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The Activity Competition mode on the Apple Watch is a great way to motivate yourself to get moving. It allows you to compete against your friends or family members in a step-counting contest. In this blog post, we will test the Activity Competition mode and see how well it works.
Over the last seven days, aBlogtoWatch’s David Bredan experienced “Competition Mode” in the Apple Watch. This is part of the Apple Watch’s larger suite of activity and fitness tracking features and has been around for at least a couple Apple Watch software generations. Testing the competition feature of the Apple Watch was something I’ve wanted to do since I began to dive deep into the wider bevy of the Apple Watch’s fitness tracking features. In 2021, I did a deep solo dive into Apple’s Fitness+ program with the Apple Watch Series 6 (on aBlogtoWatch here), and today, we extend that coverage to discuss at least one communal way of enjoying Apple Watch fitness tracking features with the Apple Watch Series 7 (aBlogtoWatch review here).
Wearing the Apple Watch Series 7 steel version is a comfortable and stylish experience. The 42mm-long watch has an attractive gold tone coating over it that makes for an excellent look, but more importantly these watches are built to last! These side by side images show just how well either type wears over time - showing no signs or scratches even after months worth exposure under water (up until 1 meter deep).
The Apple Watch is a great choice for those who want their smartwatch to stand up against abuse and wear. With different materials, the watches come with sapphire crystal covers or hard-anodized aluminum cases that can take whatever you dish out without breaking! It's been a year of nearly constant wear for me and my Apple Watch, but thankfully it looks like new still. The Series 6 in DLC-coated steel was looking especially good after all those workouts on the treadmills at home without an instructor there to guide you through each stage or check up top-side once during your session; similarly with this latest edition - which comes standard equipped only sporting silicone bands that can be replaced easily enough if needed (though I prefer sport loops). It has never felt easier getting into shape than now thanks largely due. To me this has the best combination of durability and comfort for high-sweat and movement activities.
Something that you may not have known about the Apple Watch is its competition mode. This feature allows for friendly, healthy competitions with your friends by combining data from fitness and activity recommendations as well as peer pressure to motivate those who need it most! The normal activity tracking mode has you “close rings” (finish daily activity goals that you set, but the WatchOS operating system also makes recommendations based on your performance the previous week). Competition mode simply compares your activity with that of one or more people, and the larger idea seems to be a motivational tool to get people to exercise more. Especially during pandemic times when social isolation is still a very real thing for many people, the promise of such services is profound for our physical and mental wellbeing.
I'm fascinated with how our devices can help us meet physical fitness goals. One of the most interesting implications is "gamification," which creates motivation and incentives for performing otherwise boring or routine tasks by tracking levels of activity--and reward users with notifications that make them feel like they're winning! These often minor instances of positive reinforcement for behavior are unbelievably rewarding, as studies show people will go to great lengths to complete even minor accomplishments if they are given some notice that they are “doing a good job.” On the most basic level, a simple example of gamification in Apple Watch’s fitness tracking system is how users receive exciting on-screen animations when they complete daily fitness goals. The depths to which gamification can be delivered are only limited by the imagination of software developers.
Gamification is a great way to get people involved in tasks that might not otherwise interest them. For example, parents will often gamify cleaning or organizing with young children so they are more likely do it themselves later on down the line when their child can no longer assist out due-to age limitations. In a world where people are always on their devices, the same principle works for adults and gamification can be used to help them stay physically active. Apple has only begun dipping into fitness game design so far but it seems like they're onto something big! What I mean by this is that even though there are plenty of awards, badges, and notifications you will get to remind you about your fitness goals and status, Apple seems to be merely skimming the surface of how specific these notifications can be and the types of human activities they can promote. More on that below. Now, let’s talk about what it was like for two people who live on different continents, in different time zones to compete via two Apple Watches.
There's a lot of potential for Apple Watch to offer more customizable fitness tracking competitions, but it currently only allows one option. This is limiting given the breadth that could be done here and makes me wish they had at least two or three different types so users can choose based off what best fits their needs instead just selecting "competition."
Prior to starting my fitness competition with David, we both had plenty of experience using the Apple Watch’s fitness and activity tracking feature. More so, I have a lot of experience with the various workouts you can have the Apple Watch track as you are doing them. This is one of my favorite features of the Apple Watch because it knows that different types of activities merit different types of data to be tracked. An excellent example is the difference between doing exercise on a stationary bike versus riding outside. The latter requires taking into consideration distance traveled and GPS, while being on a stationary bike involves more emphasis on things like your current heart rate or calories burned. I really like how the Apple Watch customizes the exercise tracking experience to meet the expectations of a variety of people who enjoy a large variety of activities.
