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Apple Watch Review – The right Smartwatch for Outdoor Adventures?

February 21, 2020
Home » iPhone & Apple Watch » Apple Watch Review – The right Smartwatch for Outdoor Adventures?
Apple Watch - The right Smartwatch for Outdoor Adventures?

Apple Watch Review – The Apple Watch is known as a fantastic and perfectly integrated smartwatch in the Apple ecosystem. It is used by runners, as a fitness watch and in everyday life – but what about outdoor activities? We took a closer look at the Apple Watch Series 5 regarding hiking, backcountry skiing and other outdoor activities!

Our review watch – a 44 mm GPS + Cellular model with aluminium case and sport band – makes a great impression right from the start:

The Apple Watch

  • looks great,
  • has a high build quality,
  • is comfortable to wear and
  • the box content is also pleasing.

The sport band comes in two different lengths (S/M and M/L), making it suitable for 140 to 220 mm wrists.

The Apple Watch is charged via a magnetic charging cable, from which it is best to get a second one ($29.- / €35.- from Apple, from $10.- / €15.- from third parties). Why? We discuss this in the section on battery life.

For the review we choose the 44 mm model, as we wanted a bit more space, e.g. for displaying maps while hiking. Alternatively, the Watch is available with a 40 mm case. The case weighs 36.5 g, with bands 66.1 g and 63.4 g respectively – thus, the Apple Watch is about on par with Garmin fenix 6s Pro (61 g).

Apple Watch Review – Operation

 

The Apple Watch is operated by touch screen, digital crown and one key. Under dry conditions the handling is a pleasure, but first of all it is important to get to know the meaning of the many icons (image below). With wet fingers or a wet display, operation becomes increasingly difficult, and the same applies to thin fleece gloves. Smartwatches without a touch screen like the Garmin fenix 6 series are better in this respect.

The Apple Watch, which is waterproof up to 50 meters and suitable for swimming, has a special water protection for swimming – the screen is locked, to unlock it, simply turn the Digital Crown. The watch emits a sound and vibrates almost unnoticed; any water that may be present is removed from the watch.

The Apple Watch Series 5 reacts extremely quickly to interactions and performs tasks without delay, which is where the 64-bit dual-core processor comes into its own.

In the Watch app on the iPhone, the side of the Digital Crown can be selected depending on the position of the watch: either bottom left or top right. The display content rotates accordingly – a cool feature.

Outdoor review, Interface

Apple Watch Review – Technology

 

The Retina Display is excellently readable under all conditions. As a rule, the lowest brightness level is sufficient; we forego the always-on mode in favor of battery life. To activate the display, we use the option "wake screen on wrist rise" – this way, the display can be activated quickly to read data. Turning the Digital Crown also activates the display.

The battery life is probably one of the Apple Watch shortcomings. In everyday use it has to be put on the charging station about every 1.5 days. For this reason alone, a second charging cable should be obligatory, so that the watch can be recharged before a trip in the car, for example.

While outdoor activities we get a maximum of 10 to 11 hours using various energy saving options. A long day trip is therefore feasible, but all in all, the battery life needs improvement – especially compared to smartwatches by Garmin, Suunto …!

The Apple Watch Series 5 has several built-in sensors:

  • Compas
  • Barometric altimeter
  • Optical & electrical heart sensor
  • Accelerometer
  • Gyroskope
  • Ambient light sensor

Connecting to external sensors is not a strength of the Apple Watch series 5. Only a Bluetooth heart rate sensor can be paired directly. But runners can connect a Stryd running sensor via an app, cyclists a power meter.

However, as our review of the GPS system and the heart rate sensor shows, an external heart rate chest strap is not absolutely necessary. The Apple Watch reliably delivers exact data under outdoor conditions. However, turning off the internal heart rate monitor and using an external heart rate sensor can squeeze some battery life out of the watch.

The integrated GPS receiver (satellite systems: GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS) also performs its tasks very satisfactorily. It determines the position fast enough after starting a workout, track recordings are very good in terms of accuracy, the data quality is more than sufficient for outdoor trips.

With the barometric altimeter the question has to be asked whether the individual apps use it at all or set it to the GPS altitude. In addition, the altimeter cannot be calibrated manually – as is actually usual with sports watches. Presumably the calibration is done via GPS – but there is no information about this either. Despite these limitations, the Apple Watch provides accurate altitude data.

You need additional apps!

 

The Apple Watch Series 5 comes with an integrated workout app for a variety of sports: running, walking, cycling, swimming, yoga, hiking and more.

Adjustments can be made in the Watch app on iPhone, including turning on/off

  • power saving mode (turns off always on display, mobile data & built-in heart rate sensor),
  • auto pause,
  • start workout reminders at start/end of a training,
  • pause/continue a workout by pressing side key & Digital Crown,
  • detect gym equipment (GymKit) and
  • activate a workout  playlist.

You can also configure the data fields displayed per workout type here. This allows you to choose between displaying only one value ("single metric", you can switch between them by turning the crown) or displaying up to five metrics on the single data page ("multiple metric"). Depending on the type of sport, you can choose, for example, duration, heart rate, distance, current elevation, current pace, average pace, active calories, total calories. In addition to the data page, there is also a page for music control. On the Apple Watch itself, you can also set targets or set up a pace indicator.

The compass app not only displays all kinds of data, but also allows you to set a bearing (see images below).

If you need more functions, you will need additional apps. We have already tried a few apps. Our outdoor favourite is WorkOutDoors, an app that even brings offline maps to the Apple Watch. But some clever outdoor functions, such as those offered by Garmin sports watches, can’t be installed via apps either (or we didn’t find them in the App Store).

Additional apps are not only needed for tours. Our favorites are

 

  • “HealthFit” for data management,
  • “AutoSleep” for sleep tracking and
  • “HeartWatch” for heart rate analysis.
Apple Watch Review, Compass (1)
Compass (2)
Apple Watch, Compass (3)
  • GPS
  • Always-On Retina Display
  • 30% größeres Display
  • Schwimmfestes Design
  • EKG App
  • Elektrische und optische Herzsensoren
  • Integrierter Kompass
  • Höhenmeter-Angabe
  • Notruf SOS
  • Sturzerkennung
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Apple Watch Series 5 Review – Conclusions

 

No question, the Apple Watch Series 5Amazon Shop is a fantastic smartwatch and a fascinating technology gadget.

It’s not only the perfect smartwatch for everyday use – especially if you’re already at home in the Apple world – and as a fitness tracker. For a large number of users, the native sports functionality should be perfectly sufficient. Apart from that, the range of functions can be significantly increased by third-party apps.

But it is limited for outdoor activities. Sometimes a hike, a backcountry ski or a bike tour – everything is possible. For intensive outdoor use, however, there are significantly better smartwatches that leave the Apple Watch far behind in terms of functionality and battery life – but the Apple WatchAmazon Shop has completely different strengths!

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