Is watchOS 10 the update cyclists were waiting for? What holds the future?

With the introduction of watchOS 10, Apple put a lot of effort into convincing that the Apple Watch and the Apple Watch Ultra are the leading smartwatches and the best choice for athletes. This new version introduces many updates focused on cycling. In my earlier review of the Apple Watch Ultra (link), I noted a couple of crucial functions that were missing in watchOS to make it a good alternative to the existing watches many cyclists use, such as those from Garmin, Wahoo and Polar. So, with the introduction of watchOS 10, the crucial question is: “Does watchOS make the Apple Watch (Ultra) worth it for cyclists?”

What is new?

WatchOS 10 introduces quite some new features for users. A lot of those are focused on workouts, sports and health. If you want a detailed view, go to Apple’s website and dive deeper into it (link). Since this review focuses on cycling (mostly), the most interesting features for cyclists are:

  1. Support for Bluetooth accessories
  2. Integration of power-based metrics
  3. The modular watch face for the Apple Watch Ultra
  4. Double tap on the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2
  5. Custom workouts
  6. Cycling live activity on the iPhone

1. Support for Bluetooth accessories

In my previous article reviewing the Apple Watch Ultra (link), I dedicated a section to the lack of broader ecosystem support (read: power meters, cadence meters, etc.). I noted that “[i]t will probably be the number 1 reason to prevent many users of competitor products from switching to an Apple Watch (even though these people all use an iPhone, iPad and Mac). As long as Apple doesn’t snap into the reality that a lot of sports, besides running, climbing, hiking and diving, require integration with other equipment, they will always be a niche product for those that prefer the interaction model of an Apple Watch over those of other products or are very keen on integrating with the rest of Apple’s iOS ecosystem.

To my surprise, Apple spent quite some time in their keynote on cycling. Support for all the Bluetooth accessories was the biggest new announcement (as it is also necessary for the other features). Now you can connect your sensors, such as your power meter and cadence sensor, to your Apple Watch, similar to how connecting a heart rate monitor was already possible.

This is also the biggest caveat: you need to connect the devices directly to your Apple Watch. That means 2 things:

  1. You (still) cannot connect your Apple Watch directly to your bike computer.
  2. Unless you connect your accessories over ANT+ to your bike computer, which supports simultaneous connections, you must choose between your Apple Watch Ultra and your bike computer.

Both are not necessarily dealbreakers. However, you don’t want to end up with 2 different data sets or broken data (which is now often the case). By connecting your bike computer and Apple Watch together, you create one super data set with detailed data from the watch and detailed data from the bike computer, all based on the same input devices.

For example: if I do a Zwift ride (using my iPad) on my Wahoo KICKR, I only get the data in my TrainingPeaks or Strava. There’s no direct connection between Zwift and the health and fitness apps on my iPhone. Strava can upload the workout to my health app, but it doesn’t provide all the data similar to an Apple Watch workout (mainly heart rate data). In the end, I can do a very tough VO2Max workout while my Apple Watch reads it as if I’m watching a horror movie on my couch with a couple of spikes in heart rate. It doesn't connect these separate files (or better: data sets) together.

But this might be nitpicking from a data freak… The good news is, if you go out and you don’t need your bike computer (gravel riding, cyclocross, going stealth) you can now hook everything to your Apple Watch and get the legs moving.

2. Integration of power-based metrics

With the integration of accessories comes the integration of power-based metrics. If you’re somewhat into the performance of cycling, power-based training will be very familiar to you. While running based on heart rate can get you quite far (the Apple watch already supported running power metrics), heart rate isn’t the best metric for cyclists. When I started training based on power, I thought it was more gimmicky than an added value. But I soon found that power and cadence are all you need. Heart rate is interesting. Speed says nothing.

This is where Garmin and other smartwatches had a huge advantage over the Apple Watches. They allowed you to include power-based metrics, making training with your watch much more valuable and insightful. As of watchOS 10, Apple closed another loop on the serious competitors.

