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Apple Watch OS gets serious with triathlon-specific features

Is the Apple Watch ready for the most serious triathletes?

Photo by: Apple

Garmin might rule the roost when it comes to multisport watches, but Apple appears ready to make its watch even more viable an option for serious triathletes with its new operating system.

Thanks to a new multisport workout that “automatically switches between any sequence of swimming, biking, and running workouts, using motion sensors to recognize movement patterns,” triathletes will now be able to track their transition workouts and multisport events with ease. But that’s just one of the new features recently announced as part of watchOS 9 likely to appeal to triathletes. The new operating system will be be available this fall for the popular Apple Watch. The multisport app is part of a number of enhanced features included in the updated Workout app that will provide considerably more metrics to measure their training.

Related: Fitness meets health on the Apple Watch

Photo: Apple

Enhanced Workout App

Athletes will be able to scroll through workout views by rotating the Digital Crown. They will also be able to monitor workouts through Heart Rate Zones, which can be manually created or calculated through their Health data. The new app also introduces Custom Workouts that will include interval and rest intervals. “New alerts, including pace, power, heart rate, and cadence, can be added to guide users throughout the workout,” Apple says. “When each workout is complete, a redesigned summary page in the Fitness app offers additional details with interactive charts for more precise analysis.”

More Running Metrics

The new OS will also offer new running form metrics including stride length, ground contact time and vertical oscillation – you can either add them to the workout view, or analyze them later as part of the Fitness app summary. There’s a new “pacer experience” that allows athletes to create a goal and get pace alerts along the way.

Related: Apple Watch Series 7 for triathletes

Swimming enhancements

The days when you will chastise your watch for not counting your kick sets will be over with the new OS – kick board detection will be added as a new stroke type. “Swimmers can now track their efficiency with the time, in seconds, it takes to swim one length of the pool,” Apple says. “Users can view their SWOLF average for each set in the workout summary.”

Photo: Apple

Other enhancements

According to Apple, there’s a lot more to the new OS than just the fitness additions, including:

  • New watch faces
  • Fitness+ workouts will display on-screen guidance in addition to trainer coaching
  • Sleep tracking will provide more insights including sleep stages – the watch will detect when users are “REM, core or deep sleep”
  • New medications experience

Ready for the most serious triathletes?

While the Apple Watch remains very much the leader of the smartwatch category, it struggles to fill the niche for really serious triathlon training. A lot of that has to do with battery life – even with the latest version, the Apple Watch 7, you’ll never have enough battery life to get you through a full Ironman race, even if you’re Kristian Blummenfelt and blast through the effort in under seven hours. We recently looked at Garmin’s new 955 and 255 Music, which truly cater to the most serious triathletes, offering lots of battery life and an incredible assortment of training features. We’re looking forward to putting the latest OS through its paces, this fall. If Apple comes out with a new watch in the fall that offers more robust battery life, that, combined with this new OS, could make an Apple Watch a more viable option for serious triathletes.