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Cardio fitness notifications are available today on Apple Watch (apple.com)
90 points by xenonite on Dec 14, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 88 comments

To me this is an incredible milestone. Biometric feedback for health is a simple but effective way to extend lifespans and make people happier.

A couple things I predict are coming in the not too distant future:

- Continuous feedback and monitoring of blood nutrition and glucose levels.

- Continuous feedback of mood - A real life mood ring, if you will.

- Mood data being correlated with your real life activity, guiding you towards things that make you genuinely happy and away from "empty calories" (Like mindlessly scrolling).

Amazon’s creepy Halo wearable has what I think is constant mood detection through examination of your voice and machine learning. Search for Tone here: https://press.aboutamazon.com/news-releases/news-release-det...

Oh wow. Fascinating. These things always seem incredibly rosy in theory, but immediately take on dark undertones when you realize it's the big bad tech companies (/s - kind of) actually building it. I'll definitely check it out though, thanks for sharing.

> These things always seem incredibly rosy in theory,

No, just dark in the beginning, the middle, and the end.

> Continuous feedback of mood

That's very black mirror.

Also, didn't facebook get busted basically manipulating feeds to see how they affect people emotionally?

Busted has a few meanings. They were caught, yes, but faced no apparent penalty, either legal or user backlash.

Yeah these ideas always sound great in theory, but the privacy issues are immense. Apple however does seem like a company fully committed to privacy. Of course this is much easier for them as their business model is selling hardware and doesn't rely on selling your data to advertisers at all.

> Apple however does seem like a company fully committed to privacy.

Trust but verify

I never understood why those in the tech industry were upset about that.

They were doing A/B tests and were tracking sentiment. So what? How is that different than running an A/B test and tracking any other dimension?

People were asking questions like "how many people died because facebook was manipulating their emotions?". What? Why can't we say that about any change ever? It seemed to only matter to people when they started looking at sentiment.

I agree, but probably not for the reason you think. All A/B tests on users are a form of psychological experiment and should require explicit consent, like an ethical psychological experiment would. It’s concerning that the software industry gets away with this unethical practice until the experiment explicitly mentions mood or sentiment, instead of implicitly being used to change user behaviour.

That's at least a principled stance, which I can appreciate.

I still disagree, though. It seems like the only logical way to get out of your thought process would be to create software and then never update or change anything. Either that or have every user sign a waiver saying that the product could change in the future and that might impact them psychologically.

After all, why is it different when you're making a change without A/B testing it? Surely every change has some hypothesis attached to it. Does it only matter to you when developers observe the metrics changing?

> I still disagree, though. It seems like the only logical way to get out of your thought process would be to create software and then never update or change anything. Either that or have every user sign a waiver saying that the product could change in the future and that might impact them psychologically.

This is a false choice. There are multiple ways you can ethically approach improving software, such as:

- user interviews

- A/B testing with informed consent

- user testing (directly observing the user while they use the software)

- focus groups

- feedback forms

- crash/error logging

There are probably more, but the theme among all of them is user consent. The ethical implications of using engagement metrics to drive software development is well-worn territory at this point, especially with respect to social media, and I don’t understand why the software industry seems to get a pass when others don’t.

you could make a study with willing partecipants

Think about it, they did experiments knowing negative sentiments like anger, fear, anxiety, sadness, despair were likely potential outcomes. They were so prepared for those negative outcomes to occur that they went out of their way to measure it. They did these experiments against thousands (millions?) of users.

Those outcomes are likely on any A/B test. Just because you don't measure it, doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

Except they induced the experiment. If your A/B test might negatively affect millions of people, and the only upside is your quarterly bonus, maybe it is immoral to be running those tests.

is any AB test ethical if done with unwilling partecipants?

what if any A/B testing is actually similarly as bad? Users didn't sign up to be your test subject...

Maybe we should do studies where subjects are consenting to it...

