Navigate, pay for things, train and in a pinch, make calls – all with a device that is smaller and lighter than most GPS bike computers. We tested the Apple Watch for three months and figured out whether it could do everything it promised.
It’s elegant, highly functional, perfectly crafted and ready for anything. At first glance, the Apple Watch looks like the holy grail of smart outdoor gear. The latest generation is waterproof to 50 m, with a housing made from 100% recycled aluminium, titanium or ceramic in combination with scratch-resistant glass on the front and back. It also has basic positioning services, a compass, a barometric altimeter, various heart rate sensors and the ability to detect crashes or accidents and make an emergency call.
Another safety feature is the Always-On display that’s been available since the fifth generation of the Apple Watch. This has the decisive advantage that you no longer have to take your hand off the handlebars to see the time, navigation instructions or training goals. The Apple Watch also comes with the latest connectivity technology such as Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi, GPS and depending on the model, an eSIM, which you can activate with your mobile service provider..
The Apple Watch on test
As you’d expect from Apple, setup is quick and simple. Once your apps such as Komoot, Strava or Spotify are installed, they all respond quickly. Strap it on and…ouch. The Nike+ edition strap tends to pinch and pull at your arm hair. But as soon as you’ve got the watch strapped on, you immediately feel like you’re wearing something new, fancy and very expensive. Our 44 mm, space grey, fully connected Apple Watch is priced at € 580.
Get on the bike and off you go. Questions like “where do I put my phone?” become obsolete because the eSIM equipped Apple Watch can do it all. Whether you want to make calls via the internal microphone and speakers, dictate and send messages or quickly check the weather – it’s no problem! You can even leave your wallet at home and use the convenience of Apple Pay at the supermarket till or your favourite Italian restaurant instead. However, we recommend that you always keep a few small bills in your pocket, given that not every restaurant or supermarket has Apple Pay-enabled devices.
The fitness app displays key information while you’re training or on a bike ride, which can be configured and synced with your iPhone. We selected riding time, heart rate, average speed, altitude and distance for the main display. The ability to track cycling, running and swimming with just one device is particularly attractive for triathletes. We didn’t have any problems with regards to the watch’s water resistance when swimming, with no problems after being submerged many times.
Apple specify a battery life of 18 hours and in our experience the watch held out for a day with heavy use. If you only use it occasionally, the battery will last for up to two days.
Using Komoot to navigate with the Apple Watch
The Apple Watch would be the ultimate all-in-one solution for cyclists if you could navigate with it properly. Although Komoot offer a navigation function, it is rudimentary at best. The directional instructions are limited to left and right arrows and the distance until the next turn. At intersections with more than two options, it’s impossible to know which path is the right one. A simple outline of a map as we know it from the earliest days of GPS bike computers would be enough for the Apple Watch to overshadow all other cycle computers. The navigation problem should, in theory, have been settled with the implementation of the compass. We would also like to be able to start and record routes directly on the Apple
In an emergency
As mentioned earlier, the Apple Watch Series 5 has sensors that can help to detect if you’ve crashed. If you crash hard, you have 60 seconds to tell the watch that everything is ok. If you don’t respond, it will automatically make an emergency call. The emergency call services have recently been expanded to over 80 countries. If you aren’t responsive after an accident, doctors can access important information such as underlying conditions, blood type, medical records, allergies and intolerances, as well as prescribed medications. Your stored emergency contacts can also be notified. It may seem a little ghoulish, but in the worst case, paramedics can even see if you’re an organ donor.
A possible future
The longer you consider the Apple Watch the bigger the possibilities seem. Be it the previously mentioned navigation, anti-theft and GPS tracking of bicycles, selecting support levels for e-bikes or playfully structured training. The future possibilities for health, safety and entertainment all in a single device seem limitless.
At first glance, the € 580 price appears bold. However, once you start to recognise the functions and possibilities of the Apple Watch, the price moves more and more into the background and gives way to excitement. As soon as developers start getting to grips with the navigation function, there are very few arguments against using the Apple Watch as both a training device and a useful gadget in everyday life. But even without looking to the future, we can recommend the watch to outdoor enthusiasts and tech nerds alike.
- waterproof up to 50 m
- life-saving functions
- universal training device
- limited possibilities from third-party software
Duration: 3 months
More info: apple.com
Words & Photos: Valentin Rühl