The Apple Watch is a great way to stay in shape and improve your fitness goals. The activity tracking feature on it can track how much sleep you get, what time of day (or week) it was when activities like running or cycling took place as well as other statistics that help with achieving the perfect wellness balance! To do a fitness competition with smartwatches, you have to stand up often enough and move your body in the form of walking or steps. You also need high heart rates so that Apple Watch can track it properly - otherwise their accuracy will decrease significantly! Based on the parameters you select when setting up Apple Watch Fitness, these are the three daily variables tracked in order to determine if you have completed fitness goals and can “close your rings.” These same parameters are also what the Apple Watch appears to track when multiple people are competing in the fitness app.
After the Apple Watch has informed you that your friend has “accepted” your competition offer, the experience is very similar to simply competing with yourself and the software goals that the Apple Watch has for you. I was actually fully expecting a lot more notifications and pressure to keep up with the activity of my friend. The Apple Watch did tell me important data about what David was doing, such as when he started and ended a workout. The current system is decidedly softer in its approach and makes it feel more like a communal effort to work out as opposed to a strict competition where there are winners and losers. If this was a game, it would be rather friendly and not particularly competitive. I do understand Apple wanting to primarily take a light approach when it comes to how it notifies people, but I also feel that a lot of people expect (if not downright want) more aggressively motivational prompts from their device to get out there and burn an extra 300 calories today or face the bitterness of defeat!
What I have come to appreciate are the challenges that Apple and other smartwatch makers face when designing software experiences. On one hand, they want create an inviting platform for fitness novices who need technology help but also deserve a polite experience with their device . When it comes to fitness, there is no one-size fits all approach. Fitness enthusiasts can be divided into two categories: those who want an adrenaline fix and rely on their time in the gym for something more direct or those looking at health benefits from a distance with less intense challenges that offer mental stimulation as well.
While experiencing the seven-day competition with David, I worked out as normal but with probably a slightly added emphasis on getting a bit more activity in each day. I did want to win, after all. I get in about three to four recorded workouts a week, in addition to my normal walking around activity. Together this means that I “close my rings” on most days – but not all days. I really didn’t know what to expect from my competition. Would David simply work out as normal?
When I got the Apple Watch, one thing that really interested me was how it would keep track of my progress and Whether or not if i'm leading in competition. What's great about this watch is that there are notifications sent automatically by their own algorithms so you never have any worries when checking them!
The lack of information on my Apple Watch and iPhone made it difficult to understand what the core experience is like out-of-the box. Luckily, when I was connected with friends through wearing their watches they often showed me how much ring closing progress we had each day without any hassle which helped settle some curiosity about this new competition between ourselves! When I think about how to improve my fitness, one thing that would make it more competitive is if they gave me constant updates on where I stand in the race. However Apple seems like they've made a specific decision for this competition not have an stressful experience so far- which surprises and disappoints me as well!
It felt great to get feedback on how my activity during the competition week matched up with David’s. The data was light but interesting, and I found that it provided me some much-needed motivation for future endeavors! That said, I did find myself hungering for a much deeper experience. The competition was not as thorough in its explanations and there were no recommendations on when to be more active or what the best strategy would have been during certain parts of gameplay had they been present at all times instead just leaving me feeling like an idiot because really nobody knows anything these days! There are a few factors that might be preventing Apple from implementing more involved features at this time. I think one of the main ones is their focus on simplicity, which has served them well in creating an easy-to use device for those without much experience or knowledge about technology before hand but may not work as well when users want greater customization options such as accessing apps outside of the App Store through home screens loaded with third party software instead!
In short, I think Apple is legitimately concerned about safety and liability, as well as not wanting to annoy users with too many notifications. In an attempt to satisfy so many different types of users, many features on the Apple Watch are decidedly simple and lack a lot of customization options. Apple has a larger goal of attracting fitness novices while also positioning the Apple Watch as a “general wellness” device, as opposed to a strict fitness tool. This means there will always be a compromise between those who want a more involved experience, and those who want a less off-putting experience.
My guess is that, in the future, Apple (and most certainly its competitors in this space) will create more segmented fitness and activity features depending on a wide range of user preferences and current goals. You might recall that I once did a test of three different smartwatches to see how their data tracking features compared with one another. In my test, I found remarkable similarities in the data they all captured. That means many fitness smartwatches will come to the market with more or less similar hardware capabilities. What will distinguish these products from one another is going to be less about performance and more about the software experience. The future of fitness tracking smartwatches, in my opinion, is the user interface and how readily these tools can deliver rewarding gamification experiences.
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