Is that different to you than, for example, releasing a change to a product to everyone and observing the change in metrics?

if that change is the same to every user, then I would start my argument from the position that it is, in fact, different;

if the user can tell that something changes because of a new features/changelog that explains it (or lists it for more trivial changes), again, seems different.

I would be open to discussion on how it's the same, or how it's unethical, though

High-level feedback has already been invented, it’s called The News and most people are not helped by it.

I could use some feedback about my sleep. Other than that though it sounds like a real nag.

There is an axis of high-level to low-level feedback in the sense of society (news) to individual (sleep).

And there is another axis of high to low feedback in the sense of abstract (happiness) to concrete (heartrate).

I believe you might be conflating these two axes, but you made me think about it and I think it's very interesting to consider.

- Continuous feedback and monitoring of blood nutrition and glucose levels.

Is this currently possible without drawing blood? I know little about stuff in this area, but it does seem super useful if a watch was able to do stuff like this especially.

Continuous glucose monitoring doesn't require a blood draw, but it isn't in a form that would work in a watch to my knowledge.

I expect that Apple and others are heavily invested in cracking glucose monitoring on a watch like this. That unlocks a lot of possibilities for diabetics and non-diabetics alike.

Levels is probably the closest thing to this right now: https://www.levelshealth.com/ - There are other continuous glucose monitors, but the "smart" integrations with fitness tracking, etc. seem novel to me.

Freestyle Libre is a device you attach and replace every seven days. It can be read by a hand held patients get but there are apps for some features. Even it can be off and living with one you get used to where its going to be relative your actual level.

So I doubt they will get far from that any time soon. The first company that can do it without puncturing the skin is going to have one helluva a market. How that is done, if that can be done, is still to be seen. Perhaps there is some other measurement not yet considered which can offer numbers.

There are teams/companies working on this and I believe the sensor patches are available, not aware of anyone making a wearable computer out of it (yet):


Verily (Google) tried contact lenses, but couldn't get it to work: https://blog.verily.com/2018/11/update-on-our-smart-lens-pro...

Possibly with an implant?

> Biometric feedback for health is a simple but effective way to extend lifespans and make people happier.

There's a current TikTok meme which approximates to: people linking Wii Fit calling them obese on a daily basis to their disordered eating and disordered relationship with exercise.

It's not sure that notifying people that they have low cardio health will have any meaningful benefit to them.

It really depends on the individual. Some people are highly motivated by a hard dose of reality. Others just get discouraged. I suspect that difference is due to having an internal versus external locus of control.

I am with you on glucose.

I think real-time continuous blood oxygen would be another one.

Interesting, I hadn't thought about this one. I just looked it up and didn't realize that they already have an app for blood oxygen, though it isn't continuous: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT211027

Garmin smart watches have had continuous blood oxygen monitoring for some time now. But measuring at the wrist can never be as accurate as fingertip.

Take their readings with a serious grain of salt. Even with the admonition "not as accurate as fingertip". Their readings are garbage. A random number generator does a better job of reading my SpO2. And I'm particularly pale. It's even worse on people with dark skin.

I see absolutely no benefit in the pulox feature on my garmin watch.

Mine usually reads about 97%, which is probably close to right. But I haven't been able to test it at high altitude yet.

I would love to see constant hydration level monitoring.

That has been tried. So far it doesn't work. https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/11/lvls-hydration-sensor-ri...

Nevertheless, it would be a good goal. Hydration is critical in so many health and medical concerns.

Wait, how does it measure genuine happiness?

I'm the exact target market for this, yet I can't imagine buying one. I'm big on sports, work out regularly, mind my eating, that kind of thing. However it seems absurd to have to recharge your watch every day or two (?).

Feature phones have batteries that last a week or longer. Smart phones require daily charging.

There are some sports-specific watches that have long battery life, but then you can’t do all the things you can with an Apple Watch, a list of which is evolving annually with new apps, features, complications, etc.