So during a workout, you can now see metrics on your Apple Watch such as how much power you’re using, your power zones and a power chart. It doesn’t allow you to customise the power's time length. On my Wahoo, I programmed this to 3-second power. Apple isn’t very clear on what type of power data it displays. However, based on my testing, I feel it is the 3-second power.

It looks like this (I forgot to set my language to English before taking the screenshots):

Workout data screenshots showing 1. a summary with power, data and cadence data, 2. Heart rate zones, 3. Power zones, and 4. a Power chart
Workout data screenshots | 1. summary with power, data and cadence | 2. Heart rate zones | 3. Power zones | 4. Power chart

It also doesn’t show you left and right balancing. I’m very keen on seeing this because I know my right leg is more powerful than my left leg. I try to compensate for that, and knowing how I’m balancing allows me to compensate for this better. If I don’t do this, my right leg takes over.

Other power metrics such as time-out-of-the-saddle (something Garmin supports but Wahoo doesn’t — hopefully, they’re reading this) or pedal effectiveness are also not included. These are metrics that competitors have integrated. Similarly, after a ride, I check my power curve and time spent in each zone (together with a series of other metrics). Apple should be able to calculate these, but I’m guessing that the reason they are not included is because they are not included in Apple Health (yet).

In the end, it’s not that these metrics are missing now. I still use TrainingPeaks, so it calculates those metrics for me. But I’m hoping Apple will support these in the future (also from third-party apps).

Finally, let’s talk about calorie counts (because power expenditure translates accurately into burnt calories). In any workout, the Apple Watch makes a difference between total and active calories. The difference is that the total calories also count for your calories at rest. We all know that once you switch from a heart rate monitor to a power meter, your calorie count at the end of a ride drops significantly. That’s because counting calories based on heart rate is less accurate. Power-based metrics allow you to calculate your calorie expenditure very easily (you can read more about that in an article on Training Peaks). In essence, what the total calorie vs. the active calorie does (or should do) is showing you the difference between the efficient use of energy (what you put into your pedals) and the inefficient use of energy (what is lost but is burned anyway). It also should include the energy you spent when not cycling (e.g. if you’re waiting on the top of a high for one of your fellow riders, you’re not pedalling, so you’re not spending energy on the pedals, but you are still consuming energy as your heart rate will still be elevated).

Given that this is pure mathematics, you’d expect similar numbers on the Apple Watch and other devices. I noticed that there were quite some differences between the calorie Zwift recorded through my Wahoo KICKR and the Apple Watch through my Favero Assioma Duo power pedals (which are known to be very accurate). I’d expect a difference because the pedals are directly passing on live power registration from both feet to the Apple Watch, and the KICKR is a hub-based power system. However, the numbers seem to be off. Sometimes with a little, sometimes with a lot. But that doesn’t mean the Apple Watch is off. At this point, I can only say there’s a difference between the two. I haven’t compared it to outdoor rides (at the time of writing, I’m at the beginning of my new training year, and that’s when I avoid riding outdoors simply because I cannot not compete with myself when riding outdoors). I also see a difference in Training Peaks for any workout on Zwift with my KICKR between the total energy expenditure (kcal) and the total work (kJ). So it might also have to do with the Zwift/KICKR setup.

3. The modular watch face for the Apple Watch Ultra

There is little difference between the available software features on the Apple Watch and the Apple Watch Ultra. Most differences are around the hardware: GPS, microphones, the action button, etc. There is one exception: watch faces. The Apple Watch Ultra had an interesting Wayfinder watch face which displayed a live compass, in addition to showing many complications. The amount of information the Wayfinder watch face displayed was massive compared to the other watch faces.

Apple introduced a new Ultra-exclusive watch face, the Modular Ultra, this year. According to Apple (link), the Modular Ultra watch face “takes advantage of the large display, using the outermost edge to present real-time data, including seconds, altitude, or depth. It offers the most complications of any Apple digital watch face to customize for sports, outdoor adventures, and ocean and water activities.” Though the announcement happened with the introduction of the Ultra 2, the Modular Ultra watch face is available in both Ultra versions.

