I received my Apple Watch last Thursday, April 30, and right away unboxed and paired it with my phone. Since the watch came just after work with the battery at 80% full, I took it out on a six mile run immediately.
Running is one of the main things that got me excited about the watch. I carry my iPhone 6 on my runs, generally holding it in my hand in order to listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks. With the watch, I don’t want to leave my phone behind, but would like to get it out of my hands.
I’d read that if I brought my phone along, the Workout app on the watch would use the phone’s GPS to accurately determine my pace and distance. I’d already bought a belt to hold the phone while running, as I can’t stand armbands. This one holds my iPhone 6 snugly and securely. I leave the water bottles home for shorter runs, and fill them up for longer ones.
The route I run is exactly 6.2 miles, as measured by my favorite running app, Runmeter (more later about Runmeter). I’m quite certain Runmeter is accurate, as I’ve used it on several half and full marathons. The watch measured this run at 5.7 miles, which is half a mile short of the actual length. And this was with the phone accessible all the time.
A more careful experiment
This morning (May 3), I decided to do a more careful experiment. I left on a somewhat longer, 9.1 mile run, and used both the Workout app on the watch and the Runmeter app for the same run. Here are some screenshots from near the end of the run.
There is no way I was running a 13 minute pace, even if I slowed down a bit to take watch screenshots. The pace measurement on the Apple Watch has been very disappointing and has seemed very random at all times. It jumps up and down even when I’m running at a fairly consistent pace. Here is the Runmeter app from the phone a few seconds later.
The distance measured by the watch was once again shorter, though not as much for this run. Perhaps my 9.1 mile run has longer straight sections that are easier for the watch to measure with infrequent checks of the GPS?
The Runmeter Watch App
I also used the Runmeter Watch App for this run. It has a glance with super-tiny text that you can barely see. It did load pretty quickly, and was both stable and informative. Runmeter people, if you are reading this, the glance has a chance of being genuinely useful, just by paring down the information a little and making the text larger. Here is the Runmeter glance:
It may look legible here, but on the watch, while running, it was pretty tough to read. There is also a Runmeter watch app, which I was barely able to launch at all while running. I got it to show two screens, but there may be more. I had to slow down considerably to get this working.
While these are pretty cool, opening the App on the watch is very difficult while running, and worse, once its open it doesn’t stay open – after a few seconds you’re back on the Workout app when you raise your wrist. (I think I’ve figured out what to do here – I’ll be posting a followup after my next run!)
It might seem like I’m being critical of the Runmeter app, but nothing could be further from the truth. They got a watch app out there on day one (at least for my day one), and it works. I assume they’ll work to make it better – as better as Apple’s WatchKit framework allows.
Takeaway and Next Experiment
The takeaway is that the Workout app on the watch is not particularly useful for running. It purports to measure things like pace and distance, but even paired with the phone, it was off by 5 to 10% for distance, and pace measurements were just about useless.
I’m willing to be convinced that I’m wrong, and that the experience will improve with time. Or maybe I’m doing something wrong.
My next experiment will be to use the Runmeter app exclusively while I run, using the phone app along with the watch app. I’ll do this probably on Tuesday, and post about my experiences after that.
Have you figured out a great running flow using the watch? Please let me know what you’ve learned.