Apple's announcement day today focused a lot on the new iPhone 7, but the most exciting news for health and fitness fans was related to the Apple Watch series 2, which ups the ante for fitness tracking in several ways. The device is swimproof, has a built-in GPS, and a special version will be created in partnership with Nike.
"We call it Apple Watch series 2 and it has been completely re-engineered," Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams said during the keynote event. "The first Apple Watch was splash-proof. Series 2 is swim-proof. So whether you’re swimming, surfing, or just doing the occasional cannonball, you can keep it on."
Making a complex smartwatch waterproof presented some interesting challenges, Williams said, since a device with speakers has to let air in in order for the speakers to function. The Apple Watch actually uses the speakers themselves to eject water whenever the wearer gets out of the water. The fitness app on the Apple Watch has two new settings for swimmers: one for laps in a pool and one for open water swimming. Both feature a learning algorithm that's tailored to an individual swimmer.
The GPS also creates new opportunities for fitness tracking, taking away one edge that dedicated sports watches from companies like Polar and Garmin had over Apple.
"With Apple Watch, you can hit start and begin your workout," Williams said. "During your workout, it’s GPS accurate, and at the end you can see a route map, color-coded to show your varying speeds."
Third party developers have also created apps that use the GPS app, including a hiking app called VRanger which allows users to download popular hikes so they can have a trail guide on their wrist even if they don't have data or internet access. It has an on-the-wrist notification if the hiker strays too far from the path as well.
In a long-anticipated move, Nike, which recently overhauled its Run Club app and discontinued its own dedicated fitness tracker two years ago, has partnered with Apple to launch a special version of the Watch. It has a unique band and design for runners and built-in apps that make it easier to access running features. Motivational messages help runners stay engaged in a variety of ways.
"This isn’t just a watch, it’s your perfect running partner," Nike President Trevor Edwards said. "It’s simple, fun, and easy to use. We give you a shortcut that takes you straight into your run. If you prefer, you can just tell Siri to start a run and off you go. If you’re the type who really wants a lot of detail we have advanced mode just for you."
One more health app took the stage at the keynote presentation, or at least an app that's often been dubbed a health app: Pokemon Go, which will get its own Apple Watch app soon, and which will save Pokemon Go sessions as workouts.
Niantic CEO John Hanke shared that "Pokemon trainers collectively have walked more than 4.6 billion kilometers while playing the game." If you're wondering, that's enough to hatch 460 million 10K eggs.