3 things fitness buffs should know about Apple Watch Series 2

Apple's latest smartwatch is a great workout companion. But even with built-in GPS and the capability to store and playback music, you may find that you'll still need to carry your iPhone.

apple watch nike
Credit: REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

Since the Apple Watch Nike+ ($369 and up) became available in late October, I’ve been wearing the watch to record daily workouts. After nearly three months, I’m still infatuated with Apple’s latest smartwatch (part of its Series 2 line-up), with its built-in GPS and mostly excellent swim workout tracking.

But there are three potential disappointments fitness buffs should be aware of — especially if you long to leave your iPhone behind when working out.

(Quick aside: the Nike+ edition and Apple Watch Series 2 are functionally equivalent.)

1. Not many Watch apps that use the built-in GPS without your iPhone

There’s no shortage of iOS fitness apps. Many of them work well on any Apple Watch, as long as it’s in proximity of an iPhone. But the number of apps that can leverage Apple Watch Series 2’s built-in GPS is still small. The list includes Apple’s own Workout app (preinstalled on all Apple Watches); Nike+ Run Club (which comes preinstalled on Nike+ edition Watches); Runkeeper; and coming soon, Strava.

runkeeper apple watch FitnessKeeper, Inc.

Runkeeper on Apple Watch

One of the more interesting iOS exercise apps on an Apple Watch is the freemium hiking and cycling app ViewRanger. You can follow downloaded cycling or hiking routes and see your GPS location on a map using just ViewRanger on your Series 2 watch. You can store up to three routes and their related maps on the Watch; more than 150,000 hiking/cycling routes are available for downloading.

But the Watch app’s standalone functionality is limited. While hiking, for example, you can’t record a new route — unless your iPhone is handy.

2. Apple Watch can’t record elevation, regardless of apps

Apple Watch doesn’t include an altimeter. So regardless of the app you’re using, it won’t be able to record elevation stats during a workout — unless, you guessed it, your iPhone is nearby.

3. Your fabulous new AirPods aren’t as fabulous without Siri

In just a few weeks, I’ve become a big AirPods fan. It’s easy to switch between listening to music on your iPhone to jamming to a downloaded playlist on your Apple Watch.

Siri is a welcome addition to the AirPods, too. Tap one of the wireless earbuds twice to summon Apple’s virtual assistant, then ask it to skip to the next track on the playlist, turn volume up or down, and so on.

But here’s the gotcha: If you leave your iPhone behind, Siri won’t be coming with you. On an Apple Watch, Siri needs either your iPhone or a Wi-Fi connection to work. The upshot is that without a nearby iPhone, AirPod users must control music playback using the Music app on the Apple Watch — which can slow you down a bit.

Are these deal killers? Could be, if you’re a marathoner or triathlete in training. But I suspect many people — myself included — don’t want to venture far without their iPhones.  

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