It’s time for Apple Watch to get serious about fitness

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Here's how Apple could improve watchOS 4 for fitness buffs.
Here's how watchOS 4 could improve Apple Watch for fitness buffs.
Image: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Apple puts fitness front and center in its advertising for Apple Watch Series 2, even going so far as to claim the device is a “superior sports watch.” But in reality, it is not a sports watch at all. It’s a smartwatch. And that’s a massively important distinction.

Sports watches, like the TomTom Runner or Garmin Forerunner, are cheaper and more reliable at logging workouts, while smartwatches are jacks of all trades, which usually means they are masters of none. Or at least, not masters of fitness.

The sad fact is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Right now, it’s mostly the software that is letting Apple Watch down. That’s why I’m hoping that with its next major software update, Apple will finally get its smartwatch into shape for fitness fans. Here’s what I want to see in watchOS 4, which Apple will likely unveil at its Worldwide Developers Conference this June.

The ultimate runner’s review of Apple Watch Series 2

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Is Apple Watch Series 2 the perfect running partner?
Is Apple Watch Series 2 the perfect running partner?
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

With the launch of a GPS watch, and a renewed Nike partnership, Apple is getting serious about targeting runners. So is Apple Watch Series 2 the perfect running partner that Cupertino promises?

As an avid runner myself, I was keen to find out. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been training for the TCS New York City Marathon, and I took my Apple Watch Series 2 with me every step of the way — right up to the finish line in Central Park last week. Here’s how it measured up.

Apps vs. apparel: Can Strava compete with big sportswear brands?

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The last of the indie fitness apps: can Strava hold their own against the big brands?
The last of the indie fitness apps: Can Strava hold its own against the big brands?
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Sports apparel makers clearly believe that fitness apps are an important part of their futures. Under Armour and Adidas have invested heavily in fitness apps, and Runkeeper’s recent acquisition by ASICS is just the latest in a long series of app acquisitions by apparel makers.

These companies have big brands and deep pockets. Can an indie developer realistically compete with all that? Gareth Nettleton, VP of marketing for indie fitness app Strava, tells me that like any serious athlete, his hard-charging company thrives on competition.

How to choose the right running app for you

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And the winner is… find out which running app offers the most features
And the winner is… find out which running app offers the most features
Photo: Graham Bower / Cult of Mac

There are so many iPhone apps for runners, it’s hard to decide which one to use. Should you go for a familiar brand like Nike, or a specialist like Runkeeper?

Ultimately, all running apps do pretty much the same thing: They use GPS to track how far and how fast you run. But when you take a closer look, their features and prices vary considerably. So I’ve done the leg work for you, to help you find the right running app faster.

Running without iPhone makes Apple Watch inaccurate

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Don’t leave me this way - Apple recommends you take your iPhone with you on a run
Don’t leave me this way - Apple recommends you take your iPhone with you on a run
Photo: Graham Bower / Cult of Mac

Runkeeper is one of the first big-name running apps to offer full watchOS 2 support, which means you can log a run on your Apple Watch even if you leave your iPhone behind.

The Apple Watch’s built-in Workout app has always offered this feature, but it is new for third-party apps. I had never tried it before, but Runkeeper got me curious. So I left my iPhone charging at home, put on a pair of Nikes and went out for a run.

Why you may run into trouble if you try to switch running apps

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It's not always easy to switch running apps.
It's not always easy to switch running apps.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Using a running app to log your workouts is a great way to track your progress and stay motivated. But have you considered who actually owns the workout data you are logging?

If you ever decide to switch apps, you might be in for a surprise. While some services, like Strava, make it easy to transfer your data, with others it can be difficult or even impossible.

Smart sport glasses want to be Apple Watch for your head

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Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
The Recon Jet is Google Glass for sports like running and cycling. It's highly functional and works well, but still suffers from the Glasshole effect. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
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You rarely see Google Glass anymore, but if Recon Instruments has its way, you’ll be seeing plenty more head-mounted displays in the future.

The Recon Jet, launched Thursday, is a pair of smart eyeglasses for sporty activities like running and biking. Bristling with sensors, the device shows all kinds of biometric data and social stats on its tiny heads-up display. Paired with a smartphone, it can take pictures and video, send and receive status updates, find friends and family on the piste and much more.

But sports is just a start. If Recon is successful — and that’s a big if — we may be seeing smart glasses in a lot more places. Recon is betting hard that the face is the place for smart wearables.

Runkeeper’s Breeze Is A Beautifully Designed Step-Tracking App

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Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 7.21.43 AM

As a guy running upwards of seven miles a day to get in shape for his imminent nuptials, Runkeeper is my favorite exercise tracking app, but you have to consciously remember to use it. But Runkeeper now has a new trick up its sleeve: Breeze, an activity tracker that taps into your iPhone 5s’s M7 motion processor to subtly guide you into living a more active life.

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CoM - iOS7-7