A screenshot of the Apple Watch Ultra 2 showing how Joeri set up his Modular Ultra face for outdoor cycling.
My Modular Ultra watch face setup for outdoor rides

This new watch face is particularly interesting for cyclists. Even though the Wayfinder was already a convenient way of showing a lot of information, my personal experience is that the Modular Ultra is better at showing a lot of data in use. I need to glance at my watch now to see where I’m heading and if I will be pushing into the wind. There’s no figuring it out, so there's less time needed with my eyes off the road.

Here’s a screenshot that shows how I configured my Modular Ultra face for outdoor cycling. I keep a minimalistic configuration on my bike computer (cadence 3 sec., power and heart rate for free rides—or my route and cadence in case I’m following one). This allows my Apple Watch to be my companion with necessary secondary information. It displays time, altitude and direction as main information. The complications I set up are wind and wind direction, temperature, chance of precipitation and UV. I also have two less important complications (but I didn’t find better ones): my heart rate range (from Heart Analyzer) and the solar wheel (from SolarWatch).

This is pretty convenient, as I’m the type of data-driven athlete who goes on to study after my workouts or races. I try to capture the variables, and when I’m riding, I try to anticipate. Knowing I’ll be pushing against the wind while a Flanders-steep climb is upcoming will make me shift back for a minute, so I have some additional fuel in the tank.

It is a pity, though, that Apple did not leverage the mono-style font it uses for the Wayfinder Watch face. This became a key marketing element that set aside the Ultra from the other Apple Watches. In my previous article, I advocated that Apple use the font more in the Ultra’s UI. It seems it will remain limited to the Wayfinder face and the marketing materials of the Apple Watch Ultra.

I’m still missing dynamic complications, though (which applies to all watch faces on all Apple Watches). I hate to figure out the direction of the wind vs. the direction I’m heading. You can see this clearly in the screenshot. You can see I’m heading south while the wind is coming from the east. I will take a sharp right turn (to make it easy, comparable to 90º). Will I be bashing against the wind or not? The answer is no, the opposite because I’ll be heading west. Still, during a ride and in other situations, it might take me a lot longer to figure it out (if I just arrived on the top of the Paterberg, I can tell you my brain won’t figure it out, but I’d love to know if I’ll have to hang on). It would be such an added value if the wind direction compass would update together with my compass direction!

4. Double tap on the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2

With the introduction of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2, Apple also introduced new chips for both watch versions (the S9 chip). This chip allowed a new functionality: double tap. In short, you can double tap with your thumb and index (or any other finger), and the Watch will recognise the gesture for the main call to action on screen. For example, my timer ended, and I wanted to stop the ringing. I can now use double tap, and it will automatically stop. Or you get a call on your watch. Double tap, and it will answer the call. Double tap again, and it will end the call.

Watch the following video for how Apple explains it:

The feature is new, so support is still limited. That said, I’ve been using this one a lot on my bike and during cross-training. Especially in those moments, you might not have your hands free, and interacting with your watch can be dangerous. If you now set a timer to remind yourself to take a gel or a bar, you can very easily stop the timer. Or when you lose your mates, and you get a call from them, picking up is very easy now.

There’s one downside for now: you cannot fully customise your double taps. For music and the Smart Stack, you can customise its behaviour. But that’s it. While for the timer, I would love to choose to repeat the timer instead of stopping the timer. It’s what I use the most. Now I have to stop the timer and use Siri to start a new timer.

I can also see this feature evolving in the future to more actions, thus allowing me to differentiate between stopping or repeating my timer.  There is a function called Assistive Touch that can do this, but it runs on a different part of the system (the new chip has a neural engine which allows it to detect the double tap while Assistive Touch runs on the core chip, thus being far less efficient).

Here is an interesting article on The Verge’s website diving into the depth of double tap.

