10 Reasons the Apple Watch Series 4 is a Game Changer for Runners

Putting the new Apple Watch Series 4 to the test.

Apple Watch Series 4Photo Credit: Apple

After attending the Apple Keynote event at the Steve Jobs Theater in California, I was excited to put their latest launches to the test. In the four days I’ve had to review the new Apple Watch Series 4, I’ve run more than 40 kilometres with the watch (I’m less than three weeks away from running my first marathon). So, though my time with the Series 4 has been short so far, my mileage has not. Here are 10 reasons the Apple Watch Series 4 is my new favourite running pal.

Larger display

Since I’m often running when I glance down at my watch face, I really appreciate the larger display, app icons and fonts. I went from the 38 mm Series 3 to the 40 mm Series 4 and I notice a big difference. The display screen is over 30 percent larger, reports Apple. The case is also thinner so you’re getting a larger watch face without any added bulk.

Apple Watch Series 4 comaprePhoto Credit: Apple

Cadence

Running cadence is the number of steps taken per minute. It’s a good way to monitor efficiency and it’s something I’ve only recently started paying attention to. I’m trying to work on improving my speed (the faster I run, the faster I can finish the marathon!), and I’ve also noticed that my cadence lowers near the end of my longer runs as I get tired and my form gets lazy. All areas to work on improving.

Cadence wasn’t a default metric included on my run metrics so I had to add it in the Watch app. Here’s how to find it: From your iPhone, go to My Watch in the Watch app. Then find the Workout section and go to Workout view. Select Outdoor Run or Indoor Run and you’ll see up to five metrics currently being displayed during your runs. Mine included Duration, Heart Rate, Rolling Pace, Average Pace and Distance. I swapped out Average Pace for Average Cadence.

Pace alerts and rolling mile pace

I’m constantly checking my pace throughout my training runs, especially during my speed workouts. Rolling mile pace is perfect for when I’m doing speed workouts like intervals and tempo runs. I think the Pace alert feature will be really helpful for race day. From past races I’ve done, I know how easy it is to get caught up in the adrenaline of the day and start off a little too fast, making it more likely that I’ll burn out faster. In order to finish 42.2 km, I know that personally, I need to start off nice and slow in order to conserve my energy for the five+ hours I’ll be running. Pace alert will let me know if I start to get carried away and increase my speed too soon.

Rolling mile pace is more of a nice to know feature for me. It basically shows you your splits, but for the mile (or km) immediately preceding where you’re currently at. (Not sure if running is for you? Here’s how to love running–from someone who used to hate it.)

Fall detection

Occasionally I venture off road to unpaved, wooded trails and the risk of tripping and falling is real. If that happens, the Apple Watch Series 4 will send me an alert asking whether I’d like to call for help. If I’m not able to respond and remain immobile for more than 60 seconds, my Watch will automatically call emergency services and send a message along with my location to any preset emergency contacts. (Here’s more info, plus how to set your emergency contact list.) I was tempted to fake a fall to test this feature out but decided against it since I’m so close to my marathon date. I really don’t need a self-inflicted injury right now!

Apple Watch Series 4 Fall DetectionPhoto Credit: Apple

GPS + Cellular

Up until recently my internet and phone provider (Rogers) didn’t offer Cellular capabilities with the Apple Watch. That’s changed with the launch of Apple Watch Series 4 and watchOS. I love that I no longer need to bring my phone with me in order to stay connected. (With a toddler at home, I’m a little anxious about being unreachable during my longer 3+ hour runs. I like that I still have that connectivity even if I don’t bring my phone.)

Louder speaker

The speaker in the Apple Watch Series 4 is 50 percent louder and the microphone has been relocated to the opposite side of the watch to reduce echo for better sound quality. Perfect for when I need to take a quick call while out on my run and don’t have AirPods with me. (I actually don’t run with music so I rarely take my AirPods with me.) I also tested this feature while swimming in my condo’s indoor pool and can confirm the sound quality is superior to previous watches.

Longer battery

The new Series 4 is faster while still maintaining the same all-day battery life that the Series 3 had. When in workout mode, the Series 4 Watch has an extended battery life, which is increased to six hours (previously 5 hours). As I mentioned, I’m currently training for my first marathon and while one extra hour doesn’t seem like it would make a big difference, it means a lot to me. I’m not a particularly fast runner and I’m expecting to finish my first marathon (Chicago Marathon) somewhere between five and six hours – and I definitely want my watch to have a battery charge for the entirety of my race. I’d be a little lost if my watch battery died after five hours when I still had a few kilometers to go before reaching the finish line.

When I set out on my longest training run over the weekend (32 km) I made sure my Watch was fully charged. I put it in Outdoor Run Workout mode and a little over four hours later I was done running. My Watch still had more than 30 percent battery life. Eventually I’d like to see an even longer battery life, which would make this a good smartwatch for endurance athletes training for ultra marathons or an Iron Man, for example. But for now, I’ll settle for the additional hour of battery life during activity.

Heart rate and ECG

I’m obsessed with the heart rate features. I was already using my Apple Watch to check on my heart rate during exercise, and I love that the Series 4 will send me a notification if my heart rate appears low. Apple Watch Series 4 prompts users to pick a threshold of 40, 45 or 50 bps. I selected 50 bps and the watch will send me an alert if my HR falls below that number, which could mean my heart isn’t pumping blood through my body effectively. (Hopefully that never happens, but it’s nice to know the feature is there.)

While the heart rhythm and electrocardiogram (ECG) features aren’t yet available in Canada, I’m so excited for what this could mean for the future and how this could improve patient empowerment. The features are cleared by the FDA for use in the U.S. but are waiting on Health Canada approval for use north of the border. As Dr. Ivor J. Benjamin said at the Keynote, “The ability to access health data on on-demand electrocardiogram is game changing, especially when evaluating atrial fibrillation.” Game changing indeed.

Apple Watch Series 4 ECGPhoto Credit: Apple

Automatic workout detection

If you’re anything like me, you’ve forgotten to start a Workout on your smartwatch more than a couple of times. While starting and stopping a Workout is still the most accurate way to measure statistics, new automatic workout detection can save you some frustration. Thanks to this watchOS feature, you’ll get a haptic nudge (like a little ping on your wrist) if the watch thinks you’ve started a new activity (current supported activities include running, walking, swimming, elliptical workouts and rower workouts) and you’ll be retroactively credited calories-burned, activity minutes, etc. And if you’re in the middle of an activity competition (see below), every little bit counts! (Try our strength training workout, designed specifically for runners.)

Activity competitions

On rest days, I still want to keep moving but I find I’m lacking in motivation. A little competition to close my rings is just what I need. These one-on-one competitions to close rings are seven days long and the winner gets a special badge (as well as bragging rights!).

Apple Watch Series 4 activity competitionsPhoto Credit: Apple

When I’m not running, I love features like the new Breathe app watch faces which remind me to take a few moments each day, and the ability to now stream my favourite podcasts direct from the watch.

Canadians can order Apple Watch Series 4 on apple.ca  and shop in store beginning Fri. Sept. 21. The Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS) starts at $519 (CAD) and Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS + Cellular) starts at $649 (CAD), with both featuring the updated design and new health capabilities.

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