Advanced Activity Features in watchOS 6 Rival Dedicated Fitness Tracking Smartwatches

Subscribe To Download This Insight

2Q 2019 | IN-5528

Apple recently announced updates to its operating systems for multiple devices, including watchOS, macOS, iPadOS, iOS, and tvOS. The soon-to-be-released watchOS 6 for Apple Watch provides a number of updates to current features, as well as several new features that Apple’s devices have previously lacked. The goal is to allow the Apple Watch to offer similar data analysis to other fitness tracking smartwatches, rather than just tracking basic fitness metrics. The company is also pushing to provide a smartwatch that can perform independently of a smartphone by offering a new, dedicated Watch App Store for Apple and third-party apps that can be accessed directly from the Watch without requiring connectivity to an iPhone, provided it has access to Wi-Fi or cellular connection. Users can search the App Store using Siri, Dictation (voice to text), or Scribble (using a finger to write out letters). The watchOS 6 update is expected to roll out for free to users who have at least an Apple Watch Series 1 paired with an iPhone 6s running iOS 13, or more recent devices and software, in Q3 2019. The software on the Apple Watch will have the ability to be automatically updated in the future, both Over-the-Air (OTA) and overnight when on charge. New wristbands for Apple Watch owners, and a developer preview of the operating system for Apple Developer program members, are already available.

Registered users can unlock up to five pieces of premium content each month.

Log in or register to unlock this Insight.

 

watchOS 6 to Hit Apple Watches in Q3 2019

NEWS


Apple recently announced updates to its operating systems for multiple devices, including watchOS, macOS, iPadOS, iOS, and tvOS. The soon-to-be-released watchOS 6 for Apple Watch provides a number of updates to current features, as well as several new features that Apple’s devices have previously lacked. The goal is to allow the Apple Watch to offer similar data analysis to other fitness tracking smartwatches, rather than just tracking basic fitness metrics. The company is also pushing to provide a smartwatch that can perform independently of a smartphone by offering a new, dedicated Watch App Store for Apple and third-party apps that can be accessed directly from the Watch without requiring connectivity to an iPhone, provided it has access to Wi-Fi or cellular connection. Users can search the App Store using Siri, Dictation (voice to text), or Scribble (using a finger to write out letters). The watchOS 6 update is expected to roll out for free to users who have at least an Apple Watch Series 1 paired with an iPhone 6s running iOS 13, or more recent devices and software, in Q3 2019. The software on the Apple Watch will have the ability to be automatically updated in the future, both Over-the-Air (OTA) and overnight when on charge. New wristbands for Apple Watch owners, and a developer preview of the operating system for Apple Developer program members, are already available.

Apple's Update Offers a Range of New Activity and Wellness-Related Apps and Features

IMPACT


In order for Apple to keep its large share of the smartwatch market, the company has developed watchOS 6, which will provide many of these additional features to improve its fitness tracking capabilities, as well as new features to make the Apple Watch stand out in the market. Apple is aiming to bring its high-end smartwatches in line with other similar devices in the market that also offer advanced activity tracking and analysis, such as those offered by Fitbit. Smartwatches from both companies already include a number of similar features, such as workout tracking, calories burned, and reminders to move regularly. However, Fitbit has historically displayed more information directly on its devices, which Apple believes will be an important selling point moving forward. Fitbit will be updating its Ionic smartwatch later in 2019 or 2020 (the exact date is unconfirmed), and other vendors are expected to continue to provide updates to their offerings to ensure they remain competitive. Updates offered by watchOS 6 include:

