In addition to being a wearable emoji-sender, heartbeat-sharer, and payment system, the Apple Watch will also be a fitness tracker. And although the watch won’t be available until early 2015, Apple provided a few details on how the wearable will track activity. The watch has its own accelerometer and heart-rate monitor, but it needs to be paired with an iPhone to track your distance traveled via GPS or Wi-Fi.
These features are of note because they add a new set of functions to Apple’s hardware stable, and they directly compete with offerings from long-time hardware partners who already make fitness tracking wearables like Jawbone, Fitbit and Garmin.
The Apple Watch has some standard features familiar to the fitness crowd. Its built-in Activity app has three modes, all of which display goals in a ring-shaped interface. In the “Move” display, it shows you how much you’ve been in motion during the day, gives you a running countdown to your 30-minute goal, and shows how many calories you’ve burned. The “Stand” display reminds you to stop sitting for at least a minute every 12 hours (see the photo above), and the “Exercise” ring will gauge harder-core activities like running.
There’s also a separate Workout app that can break your activities into more-specific groups, such as Running, Cycling, or Cross Training. All your stats and workout history are stored in a Fitness app, which gives you a dashboard of your workout sessions. You can share your workout stats with third-party apps via the watch’s Health app, too.
Even though all of that is standard-issue stuff for a fitness tracker, Apple’s HealthKit initiative is likely to play a major part in making all that workout data usable by other apps on your iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch. The software package for developers will likely speed the growth of the ecosystem of apps built for the watch—though Apple has been largely silent on details about how or when those third-party apps will make their way onto its Watch.