It depends on what you want! Like the other commenter, I charge mine daily when having coffee in the morning and it never gets below about 40%.

I don't really agree with the premise. I have the newer iPhone SE and I get two to three days out of a full charge, sometimes more. It's very different having to charge a device two or three times a week as opposed to daily. For me, the crux of the issue is that Apple Watch has more or less been standing still in the battery life department for years at this point, and the benefits don't outweigh the chore.

Ok, this feels a bit nitpicky. Sure, you can get multiple days out of a smart phone if there is relatively light usage but on the whole, most users charge their smart phones daily, versus most feature phone users would charge weekly.

I disagree. Requiring a daily charge means I can't miss a power cycle overnight, whereas 2 day capacity means I can limp through day 2. That is a massive difference to me, and it seems to occur precisely at the worst time, when I need my phone.

Get a garmin. Its not as fancy, but has days to weeks of battery life between charges.

While it's water-resistant, it isn't really meant to be worn in the shower. So I just charge mine while I shower. It pretty much never dies.

I came from a Pebble and had the same complaint at first, but it's really not a big deal. I put mine on the charger in the evening after I hit my fitness goals, then put it back on later and wear it overnight.

I've had mine on since yesterday evening and still have 60% battery, so it won't take long to top it up later.

I've had an apple watch for a year, and overall it's so-so in my opinion. One thing though, the charging aspect is not an issue or annoyance at all. 10 or 15 minutes every other day and it's good to go.

Apple Watch most certainly requires more time on the charger than "10 or 15 minutes every other day".

If you want something to track sports then Garmin is the way to go. Weeks long battery life and a massive amount of sports and activities monitoring features.

And as a bonus it also comes with the basic 'smart' features you'd expect such as phone notifications, music and NFC payment.

The Garmin ones also look much better in my opinion.

I've gone off of Garmin products lately. My FR645 isn't particularly accurate (GPS or HR) and their software is crap (and requires an internet connection to do basic things on the watch like update watch face and other basic settings). I had an older Edge 500 (bike computer) years ago and bug reports that caused crashes and data loss went unfixed for years.

Sadly, Garmin is still better than many of the alternatives. But, Wahoo recently got into the watch game (and their bicycle computers drink Garmin's milkshake) and I suspect they'll soon be on par or ahead in that market segment.

It's not a problem at all - just go for it. They have a no questions asked 14-day return policy.

I usually charge in the morning when I'm getting ready / showering and that's usually enough to last the day.

I tried an AW4 for a little bit but the daily charging and the not-always-on display really irritated me fairly shortly. It was nice but I moved back to my 4-year old Garmin soon afterwards.

I miss the Pebble for this reason. Are there other manufacturers using e-paper screens today for watches?

Exactly. The battery life of a Casio F-91W is roughly seven years, without recharging at all. Or think of those tritium markers that continously glow for more than ten years. Can't they power an Apple watch on tritium?

I can’t understand what your point is. I guess fitness aficianodas are notorious for hating to recharge their phones every night or so? (One would presume that a comment like this would generalize.)

That's a false comparison. For decades, there have been watches (including those with many features, like calculators, stopwatches, timers, and alarms) whose batteries lasted years. Moving to a watch that has to be charged every day or two seems like a big step down in this regard.

Mobile phones are completely different. Since their introduction, they have never had good battery life. The most fully-featured phones have always had batteries that lasted much less than a week. It is true that there are now feature phones that can last a long time, but these are essentially a different product than smartphones.

The fact that the OP does not want to charge his watch every night or two does not mean he is unwilling to charge anything that frequently. It just means that when it comes to watches, long battery life is a core feature.

Nice. Now tell me how this relates to how fit they are? Because that was my main point.

More space than a Nomad though.

I thought my Garmin watch already did this and I thought Apple had differentiated itself with some sort of advanced ekg analysis. I feel like I'm missing something with this article? Is this truly different than the competition or just Apple catching up?

