watchOS 4 Wish List: 7 features we’d love to see

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Apple WatchOS 3 wish Mickey Mouse Face
Here's what we expect from Apple's next big update for watchOS.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Apple’s WWDC event is less than a week a way, where it is expected to release big upgrades to its family of operating systems. The youngest Apple platform, watchOS, got some serious improvements in watchOS 3. With the fourth interaction, Apple is expected to squash some of the biggest problems while breathing life with new features too.

Full details on watchOS 4 still haven’t been revealed, but we’ve got some ideas of our own that we’re really hoping made the cut this year.

This is what we want in watchOS 4:

 

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.

Why Apple should make a cheap activity band (and what it might look like)

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A no-frills Apple fitness tracker could get new users hooked on the Activity app.
A no-frills Apple fitness tracker could get new users hooked on the Activity app.
Image: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

The Activity app is one of Apple’s most important and powerful products. Its three brightly colored rings are changing people’s lives around the world, inspiring individuals to make healthier choices throughout their day.

The trouble is, if you want to use the Activity app, your only option right now is to buy an Apple Watch — and Apple Watches are expensive.

With this kind of game-changing product, Apple usually wants to reach as big an audience as possible. Take the iPod, for example. It was too expensive for some consumers. so Apple released a no-frills, sub-$99 version called the iPod Shuffle. Could a similar strategy work for the Activity app? An affordable activity band from Apple could be a Fitbit killer.

5 stock iOS widgets to keep your day on track

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iOS 10 Widgets
If you're not using iOS widgets yet, it's time to get started.
Photo: Apple

iOS widgets can put loads of useful data at your fingertips. A simple swipe to the right on your iPhone’s Home screen brings up the Today view, where widgets give you a quick glance at info pulled from your favorite apps.

If you’re using iOS 10 and you’ve never taken the time to customize your widgets list, you’re missing out. Here’s how to set up iOS widgets and keep your day on track.

As fitness trackers converge, everyone’s sprinting toward confusion

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Fitbit Alta Fitness Tracker GG
Is it an activity tracker, a sport watch, a smartwatch or all three?
Photo: Fitbit

2016 has been a tough year for fitness trackers, with scientists questioning their effectiveness and headlines boldly proclaiming that “fitness trackers don’t work.”

And yet, sales of fitness trackers are healthier than ever, while struggling smartwatch makers are desperately trying to reposition their gadgets to muscle into the fitness market. So what is going on? If fitness trackers really don’t work, why are consumers still buying them?

Can Apple Watch get you in shape? Here’s what the science says.

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Does the Apple Watch activity app have all the answers?
Does the Apple Watch activity app have all the answers?
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

If you’ve considering buying a shiny new Apple Watch Series 2, you might be wondering if it can really help you to get in shape. Especially if you’ve seen the recent headlines claiming that fitness trackers don’t work.

So what does science really have to say about wearables? I decided to investigate the science behind Apple Watch fitness assumptions.

How to share, compare, compete with watchOS 3’s Activity rings

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Get set to test yourself to the limit with your Apple Watch.
Get set to test yourself to the limit with your Apple Watch.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Apple Watch is getting a ton of new features this fall for fitness freaks, giving wearers the ability to not only track their own fitness better than ever, but also go head-to-head with other Apple Watch-loving friends.

With iOS 10 and watchOS 3, Apple Watch owners can share their Activity rings to view each other’s progress and compete to be fittest person in the clique. Here’s how to get started:

Apple Watch is getting better at fitness tracking, but it still sucks for running

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Activity app rocks. Workout app sucks.
Activity app rocks. Workout app sucks.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

At WWDC this week, Apple all but confirmed that Apple Watch is really just a health gadget. Tim Cook described it offhandedly as a “device for a healthy life,” and most of the watchOS 3 segment of the keynote was devoted to health and fitness.

This focus on health makes sense. As an activity tracker, Apple Watch is arguably the best on the market, and watchOS 3 will make it even better. Apple’s wearable is ideal if you are simply looking to live a healthier day. But, despite some minor improvements, Apple Watch still sucks if you are into running.

Will Fitbit’s ‘magic number’ really step up your fitness game?

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Where will Fitbit’s 10,000 steps a day lead you?
Where will Fitbit’s 10,000 steps a day lead you?
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Fitbit reported its best-ever holiday sales this week, but investors are fretting because the wearable maker’s guidance for the current quarter is lower than expected. Some analysts are questioning whether Fitbit can hold its own against competition from Cupertino.

Apple Watch has proved to be a fantastic fitness tracker for many Cult of Mac readers. So I was curious to find out how Fitbit’s trackers compare. They may be cheaper than Apple Watch, but are they as effective at promoting healthy habits?

The holidays might ruin your Apple Watch fitness streak. Good.

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All good streaks must come to an end
All good streaks must come to an end
Photo: Graham Bower / Cult of Mac

For many of us, Christmas is a time for relaxing with family, sitting in front of the TV, overindulging and generally moving as little as possible. In other words, all the things your Apple Watch hates you doing.

So if you have a nice streak going in the Activity app, chances are it is about to come to an abrupt end. And that may not be a bad thing.