5. Custom workouts

WatchOS supported workouts already, but I have never really used the feature. Not even for running. It’s because you had to set it up on the watch. It doesn’t make creating many different workouts and managing an overall training plan easy. Like a lot of you, I use a third party application for managing my training schedules (I set up my overall training plan and manage my training within Training Peaks).

In another attempt to broaden its ecosystem, Apple now added support for third parties to create customer workouts and integrate them directly into the Apple Watch. So if you start to train, you see it natively in the workout app. That’s very good progress and is much easier than sitting up my training with Zwift, which requires me to (re-)create a workout in the app or to use an unnecessarily complex workaround using my computer to load external workouts (from my training plan) on Zwift.

Even though Training Peaks was announced as third party developer to launch support for custom workouts, I haven’t seen the feature in the Training Peaks app yet. So I haven’t been able to test this out yet.

How the workout integration of TrainingPeaks and the Apple Watch looks like.
Image copyright Apple and TrainingPeaks.

Instead, I tried to create a workout on the Apple Watch itself. I wondered, absent of further integration, if power and cadence would also be available for building workouts. After some testing, it doesn’t allow me to set a specific power and/or cadence target (I can set a notification when I hit a specific goal, but that’s something different). So I tried to dig into the developer documentation. I couldn’t find anything indicating support for power or cadence targets. This is a major flaw in the system. Especially for cycling (and those that spend hours training indoors over the winter), power and cadence are the two metrics that are most relevant during training.

In addition, many indoor bike trainers have support for target power output, making indoor training more effective than outdoor training (where holding a specific power target in combination with a cadence target is not always feasible). Nowhere else does Apple mention support for goals or targets other than calories, time or distance is planned, nor does it mention anything about potential further integration with accessories such as adaptive trainers. However, it would be strange for a company such as Training Peaks to oversee this (it makes me feel that this would be why support for custom workouts has not yet been launched). Something for Apple to reconsider (if not planned).

6. Cycling live activity on the iPhone

If you launch a cycling workout on the Apple Watch with watchOS 10 installed, it also shows up as a live activity on the iPhone, making the iPhone a replacement for the bike computer. This is interesting because I noticed in the challenges I rode last year (Tour of Flanders and Liège-Bastogne-Liège) how many people replaced their bike computers with their smartphones (and the huge share of iPhones). But it does make sense. The iPhone shows more information, especially when following a route, as people are using apps like Strava or Komoot to show routes, navigation and, more importantly, track their rides (it didn’t happen if it’s not on Strava) on top of their bike computers or smartwatches (I have a friend who always tracks his rides with his Wahoo and his Strava on his iPhone simultaneously, just in case one fails).

I haven’t used the cycling live activity on an outdoor ride yet (I somehow like the bike computer's simplicity and robustness, which also allows me to 'disconnect'). It worked perfectly on an indoor ride. The information was clear and comprehensive. As always, Apple is very good at showing data and making it understandable for the larger audience.

But the cycling live activity doesn’t stand alone as a bike computer (at least not right now). It provides insights into the main metrics but lacks navigation integration. This shouldn’t be an issue since many will use Strava or Komoot to navigate. But it requires you to switch back and forth between 2 apps while riding. An additional integration in the workout app would be very nice and shouldn’t replace Strava or Komoot (similarly to how Komoot is an added service to your regular bike computer). It would be as easy as a swipe, just as we have different views on our bike computers (and it avoids having multiple metrics due to different apps that run concurrently).

What’s the take?

This update is a huge leap forward. It may seem limited, but for Apple, it’s huge. It’s a step outside their ecosystem, realising that the Apple Watch in sports and performance will always be connected to other devices (unless they find a way to measure the same without needing sensors). The fact that cyclists can now use power, cadence and speed accessories with the Apple Watch is a giant leap forward.

The question is: is that enough? It depends on how you look at it.

If you look at Garmin, Polar and Wahoo watches, they are designed and positioned towards performance. The Apple Watch is positioned around health. This makes the need for many fancy metrics and features less applicable to their audience. It needs to fit into achieving a healthy lifestyle. However, the Apple Watch Ultra is designed to compete with the performance sports watches, so the software (watchOS 10) still lags.

