Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Using Cardiogram with the Apple Watch

I overheard this statement while I was in one of the authorized Apple resellers here in Metro Manila:
"What would you need an Apple Watch for if you already have the phone in your hand?"
My first reaction to that statement was anger for the "sheer ignorance of that lady!!!" Then, my emotion shifted to smugness, telling myself that, "Says the one who doesn't have an Apple Watch!" Then, and lastly, I stopped for a moment, took a deep breath and did some introspection... I asked myself, "Why am I really using an Apple Watch for? What is really its use for me aside from being a beautiful piece of ornament?"

So, I dug deep for the answer and I found what I've always wanted from the Apple Watch: to be a fitness tracker and to be, on limited occasions, a notifier.

I’ll discuss the notification part first to get it out of the way… I don't want to be inundated with notifications from different apps. I don't want to be notified about the latest like on my Facebook or Instagram. I don't want to be notified about the latest trending tweet about someone who wants to end the world. Those things can wait - the end of the world can wait, at least for the next two minutes or so... And I've read somewhere that the best middle ground is to make it so that most of the notifications will not show up on the locked screen; don't let likes push through, don't let tweets show, only let emails and texts from assigned VIP call for your attention. Turn off everything except the most necessary.

And I did just that. So, my Apple Watch is not serving as a notifications machine anymore. (Not even my iPhone is serving as a notifications machine now…) So, what am I using it for?

It turned out I stumbled upon that answer a long, long time ago: I use the Apple Watch for fitness-related activities and I discussed that heartily in my review of the Apple Watch found here.

However, relying on the built-in, first party watch app Activity and iOS app Health will not get you anywhere. Yes, closing the rings is fun and all, but when you want to see the details of how your day went, then you are lost. And when you click on one of your workouts, you will only get a summary of your workout and not the finer details, like what your heart rate was, say, 5 minutes into your run, or in the 20th minute, etc. Yes, you can get badges, but you will not be able to see the details of your workout. The same is true for the whole picture: You will be able to see your latest heart rate reading but if you want to see your heart rate five minutes ago, then you will have to dig into the Health app. And it's not intuitive to use the Health app. There's no easy way to look at your health data.

You can't even tell what your resting heart rate is nor your VO2max! Oh, and did you know that the Apple Watch only measures your heart rate when you are not moving? The only other time it measures your heart rate full time is when you are doing a workout...

That is why I find the Fitbit, specifically the Charge 2, still, as one of the best fitness tracker around. It even measures your heart rate 24/7.

However, using a third party app will make the Apple Watch's capability really close to that of the Fitbit app. An example is the Cardiogram app. And best of all, Cardiogram is free!

Yes, one of the best health app in the App Store is free!!!

With this app, you can see a graph of your day. And, of course, a graph is one of the best way to show a summary of data. You can click on the graph and see what the value of your heart rate is for that time. You can expand the graph to see finer details on how your day went.

It even tells you what your resting heart rate is and how your heart performed during your workouts. It tells you where your heart rate zone is when you do exercises, like if you are in the Fat Burn Zone, in the Cardio Zone or in the Peak Zone (the app actually divides the zones into 5: very light, light, moderate, hard and maximum. However, I consider only the last three as the important ones when you work out.)

And how do you enjoy the benefits of using the app in your fitness journey? Well, nothing really. Just wear your watch as much as possible, including when you go to sleep. The app will automatically track your day for you - the Cardiogram app makes the Apple Watch a more compelling fitness tracker!

So, am I saying the Apple Watch is essentially useless without this app? No. I'm saying that the Apple Watch would be much, much better with it!

Would I be parting with my Fitbit because of this? No. As far as fitness is concerned, the Fitbit is still the better all-in-one package - you would need to use several apps for the Apple Watch to mimic what the Fitbit can do on its own. And yes, no app in the iOS App Store can determine your VO2max and how fit you are (or at least the closest approximation...).

So, to that lady who said "What would you need the Apple Watch for if you already have your phone in your hand?" I'd say to her, "for fitness purposes. You will not regret it."

Actually, I'll go one further: get a fitness tracker, anything, any brand; an Apple Watch, a Fitbit, a Garmin, an Android watch. Get something that has a heart rate monitor and you will be able to reap the benefits of owning one. And who knows, one day, it might save your life.

You can download the Cardiogram app here!

Keep the conversation going! Contact me via my Twitter or Facebook account. You may also email me here!

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