The birth of a new market
Wristly Apple Watch Insider’s Report #23
October 6, 2015
Last week a high-school student made national news in the U.S. when he credited the Apple Watch with saving his life after detecting a too-rapid heart beat after a football practice. While this is obviously a very extreme example, it highlighted what we were already seeing in this week’s research results regarding the impact of the Apple Watch on your overall health and fitness.
In late July we had discovered that the vast majority (78%) of those wearing the Watch were more aware of their overall health and, as is now common wisdom, the first step to change is awareness. We wanted to follow-up and begin to quantify the behavioral changes that the Watch might have on its users. First we looked at the importance of the Watch’s activity and fitness capabilities to your overall buying decision.
60% Bought Apple Watch for its Activity/Fitness Capabilities
Significant Majority Is New to “Wearables”
Fifty eight percent (58%) of Wristly’s research panel members didn’t use any sort of activity tracker before the Apple Watch. Additionally, a significant portion of those tracking their fitness activities were using their smartphone. All together, at least 60% to 65% of the buyers of the Watch are new to the world of activity/fitness wearables — highlighting that the overall market opportunity for the Apple Watch is different from Fitbit, Misfit and other fitness wearables/trackers. This difference in opportunity is further reinforced by prior Wristly research highlighting that a third of owners also didn’t wear a watch on their wrist prior to receiving their Watch.
83% Assess Positive Health Change
Apple Watch owners have already gone beyond being aware to beginning to reap the benefits of a more active lifestyle. In aggregate, 83% are reporting “some” (59%) to “a lot” (24%) of changes since wearing the Watch as it relates to their overall fitness and health.
We can further analyze this insight by looking at the two extreme cohorts of users — those who primarily bought the Watch for its health/fitness capability versus the users who reported that health/fitness wasn’t part of their buying decision.
Change Across the Board
As expected we see that those for whom Fitness was the primary buying criteria report a significantly higher rating of positive change at 89%. More surprising to us is that 72% of the folks who were least interested in the activity/fitness capabilities of the Watch still reported some positive change.
Now that we can measure the perceived outcome of the Apple Watch, let’s turn our attention to understanding why and how the Watch helps its owners.
The Rings to a Healthier Lifestyle
The Activity Rings are fast becoming one of the most recognized images associated with the Apple Watch and with good reason — 86% of our panel reported closing the activity rings at least a “a few times a week”. Furthermore, a total of 72% are actively engaged and change the associated goals on a regular basis, with a majority of those reporting using the suggestions of the Watch to guide the new levels.
Stand Me Up!
Another widely publicized feature (including countless jokes) is the Stand-Up reminder that appears regularly at minute 50 of each hour when the Watch assesses you’ve not been standing enough.
This little utility is proving to have a far greater effect on people’s behavior than its unassuming simplicity would suggest. Seventy-four percent (74%) believe they are standing up more and being more active just because of this prompt and only 9% want to turn it off. By the way, if you want to turn it off, simply uncheck the option in the settings section of your iPhone Apple Watch app (My Watch:Activity:Stand Reminders)
Impressive Exercise Habits
While 14% of our panel report that they don’t exercise, on average our panelists state that they exercise 4 times a week with a mean of 4.58 across the distribution. This appears to be a very high number when compared to general population statistics.
In fact, two thirds of those who exercise also report that they have specifically increased either or both frequency and length of their workouts since wearing the Apple Watch. We will revisit this number in the future to try to assess how sustainable this behavior will prove over time.
For Fitness, Apple Workout Native App Most Common
About ¾ of our panel primarily uses the Apple Workout native app to track their exercise, movement, and fitness on the Watch. Most are quite satisfied with it, with the clear exception of two areas: the selection of workout activities offered and the battery drain caused by workout tracking.
An Amazing Opportunity for 3rd Party Developers — The “Other Workout”
We previewed the results to this question with Graham Bower, a “fitness geek” who regularly writes about fitness for Cult of Mac (you can read him here). Graham kindly offered us the following commentary.