The Apple Watch has estimated VO2 max for a while. I think this is just some “gamification” Apple has added.

It's very inaccurate. My estimated Apple VO2Max (based on heart rate alone) is 10 points less that my estimate from Garmin (based on a power meter and heart rate calculation).

How do you know the Garmin isn’t the inaccurate one? Because it used a power meter? Unless a tube is stuck in your mouth for you to breath through, they are all just “predicted VO2Max”, not measured. I don’t know which is more accurate, but I would hesitate to favor one over another without baseline against a real VO2Max test. However, like a weight scale, as long as it is accurate versus itself it is still a useful number.

EDIT: though you might not be wrong: https://sites.udel.edu/coe-engex/2019/03/16/how-accurate-is-.... Summary: Garmin's algorithm from Firstbeat is pretty darned accurate.

Even for running without a power meter a Garmin device can give you a fairly accurate VO2max estimate if you do an occasional max effort time trial. But it has to be on a flat course: the FirstBeat Analytics algorithm doesn't account for hills. I have had a real VO2max test with a breathing mask on a treadmill and the results were very close.


I'm aware how VO2Max will be calculated in a lab. But a powermeter is a closer approximation since the effort is captured. In cycling, if you don't have a power meter the estimate would be based on distance and climb and won't factor wind or other external factors.

Also, I know it's definitely greater than the Watch estimate. With a below average cardio I can't bike the distance or climb I do on average. I did 3 metric centuries last year (with climbs over 4000ft each), for example.

How significant is this 10 point difference?

The world record is 96 and most people are around half that, so 10 points is a huge discrepancy.

This never worked for me.

My Garmin 245 tracks my runs, rides, and swims. The data is then pushed to Strava- is there any reason for me to buy an apple watch? I take it I'm not the target audience here?

Anyhoo, if it gives folks an accurate and understandable view into their health, I'm all for it.

Edit: More relevant to the topic at hand, it tracks HR and estimates VO2 max for all my activities. IDK if Apple has made a sufficiently advanced update to what the rest of the market provides?

If you use a mac it can unlock your computer without having to use TouchID/Password. That's a killer feature that almost makes the watch worth wearing even if I used it for nothing else.

I really like using it for runs but I haven't used a Garmin so I can't compare. Seems to work well but I keep my phone on me as well. I've tried going without my phone and using Pandora but it eats up the battery really badly. I don't think you could run for more than an hour or two with everything going. (I have a series 5)

I also use it with Things for checking off todo items, siri very occasionally, sometimes answering quick phone calls, and as a quick way to ping my phone if I can't find it in the couch cushions. These are all pretty minor things but moderately improve my life.

All told it would be a mediocre product I might not even bother to charge and wear every day. That unlocking my computer though is the one thing it does I find helps my life a ton.

I like being able to listen to Music while running without needing my phone, but that’s 1) pretty niche, and 2) requires Apple Music. There’s also notifications and companion apps if you use an iPhone, and just general Apple ecosystem niceties.

How long does the battery last for you? I tried this with Pandora once and I felt like it ate up the battery so bad without my phone on me that I wouldn't try it again.

I charge it nightly, and it’d struggle to get through 2 days for sure. I think the activity + music combo does drain the battery quite a bit, but it’ll still get through the rest of the day. Pretty low bar I know.. I have thought about using it for sleep tracking and just charging it in the morning because it definitely doesn’t need a whole night to charge. But yea, battery is definitely a weakness of Apple Watch.

Some Garmin watches can play music too. Garmin 245 Music for example.

Recent and current Fenix too. Spotify and Garmin Pay mean no need for carrying an iPhone on the run.

How widely accepted is Garmin Pay? It was only in 2019 that I got comfortable going out for with my iPhone and no wallet, since there were several nearby businesses that would accept Apple Pay. Is Garmin Pay accepted at most businesses that accept Apple/Google's contactless payments?

