Apple Watch

I’ve been running for several years now, and one of the biggest things that keeps me engaged (especially early on, but also now) is being able to track everything about my running. To that end, I’ve had a running watch, and I overwhelmingly almost always run with it. Initially, I had a Garmin Forerunner 405, which I replaced with a Forerunner 610. I’ve recently upgraded to an Apple Watch LTE.

So far, I’m really enjoying it. It’s really nice to not carry a phone around (either when running, or just at other times), and although I never really minded a chest heart-rate strap, it’s very liberating not to be wearing one.

I have found a few things that are not quite how I would like them:

  • You can’t get directions to your car on your watch. You need to “Continue on iPhone”. I’m hoping this will be fixed at some point. There are a handful of other operations that are like this too (like “What is this song?”).
  • I’m yet to find a satisfactory workout app that provides structured workouts: interval repeats and the like, possibly nested, and with duration and targets of different types (ie, pace, heart rate, time, distance).
  • The Strava app seems to have fairly long intervals between samples. I always set my Forerunner to sample at 1 second, and some watches I believe will do multiple samples per second.
  • The iOS Bedtime feature is not available on the Apple Watch: you need to have it turned on on an iPhone; and then the alarm will trigger on there too. I’ve moved to a watch-only alarm, so as to not wake my partner when I get up early for a run.
  • The “Standing Hours” feature isn’t really about standing: I have a standing desk, and stand all day at work, and if I don’t move around, it thinks I’m not standing. Also, I’ve had a few times where the standing alarm seems to not fire at all.
  • Apple Pay transactions made on my Watch don’t trigger an alert on my Phone (or watch). However, my last payment on my phone did trigger an alert on my watch, so I’ll test that a bit more.

However, the things that I really like are tipping me overwhelmingly in favour:

  • Being able to leave my phone on my desk and still tracking my activity is really nice. This is the key reason I bought a Misfit Shine some time ago, but that was less useful (and I ended up losing it because their wrist strap was insane).
  • Unlocking my Mac just by hitting the space bar is awesome.
  • Siri works really well (with the caveat above). I’m adding things to my shopping list like a madman.
  • Likewise, dictating iMessages seems like it’s more reliable than on iOS10. I’m still unlikely to do it in a public space when there are other people around though.
  • I’m now totally into “Mindful Minutes”, and I’ll do this whenever I get a chance. Breathe…
  • Battery life has been really good: I charge it when I’m in the shower, and when I’m driving. I’ll also put it on the charge to top it up before I go to sleep (I’m using a sleep tracker) if it’s a bit low, because I’ll generally be running in the morning.
  • Apple Pay on my watch really feels like the future.
  • Did I mention that running without a phone and chest strap is quite liberating?

Interestingly, I don’t think I’ve made a phone call from my watch yet. I don’t make that many phone calls to begin with (and most of them are actually when I’m in my car).

Misfit Shine

iOS 8’s HealthKit is a really nice feature. Prior to this, I was using Azumio’s Argus app for “life-tracking”, but it was really not providing me with much. It showed my my daily steps, included my exercise from my Garmin Forerunner 610, and helped me track my water, coffee and alcohol intake. It integrated really well with a Heart Rate recording app that they also make, but there was no real way to do anything else with this data. I was able to take photographs of my food, but that’s really it.

Along comes HealthKit.

All of a sudden, I’m no longer tied to a single application, or suite of applications that are engineered to work together. Instead, I can use Strava for my run tracking (still via my Garmin, or directly on the phone if I left it at home). These workouts, including calorie estimations, are available in HealthKit.

Similarly, step counts directly from my iPhone are also available, as are Heart Rate readings, either from the app I was using before, or an alternative. I can also add in extra values, for instance my max HR from a workout. As an aside, it would be really nice if Strava could push this value, removing the need for me to manually do it.

