Technology Everything Apple Watch Pro needs to beat Garmin and...

Everything Apple Watch Pro needs to beat Garmin and Samsung


2022 is an important year for smartwatches. Samsung just refreshed its Galaxy Watch lineup with a new “Pro” model, Google is finally releasing a Pixel Watch, Qualcomm launched a new wearable chip, and some Wear OS 2 watches are finally getting the upgrade to Wear OS 3. And then in Apple’s camp, the Apple Watch lineup is about to undergo its biggest overhaul in years. This year we expect not one, not two, but possibly three new Apple Watch models. A new Series 8, a new SE and a never-before-seen rugged “Pro” model – a new high-end option that could shake up the world of smartwatches.

That’s because an Apple Watch Pro would mean Apple is entering a whole new category of wearable devices: multisport fitness watches. This is a category of passionate users who demand a specific list of fitness and navigation features to fuel their athletic adventures, allowing the Apple Watch to face challenges it hasn’t seen before.

Fitness watches are a niche dominated by brands like Garmin, Polar and Coros. These brands specialize in devices that can withstand all the elements, last for weeks on a single charge, offer advanced navigation features, and give users dozens and dozens of performance metrics to obsessively analyze. Newer models feature multi-band GPS, allowing users to receive a signal even in the most remote locations.

Close-up of the Vertix 2 on a picnic table

Look at this sturdy Vertix 2. The battery lasts an estimated 60 days!
Photo by Victoria Song / The Verge

It’s an interesting hub for Apple, which already dominates the overall smartwatch market. Although multisport watches mainly appeal to a niche audience, it is a loyal crowd. Unlike people who only engage in casual workouts to stay active, these are dedicated athletes who invest a lot of time and money in training. They are unlikely to leave their sports watches in a drawer for months. Flagship GPS watches like the Garmin Fenix ​​7 start at around $700 and can cost as much as $1,000 for the most advanced models. That’s a lucrative market for Apple to enter.

It’s also a departure from what Apple’s smartwatches are best known for. The Apple Watch is known for its advanced health features, superior connectivity, seamless integration with iPhones and, frankly, mediocre battery life. It is more like a mini computer than a special training tool. That presents opportunities, but also challenges if Apple wants the “Pro” watch to succeed.

To win over the Garmin crowd, Apple needs a watch with longer battery life, superior durability, improved physical controls and support for recovery stats to aid in training. If Apple can pull that off, it has the potential to reimagine what a “traditional” smartwatch can do in the gym. Innovations here could even lead to an advanced sports watch that won’t let users choose between fitness and smarts.

The screen is 20 percent larger on the Apple Watch Series 7

The Series 7 added fast charging to take the sting out of its estimated 18 hours of battery life, but that won’t save the Pro.
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

The most glaring issue that Apple needs to address is battery life. Since day one, Apple has not deviated from the estimated 18-hour battery life for its smartwatches. In reality, you can get more depending on your usage – on some models I lasted as much as 36 hours before needing to charge. But it’s still not 36 hours to soften of battery life. When I tested the Garmin Fenix ​​7S, I got two weeks on a single charge. I have a week on the Polar Grit X Pro and the Coros Vertix 2 has an estimated 60 days of daily use. (After two weeks of testing the Vertix 2, I still had 85 percent battery left.) I’ll be really shocked if the Apple Watch Pro gets close to a week, but it has to take more than 36 hours to really make a difference. multi-day to be watch. For example, during testing, I got about 48-60 hours on the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro. It falls short of a Garmin or Polar, but it’s a start.

As for durability, I’ve never broken an Apple Watch before — and I’m a klutz. However, I have gotten dents and scratches with normal wear and tear on just about all of my Apple Watches. (Including more durable models, like the Series 7!) If you’re going to take a watch on a dusty trail, whitewater rafting, kiteboarding, skiing or whatever, you’ll want to know that sweat, dirt, dust, water, sand and the elements are no problem. Part of this is a perception problem. You can swim with an Apple Watch and durability has improved since previous models, but it doesn’t give the impression of being heavy.

Then there is the matter of controls. I’ve already written about why physical buttons are important to athletes, but relying on touchscreens is a potential deal breaker. Wet fingers make wiping a chore, the digital crown isn’t immune to accidental presses, and the side button, while ideal for sleek minimalism, isn’t great if you’re wearing gloves for cold-weather sports. These controls are fine for everyday life, but they aren’t as reliable as Garmin’s or Polar’s five-button navigators for activities. And while Siri is helpful, it’s not always an option in noisy environments or when you need to be discreet. Using Siri, for example, was out of the question when I ran a half marathon. The cheering crowd and loudspeakers silenced all commands.

Garmin Fenix ​​7S close-up on top of a book

Garmin watches have a five-button system to ensure you can always navigate menus with sweaty fingers or gloves.
Photo by Victoria Song / The Verge

Apple is also still lagging behind when it comes to certain tracking metrics. Recovery and injury prevention have been a popular trend in fitness technology in recent years, and that’s one area where Apple hasn’t done much. Not only was it late with native sleep tracking, it’s still a pretty basic feature in the watchOS 9 beta. The watch also doesn’t offer much insight into how well you have recovered from physical strain.

Instead, Apple focused more on users closing their rings. That often leads to prioritizing streaks at the expense of rest — which anyone seriously training for events will tell you is a big no-no. If he wants to convince serious athletes, the Pro needs less gamification and more flexibility. That said, after testing the watchOS 9 beta, I’m not too worried about the workout stats. While you won’t get as much detail as a Garmin or Polar watch, watchOS 9 adds some necessary basics like heart rate zones, custom workouts, running form stats, and elevation graphs.

These are all major challenges for Apple’s new watch, but there are also great opportunities here. Multisport watches tend to be weak on smart features like music streaming, digital assistants, smart home technology monitoring, contactless payments, LTE connectivity for SOS emergency calls, fall detection, and advanced health features like atrial fibrillation alerts. Garmin is the best of them all, but the versions of these features often have caveats. Safety features depend on your phone nearby, the apps in the Connect IQ store aren’t capable of sniffing, adding music can be a pain, and Garmin Pay is limited to your watch. It’s arguably easier for Apple to improve its fitness features, battery and durability than Garmin and Polar to improve their smart capabilities.

The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro on a wrist with fitness stats

Samsung also has a shiny new rugged smartwatch in the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro.
Photo by Allison Johnson / The Verge

Apple isn’t alone in going Pro this summer. Samsung has also just launched the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, which is also aimed at outdoor enthusiasts. And while it improves battery and durability, it still lacks reliable physical checks and workout recovery stats. (Plus, turn-by-turn navigation leaves out runners.) Overall, it’s an admirable first effort, but there are certainly areas where Samsung can improve. I imagine the Apple Watch Pro might be similar – a first attempt trying to get the basics down, while leaving room for more exciting features later on.

None of us have seen the Pro – or whatever it’s called – yet. There could very well be new design elements or sturdier specs that would address at least some of these challenges. That said, it’s rare for a company to knock it out of the park on a first try. The Apple Watch itself really took off with the Series 4. The first Pro isn’t likely to get a horde of Garmin enthusiasts to suddenly ditch their beloved Fenix ​​and Forerunner watches. That’s not how one should evaluate their “success” either. For this first rugged Apple Watch, it’s far more important that it does the basics well enough to pique the curiosity of even the most staunch Garmin and Polar loyalists.

Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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