It’s important to stress the difference between performance and health. The focus on performance is not only about showing simple metrics. It’s more advanced. People tend to focus less on the absolute metrics and more on the relative metrics. They look at trends. They understand and prefer more advanced metrics, such as heart rate variability. This is built into the core of performance watches. However, it’s not the core of a health center. This is where Apple will have to make the difference, especially for the positioning of the Apple Watch Ultra. Health center and performance center will have to co-exist, offering more advanced features to those who are looking for it. But if athletes don’t have access to that, they will choose Garmin, Wahoo and Polar over the supreme experience of watchOS.

For now, I stick to most of the conclusions I made in my previous article. The Apple Watch has leapt into an ecosystem mode but still lacks the performance angle. Unless you prefer user experience over features, you are already in the Apple Ecosystem, or if you use your smartwatch for many other things besides sports, the Apple Watch won’t offer you much added value over the others. I also get this from many athletes (especially because they often spend more money on a Garmin watch than they would on an Apple Watch Ultra). The opposite is also true. The Apple Watch (and Ultra) are much more than simply for health and performance tracking. The Apple Watch Ultra can serve as a full-day iPhone alternative. And it keeps expanding. So unless you are a core metric fan, the Apple Watch Ultra does provide you with a lot of value.

On top of that, the ecosystem has two sides. A benefit of Apple above the competitor watches is their app ecosystem. Many developers have filled gaps or expanded their offering onto other devices (iPhone or Apple Watch). This also made the entire offer of athlete-focused solutions better and richer (think Joyn, Eat my ride, Gentler Streak, Heart analyzer,…). Though I don’t own a competitor watch, from what I’ve seen from others, these are rather closed systems from an app point of view. Whereas Apple departed from their iPhone and moved into a Watch, Garmin and the others moved from their bike computers into smartwatches. Though they support accessories from the outset (because they did already with their bike computers and/or because they make these themselves), they are a more closed system with less attention from outside developers. For a new feature, it’s waiting until they implement it in their watches. This is where Apple has a benefit over any other smartwatch.

WatchOS 10 is between an evolution (for athletes) and a revolution (for Apple). It leaves me with one question: if Apple has made this giant leap in 1 year, what will happen in 2 years?

Where Apple can take it further

To conclude this article, I asked myself: if, for some magical reason, I were to be the product manager for leaping the Apple Watch (Ultra) into performance, what would make it successful and give it an actual innovative edge over others?

Leveraging Apple’s innovative power

At the core of Apple’s innovative power is its deep integration of software and hardware. Apple showed it over and over again. It didn’t only make them superior in user experience, but it also allowed them to make devices that did a lot more with less.

The Apple Watch has given people access to GPS, heart rate monitoring, ECG, blood oxygen measurement, altimeters and temperature sensors. The innovative hardware unlocked access to features such as irregular heartbeat, fall, and crash detection.

There are reports that Apple is already looking into other sensors, such as glucose and blood pressure monitoring.

But in terms of performance, that’s not where technology stops. On the contrary, performance is probably leading research and innovation regarding sensors. Some sensors are looking to measure the level of hydration and lactic acid, or a more advanced version of a core body temperature sensor). Given the advanced state of existing sensors and Apple’s research, adding these capabilities would unlock a lot of power in the Apple Watch for performance and general health purposes.

An additional focus on performance

As I mentioned, most of Apple’s endeavours focus on health and the general audience. With the Apple Watch Ultra, Apple has started to focus more on performance, but this has not been fully reflected in the software. Most available features aim to help people with a specific target (e.g. atrial fibrillation, cycle tracking) or have a more general health benefit (e.g. sleep tracking, general fitness).

How is an additional focus on performance possible? The Apple ecosystem has two apps that play a crucial role in health and performance:

  1. The health app is the backbone for all health-related data from Apple and third parties (if they choose to do so). It’s a rich and expanding ecosystem. It gives deep insights into trends, and it unlocks healthcare options as well.
  2. The fitness app gathers data about people’s activity, workouts, and sharing. Where available, it also houses Apple’s Fitness+. Leaving Fitness+ aside, it all boils down to giving insight into activity and workouts.