  • Ambient and Headphone Noise Monitoring: A Noise app will allow users to understand the real-time ambient and headphone sound levels from any headphones paired to the Watch or iPhone that could negatively affect their hearing. If the decibel level reaches 90 decibels—which is the level at which hearing can be impacted if exposed to for four hours in a week—a notification will be sent to the user. Apple has stated that no environmental or audio sounds are saved in the app or sent to Apple.
  • Activity Trends: The Activity app will show users’ long-term activity trends, including calories burned, stairs climbed, time spent exercising, and pace, to allow them to understand their progress. If a 90-day period shows a downward trend compared to the previous year, users will be coached by the Activity app to get back on track.
  • Women’s Health Tracking: A Cycle Tracking app will allow women to log various information about their menstrual cycles directly from the Watch and have access to predicted timings for periods and fertile windows. If women have previously used a third-party app that syncs with HealthKit, historical data will also be available.
  • Developer Tools: Tools for developers will include an audio Application Programming Interface (API) to stream music, radio, and podcasts; an API to extend runtime of certain tasks; and Core Machine Learning (ML) will use Apple Neural Engine to enable faster processing of device inputs.
  • Apple GymKit Compatibility: The GymKit compatibility will be extended to gym equipment from Octane Fitness, TRUE Fitness, and Woodway.
  • Other: Other apps available directly from the Watch will include Voice Memos, Audiobooks, Calculator, timekeeping notifications, Siri song identification, and Siri search queries.

How watchOS 6 Will Affect the Wearable Market

RECOMMENDATIONS


Apple’s aim with its watchOS 6 is to improve its fitness tracking offering for the Watch, which had previously been lacking compared to other dedicated fitness trackers. This update puts the company’s smartwatches in a more competitive position, particularly when set against companies such as Fitbit and its Versa smartwatch, which has advanced activity tracking and analysis. For example, an Apple Watch with watchOS 6 will be able to analyze how a users’ VO2 max (the maximum rate at which the body delivers oxygen to muscles when exercising) evolves over time and provide more information about what the data means and how it changes, in a similar way to Fitbit’s Cardio Fitness Score. Other devices from companies such as Garmin (Forerunner smartwatches), Samsung (Gear Sport smartwatch), and Huawei (Honor smartwatches and Watch GT) also provide VO2 max monitoring and analysis. Providing the analysis of data, rather than just the data itself, will put the Apple Watch in line with its competitors’ offerings and allow it to be considered more of a fitness tracker than just a smartwatch. The Cycle Tracking app is also similar to one already offered by Fitbit, putting it further in-line with the competition.

However, even with these improvements, Apple still falls behind other fitness tracking smartwatches, such as the Fitbit Versa, in terms of its lack of sleep tracking, shorter battery life, and relatively higher price. While the Apple Watch does support third-party apps that provide sleep tracking, its short battery life (the Apple Watch has a battery life of one to two days and the Fitbit, four) limits their utility. Apple is reportedly investigating adding sleep tracking to its Watch; hopefully, battery life will also be improved to support the feature. The company is clearly set on continuing to improve its offering to further boost its 50% share of the smartwatch market, making sure companies like Fitbit, which currently holds an 11% share of the market, also need to develop new features and improve their devices to remain competitive.

Apple’s announcement shows that the wearables market is continuing to transition from dedicated fitness trackers to smartwatches with advanced functionality. This will likely cause prices to rise, with smartwatches having an overall higher Average Selling Price (ASP) than fitness trackers, meaning consumers wanting cheaper devices with fewer features will have fewer options. Fitness trackers have long dominated the wearable market, accounting for roughly twice the number of shipments of smartwatches between 2015 and 2018, but that is expected to change, with smartwatches forecasted to overtake yearly shipments of fitness trackers by the end of this year. Adding improved fitness tracking and analysis capabilities to smartwatches allows a singular device to provide features of both technologies, which negates the need for consumers to purchase two devices and could have a detrimental effect on sales.   

Apple is also aiming to create a fully standalone wearable that will allow users to leave their iPhones at home and still have access to everything from their wrists. By adding the App Store directly to the Watch, along with the additional apps and features, as well as those that have already been integrated, the cellular version of the device now has even more usability, allowing it to be used untethered to an iPhone in a greater number of situations. This transformation has the capability to open up a whole new level of user experiences and use cases that will help Apple consolidate its share of the market, forcing competitors to rethink plans for future product launches.

Services