I’m pretty disappointed by the Apple Watch gps tracking accuracy. I have a lake near me, a full lap around is 5.8 km, measured with multiple watches. I like Garmin watches for running, but this time I’ve managed to forget to charge my Garmin for multiple days in a row and considering I’ve just bought an Apple Watch 6, I’ve decided to test it. I’ve bought it because I like gadgets, not that I was needing it :)

Apple Watch showed 6+ km for the same distance. Maybe it seems a deviation that is so small that it is insignificant, but for me it is not. I’m fighting hard for each small performance increase, this equals to a few weeks of hard work which are ignored (I’m expecting this to be unreliable in both ways, up or down).

Other major 2020 new feature that I’ve tried is the blood oxygen measuring tool. I was getting different results with up to 4-5% variation between consecutive measures. You can say that it’s user error, but whatever, if it only works when planets align maybe this is a feature that is not ready. I did not get this from my cheap chinese monitor.

In the end I’ve decided to return it. It is an awesome smart watch, but a lousy sport watch for my very own needs. I’m sure other people have different experience with it, but mine wasn’t good.

edit: regarding music, I could already do that with my Garmin 645. It syncs with Spotify playlists.

So it needs to be turned on. Is anyone going to turn this on other than bros? "Bros" like me with a VO2Max that is firmly in the "high" category for oldsters (or, to brag, probably any age group), but because we're narcissistic we turn it on knowing full well (or at least hoping) we will never get a notification?

Or do there exist actual people with really low VO2Max measurements that need to be told by their watch that they're out of shape, rather than letting huffing and wheezing up two flights of stairs being their guide? IOW, is this feature going to tell anyone, in shape or not, something they don't already know?

Thing is, I hate to poo-poo what can be a useful feature. I look at it from time-to-time (VO2Max has been there for a couple of years(?), the notifications are new). Went in literally Christmas Day last year for surgery, the feature has been useful for measuring the road to recovery as I dragged my VO2Max out of the basement of sitting on my butt for a few months. But I suppose that if one is out of shape, it will be encouraging to watch the number go up. I just question the usefulness of notifications.

Or do there exist actual people with really low VO2Max measurements that need to be told by their watch that they're out of shape, rather than letting huffing and wheezing up two flights of stairs being their guide? IOW, is this feature going to tell anyone, in shape or not, something they don't already know?

I exercise regularly and I’ve never found these devices useful for fitness at all. All of these devices focus on cardio type activities. Probably great if you like running or swimming or biking. But most people completely ignore building muscle which is arguably more important for generally fitness than even more running.

The only thing I think they’re useful for is people who would otherwise do nothing. Gives them a reminder to go for a walk.

What does this mean? I get a notification that says I need to exercise more?

If your predicted VO2Max falls into the "low" category for your demographic, it will pop a "low cardio fitness" notification on your watch.

Source: media images from Apple's website (ZIP file download): https://www.apple.com/newsroom/images/product/watch/standard...

I’ve got mostly Below Average days this month. I can see my number decreasing from the summer, where I’m a lot more active.

December is trending down.

is this accurate?

My VO2 max score (estimate) was significantly different (54 vs 46) on my Fitbit from my Apple Watch. And it’s not telemetry problem - heart rate, resting heart rate, GPS, altitude etc were all the same. It seems that the estimation methods are different.

I suppose as long as we're making improvements, the absolute number is less important than the one relative to the baseline on a given device.

Mine does not seem to be super accurate vs measurement with a metabolic cart. Apple Watch says ~48, metabolic cart was 55-58.

How long ago was your metabolic cart measurement taken? I’ve been getting a lot less exercise this year because lockdown, would it be plausible that your max VO2 has actually decreased since your last in lab measurement?

It's my own metabolic cart, I did a bike ramp test a couple weeks ago.

Ah, okay, that's much more telling, then. Guess the estimation is pretty badly off.

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