In addition, these apps should also be available on the Apple Watch, including the data. It’s not the case right now, besides the three rings and workout summaries, while this data is now already synced in the iPad and should, therefore, be possible. It should be possible to show at least data from the last week and trends. After all, much of that data is generated by the Apple Watch.

The fitness app is ideally placed to become more of a performance center, compared to the health app. Adding a performance centre to the fitness app would mean integrating more advanced metrics, trends and relative (or computed) data, focusing less on health and more on performance.

These more advanced metrics are common metrics that are crucial to athletes to improve their performance and track their progress over time, such as training stress score, power-to-weight ratios, efficiency metrics, different side data, time out of the saddle, power curves, heart rate variability (this is already measured), recovery,…

Give insight

The reason why tracking metrics is important to improve performance and track progress is not because performance-focused athletes are also data geeks (though many are). These metrics are important because, together, they give insight. Insight is what allows you to see whether you are making progress or not. It’s one thing to measure a lot, but if you don’t know how to interpret the data (or you interpret the data wrongly), it’s nothing more than vanity measuring.

This is where many performance-focused apps, such as TrainingPeaks, have tried to fill in the gap. However, they don’t extend to the full scope of professional software like INSCYD.

Interpreting the data that professional software generates requires a deep knowledge of training, performance, biomechanics and kinesiology. On top of that, performance is rarely focused on the core of your sports. Gains in performance happen through a combination of your core sport (in our case, cycling), cross training (e.g. running, swimming, surfing, etc.), flexibility training, core and strength training, mental training, overall health and lifestyle and nutrition. And to make matters more complex, it’s not all data. If you will only rely on data in training, you’ll quickly notice that you won’t be making progress. There’s a lot of intuition involved as well.

Being a professional coach or trainer, you can draw on a lot of experience combining data and intuition (we call this triangulation, where you combine quantitative and qualitative data with intuition). But if you’re less godly, paying a coach or trainer with these capabilities will be expensive.

Nevertheless, sensors are becoming cheaper and more accurate, and manufacturers are including these sensors in all types of versions. It are no longer the top bikes only that have electronic shifting with a built-in power meter.

Apple has gone through this conundrum before with ECG and cycle tracking. Let me explain.

Interpreting an ECG used to be something that required some (basic) training. Therefore, giving an ECG to the general public sounds… dangerous, right? What If you make the wrong interpretation of data? The Apple Watch does that for you. It’s less important to know the details of an ECG. Users are interested in the conclusion of the insight. Is something wrong? Do I need to worry?

Similarly, tracking your menstruation cycle is also not straightforward. You have women who are quite regular and can quite accurately predict their cycle. However, many don’t have a regular cycle. And if you want to get pregnant, being able to track your cycle is important to many couples to decrease the months of disappointment. However, doing so requires measuring your temperature and bodily changes. Without going into the details, it’s not a forward process. Apple took this and was able to combine data and offer a more easy prediction method (Apple is not the only company that does this). Women are not interested in the actual changes in temperature or their bodies. They’re interested in knowing which phase of their cycle they are in.

The performance centre is ideal for bridging the gap between data and insight. It won’t replace a professional coach or trainer, but it will be able to get athletes a long way by helping to interpret data and provide insight.

Apple can leverage its AI capabilities and sensor technology to provide performance insights to athletes. This could include predicting optimal training periods, real-time adjusted training plans and workouts, or suggesting personalised nutrition plans to maximise performance. It can give better insights into metrics such as FTP and VO2max but also help to calculate alternative metrics such as Aerobic Thresholds without needing to go to the lab. It will allow us to detect when rest and recovery are required. Training for a specific goal will allow training that is more specific to that goal and the evolution of the identified limiters. The potential for AI in enhancing athletic performance is huge, and Apple is well-positioned to lead in this area.