Even better for me would be the ability for Strava to send step counts for a workout: I usually run with my FootPod, which gives cadence information. From this, it’s possible to infer the number of steps I took in that workout. Because of this missing feature, I wound up taking my iPhone when I run, a less than optimal situation.

A couple of weeks ago, a co-worker introduced me to myfitnesspal. This is a calorie tracking app and website. Since I have (had?) about 10kg to lose, and something that makes getting relatively accurate calorie counts on the food I’m eating (although lots of the data in there is really, really bad: I’m forever looking at the nutritional breakdown of a suggested match and in some cases adding my own versions), in conjuction with the calorie usage of my excercise has become simple. Even fun.

I’m less concerned about trying out different apps on the iPhone, simply because the data (or most of it) just goes into HealthKit, which means if a better alternative comes along, I can just switch. I’m unsure if HealthKit data is restored from a backup - that’s something that I’ll find out eventually when I upgrade my phone, I guess.

Using my iPhone for step tracking means I need to have it in my pocket all of the time. This is actually really bad, as I find myself taking it out and using it more than I (or my family) would like. So, last night, I bought a Misfit Shine.

To be honest, the main reason is so that I get my phone out less, but I’m also looking forward to not taking my phone running. However, I’ve become quite attached to listening to podcasts whilst running. May have to find the little iPod nano (the little square one) I have floating around: but I’ll want to investigate the podcast syncing, since the other place I listen to them is in the car (via Bluetooth).

Having had the Misfit Shine for less than 24 hours, it’s still too early to discuss if it’s going to work for me. I do have some early comments though.

  • It’s pretty. The nice matt grey finish is unobtrusive and classy.

  • The magnet is nice and strong. I haven’t clipped it on anywhere yet, but it feels like it may stay attached while running. I’ve only used the watchband style fastener. I

  • Syncing is not automatic, even with “Automatic Sync” enabled. Indeed, I have found syncing somewhat intermittent. I’m not sure, but I think I need to tap the Shine as well as the iPhone to get it to sync. That’s a bit shit. Even if the syncing was done through a Notification Area widget, that would be an improvement. If you are only using the Shine itself for your tracking, it would not be so necessary, but since I use that data within myfitnesspal (and other HealthKit related apps), I want it updated as frequently as possible. Every minute would be great, hourly would be acceptable.

    (It seems that you need to put the Shine on the phone to sync. That would explain my issues with it, but that’s even shitter than I thought. I’m not really prepared to take a device off to sync it. Hopefully this is something that improves, although I doubt it.)

  • Sleep tracking seems reasonable, but it should be possible to trim sleep without removing the “sleep quality” data. I was using an app-based sleep tracker, but that made my phone really, really hot. And it kept falling off the bed.

    Since then, I’ve been using “Lark”, which really drives me batty with it’s cute dialog, but seems to be the only thing that will use device motion to guess when you have been sleeping (assuming you put your phone down immediately before sleep, and move it as soon as you wake). Unfortunately, I’ll need to keep that going, or manually transfer data from Misfit to HealthKit.

  • Step count data is pushed to HealthKit. No other HealthKit integration is present. It really needs Sleep data to be pushed; Weight and Dietary Calorie ideally should be fetched from HealthKit too. There is integration with myfitnesspal, but I’d like to be able to switch Dietary Calorie tracker if necessary in the future. I suspect that HealthKit is something that really could be improved in software, fairly easily.

  • The “clock” feature is kind-of cool. Except the “hour” light does not change when the time is after half-past. I kept thinking the time was quarter to nine, when it was quarter to ten. Luckily, it’s Saturday.

  • It’s also waterproof, which means I don’t have to take it off to give the boys a bath, which is nice.

There’s a fairly reasonable review from over a year ago at A weekend with Misfit’s Shine: this makes me suspect that the syncing may not improve much.

I’m not unhappy with the device so far. I’d really like to get more integration with HealthKit, so hopefully that will be forthcoming.