tech brands

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