iPhone dependence is killing Apple Watch. Here’s how Cupertino could fix it.

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It’s time to cut the cable and set Apple Watch free
It’s time to cut the cable and set Apple Watch free
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

For activity tracking, fitness and notifications, Apple Watch is pretty awesome, and these days, that’s all most people use it for. Which is a shame.

When it launched back in 2015, Apple had a much bigger vision: a wearable computing platform supporting a rich and varied ecosystem of apps. Like an iPhone strapped to your wrist. But the reality has turned out to be rather different. Instagram is just the latest of a series of high profile apps to desert the platform. So what’s up?

I believe Apple Watch’s dependence on iPhone is holding it back, and the time has come for Cupertino to set its smartwatch free. In this, the third and final part of my wish list of watchOS 5 features, I’ll focus on how I hope Apple will improve setup, apps and iCloud to create a badass stand-alone device.

How Apple Watch could shape up for fitness at WWDC [Mockups]

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It’s about time Apple Watch got a Workout buddy
It’s about time Apple Watch got a Workout buddy
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

When it comes to fitness apps on Apple Watch, sometimes it feels like Cupertino is running before it can walk. Fancy new features like Heart Rate Recovery are very welcome, but a few of the basics remain missing.

Apple could make major strides when it releases watchOS 5. So in the second of three posts about the future of watchOS, I’ll focus on five essential fitness features I’m hoping we’ll see at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference.

The watchOS improvements I want to see at WWDC [Mockups]

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How Apple could give watchOS a tune-up
How Apple could give watchOS a tune-up.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

In the three short years since Apple Watch debuted, Cupertino has massively improved its smartwatch. Remember the early days, when Glances took ages to load, only to show out-of-date information? When the Fitness app refused to stay in the foreground during a workout? Or when the side button launched a doodling app?

Since the launch, Apple has rolled out big upgrades to watchOS every year at its Worldwide Developers Conference. But there is still loads more that could be done to really unleash Apple Watch’s full potential.

With this year’s WWDC confirmed for June, here’s my wish list of the all the new watchOS stuff I’m hoping will be announced in San Jose, California. It’s a pretty long list, so I’ve broken it down into three separate posts, starting with usability. In followup posts, I’ll focus on fitness, apps and setup.

Take your running to new heights with the altimeter in Apple Watch Series 3

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Workout segments in watchOS 4, combined with the altimeter in Series 3 males your Apple Watch the perfect companion for hill training.
Workout segments in watchOS 4, combined with the altimeter in Series 3 males your Apple Watch the perfect companion for hill training.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Are you taking full advantage of all the neat new features in your shiny Series 3 Apple Watch? Cellular connectivity grabbed the headlines, but that isn’t the only hardware addition Cupertino managed to cram into a wearable that was already bristling with sensors.

Apple Watch Series 3 models also boast a barometric altimeter. If you think you don’t need one of those, think again. The altimeter makes Series 3 watches the ideal companion for hill workouts. That’s a type of training you really should be doing but probably aren’t.

Cool new HealthKit gadgets can measure practically anything

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Cool new HealthKit-compatible gadgets at MWC
New HealthKit gadgets make health and fitness easier than ever.
Photos: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Mobile World Congress 2018 BARCELONA, Spain — Smart sperm testers, body cavity inspectors, Bluetooth pillows, holographic jump ropes and contactless thermometers. It’s all just another day at Mobile World Congress, where more and more companies show off their new HealthKit-compatible gadgets.

If you want your iPhone to know absolutely everything about what’s going on with your body, these handy medical devices are for you. Here’s what they do — and why they’re cool.

These smart glasses get me excited about how cool Apple Glasses could be

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Trying out the Vuzix Blade augmented reality smart glasses at Mobile World Congress 2018.
The Vuzix Blade AR smart glasses offer a glimpse of the future.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Mobile World Congress 2018 BARCELONA, Spain — The best product I’ve tried out at this year’s Mobile World Congress is the Vuzix Blade AR glasses. These smart specs superimpose a sharp, high-definition display over your regular vision, making real life resemble an awesome Xbox game.

The Blade basically delivers on everything that Google Glass tried to do, but without sucking. I was skeptical about the rumors that Apple is developing its own augmented reality glasses. But what I saw through the lens of a Vuzix Blade showed me how far this technology has come — and just how cool Apple AR glasses could be.

5 ways Apple will rule Mobile World Congress (without even showing up)

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Everyone who is anyone in mobile (except Apple) will be at Mobile World Congress 2018.
Everyone who is anyone in mobile (except Apple) will be there.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Mobile World Congress 2018 When the entire mobile phone industry heads to Barcelona next week for Mobile World Congress 2018, there will be one notable absence: Apple.

Cupertino doesn’t do trade shows. Not even really big ones like MWC. Yet, despite its absence from the massive Spanish trade show, Apple’s influence will loom large over Barcelona’s beautiful horizons.

Here are five things Apple fans should look out for at MWC next week.

This hidden Apple Watch feature tells you if your workouts are doing any good

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It’s not about how far you run, it’s how fast you recover. Apple Watch heart rate recovery data gives you the facts.
It’s not about how far you run, it's about how fast you recover.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

It’s all very well to know how far you ran, cycled and swam. But the whole point of exercise is not just to clock the miles. It’s supposed to make you more fit. So, how do you know if all those sweaty miles are actually doing any good? One way is by measuring your heart rate recovery time.

Fortunately, watchOS 4 provides a reliable way to see this data, and thus monitor changes in your fitness level. Here’s how you can use Apple Watch to keep your workout goals on track.

How to set up Apple’s Health app to unlock its awesome fitness potential

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Turn the iPhone Health app into a dashboard for your body
Turn the iPhone Health app into a dashboard for your body
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

If you think the Health app is just another pointless junk app that comes preinstalled on your iPhone, think again. Unlike Stocks, Compass or Tips, it is one of the few apps that Apple won’t let you delete. Set up the Apple Health app properly, and it becomes a powerful tool for getting (or staying) fit.

You see, the Health app lies at the heart of Cupertino’s growing health and fitness ambitions. And with its underlying HealthKit API, the Health app provides the framework that Apple Watch uses to gather data on your daily activity, heart rate and workouts.

But the Health app is more than just a place for storing data. With every iOS update, Apple makes major improvements to it. So, if you still think the Health app is a waste of space, it’s probably time you gave it another look. Especially if you own an Apple Watch. You’ll find it contains loads of useful, well-presented data that can help you achieve your fitness goals.

Why it sucks when fitness apps don’t share your workout data with Apple

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Who owns your workout data?
Who owns your workout data?
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

The workout data I log with my Apple Watch belongs to me. It‘s not Apple’s — nor is it Nike’s, Strava’s or anyone else’s, for that matter. It is mine. I paid for it with my own blood, sweat and tears. (OK, it’s mostly sweat, but there were some tears along the way, too.) Over the years, I’ve logged more than 18,000 miles of running data and it is something I’m pretty proud of.

So it really bugs me when mega-corporations try to corral my activity data into their fancy walled gardens, like they think they own it. Apple used to be just as guilty of this as all the other workout rustlers. But the folks in Cupertino did a major pivot in iOS 11. They decided to actually put users in control of our workout data. Apple made it easy for apps to share workout route maps with each other via HealthKit.

The trouble is, none of the major fitness apps are playing ball, and that sucks. Luckily, some indie devs are doing the right thing.