Suggest action

The power of sensors allows for gathering metrics, which gives access to insights. This is only the first step. Access to the proper insights is still nothing unless the right action is taken based on it. This is the next step to complete the performance center and during workouts.

Thanks to all these different metrics, the performance center can track progress and adjust advice. Some metrics (or trends in metrics) can point to fatigue. But fatigue can be good and bad. Being fatigued is completely normal if you’re at the peak of your training program. It results from the training load you must bear during the week to progress. However, if your metrics don’t improve during your rest, it’s bad, and you need to take proper action. Combining all the different metrics gives a unique view and allows us to fine-adjust and tailor actions.

Another field where it can be relevant is training based on your thresholds. Many people are already familiar with training based on power and heart rate (though the latter is inaccurate). There’s also training based on your thresholds: aerobic threshold (which allows you to do the famous Zone 2 training, often mistaken as heart rate or power zone 2) and anaerobic threshold. The downside is that you need a lab and regular testing to do this accurately. However, based on more advanced sensor data and AI (see above) to more accurately estimate these thresholds without the need for a lab, it will be possible to train based on these thresholds. During workouts, the Apple Watch can give accurate insights into your zone and what changes to make. It makes your training program much richer. It gives you access to training tools now only available to elite athletes.

A third example is nutrition. You can make much more considerate nutrition choices by tracking how well you’re hydrated, which blood pressure you have and what your glucose levels are (and hopefully, in the future, other nutritional analyses). This can happen in workouts as well, helping you to avoid bonking.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Action can be taken in many fields and factors of training and performance. But it’s an important one. Without action, insights lose their value.

Don't exclude the ecosystem

It’s easy to think that this would be the case to make the watchOS the one-stop shop for performance. It’s not. In this scenario, watchOS would have the base capabilities to support athletes in their performance goals. It also allows the offer of additional insights or actions. However, I see it mostly from a capabilities point of view. This allows third parties to use the capabilities (read APIs) of watchOS to build their own integrations and enrich their offerings. There’s only so much Apple can do before it starts to dilute its focus. Collaboration with the ecosystem is, therefore, crucial.

For third-party developers, this is an interesting value proposition as well. As AI and AI-enabled functionalities increase, firms with the most in-house capabilities (or money to pay for these) can leverage the most. However, allowing developers to leverage Apple's capabilities gives them democratised access. On top of it, it ensures the user’s privacy and security.

Finally, this also empowers the many professions that can benefit from having access to this data. I’m thinking about coaches and trainers and (para)medical professionals. They will be less bound to interval data or snapshots. They will be able to see live and contextual data. For example, there will now be more actual data on how blood pressure, heart rate and glycolysis evolve under the different stages of stress during training compared to that data in rest (which is what a doctor would normally test).

Where do we stand? Where do we go?

In overall watchOS 10 is a huge improvement for athletes looking for more performance focus in an Apple Watch. It’s a software update, so some of the hardware issues with Apple Watches will not be addressed with this. That said, it’s good to see that Apple is moving up the ladder. For cyclists, data is enriched with often-used sensors such as power and cadence. This is a good thing. But we’re not there yet. This is new to Apple. Power data is not yet consistent throughout the OS.

However, the future looks bright. Apple can be a serious contender in the performance space. Their research into advanced sensors will unlock data and features that are now limited to elite athletes with regular access to expensive materials and labs. The Apple Watch can further democratise this. I hope Apple will distinguish between the more health-focused features and the potential of performance-focused ones. Both go hand in hand and have different spaces within their ecosystem (health vs. fitness app). But if Apple doesn't do that, other sports performance watches will have a huge advantage over Apple.

I’m also watching where Garmin, Polar and Wahoo will be moving. Will they be able to catch up with Apple’s research? And how long will it take for Apple to catch up or put the advanced sensors in their watches? Last year, I was doubtful about Apple focusing on cyclists. So who knows what will happen next year? These are definitely interesting times for Sports-, Performance- and HealthTech.