“Two of the most popular exercise modalities that the “Other” option is being used for in the built-in Workout app are weight-lifting and stretching (in other words strength and flexibility training). The trouble is that these are not cardio exercise, and Apple states that their Workout app is for “dedicated cardio workouts”. It uses the heart rate sensor and accelerometers to estimate that calories you burn from movement, which is appropriate for cardio, but not for strength and flexibility.
There is not much movement going on in a weight lifting or stretching session, since you tend to do it on the spot. This kind of exercise is also not about sustaining an elevated heart rate — weight lifting for example, tends to include long rest intervals between lifts. Apple’s fitness guru, Jay Blahnik, acknowledged in a recent interview with Outside Magazine that: “with strength training, there’s no sensor that measures the load in your hand.” It seems unlikely that the Workout app can provide any meaningful logging for a strength or flexibility training. The answers to this question in your survey, suggests that Apple needs to do a better job of explaining what the “Other” option is for — and providing alternatives means for logging strength and flexibility workouts.
So Many “Other Workouts” to Track
It was quite a bit of fun to read your notes on what other exercises you’d like the Apple Watch Workout app to track for you. While several people unexpectedly suggested “activities in the bedroom”, the most frequently requested Sport activities include: swimming, tennis, kayaking and other ball and team sports as well as Crossfit and Zumba.
Additionally you mentioned many other everyday tasks and activities including cleaning the house, vacuuming, doing yard work, stacking wood or mowing the lawn! Clearly this supports and confirms the successful “gamification” of the Watch on the topic as the interest of many Apple Watch owners seems to want to make sure that as many of their activities as possible count towards completing their Activity Rings.
GPS w/o iPhone is the Big Missing Feature
While our users report some room for improvement across all accuracy questions, the big one is obviously the absence of a Watch-integrated GPS. This prevents the Watch from being able to calculate distances and speeds while being used for biking or running without the presence of the iPhone.
In Your Own Final Words!
Clearly this week’s research topic resonated with a large majority of you. You were also very generous sharing lots of written comments. More than 3,200 actually! We read them all, some brought tears to our eyes but overall most of them reinforced the data while giving giving plenty of color and nuance to our understanding. Here is a small representative subset:
I workout anyway. But now I set workout timers and goals. This helps me to push beyond just doing a few reps or laps. I workout to complete the goal.
I wanted the watch to encourage me to be more active. It has been generally successful.
I really think fitness tracking is as close to a “killer” app as the Watch gets. Of course, notifications are also important.
Before having my Apple Watch I wouldn’t have even given this feature a second thought. Now having the watch a couple months I have found that it has made me more active than before.
The Watch put them up this week because I was consistently completing them. Admittedly I have no idea how to change them back but moving more is the goal and the new targets are achievable if a stretch, so I’m sticking with them for now
I was already a pretty health/exercise conscious person, but this makes it a lot more rewarding. Being able to track your workouts and activity gives you more of a sense of accomplishment then just saying, oh yeah I ran thirty miles this week.
The gamification aspect of the all thing is enthusiastic, and the watch keeping tabs on your overall performance and movement during the day, makes you move a want to do more for yourself and your body.
I’m standing at work more (I have a desk job) and have less back pain, I’m biking more as the activity tracking makes exercise more fun. I’ve lost about 20 lbs as I’ve been more active. I’m diabetic and now my blood sugars are lower. Your watch has really improved my health!!!!
Had a problem with blood pressure drop if I slowed down too suddenly, which monitoring heart rate allows me to avoid. The rings have motivated me and also enabled mutual support with my wife.
I deliberately walk places instead of driving and walk faster than i normally would, in order to fill that green ring
I had been using a fitbit for a year and a half, so I was already conscious of my overall fitness. What I like about the watch, is the reminders and updates throughout the day to keep me aware of my progress. I also prefer how the watch tracks your heart rate to judge your activity level, not just the steps you take.
Mental Health: I’m no longer tethered to my phone during business lunches, dinners, or while I’m at home. I put my phone down or leave it in my pocket knowing that I will be alerted on my watch for anything I have set up as urgent/important.
I wish the Watch constantly monitored my heart rate, every moment of the day. That information is invaluable to me as I have an inconsistent heartbeat and would love to learn about what causes my heart palpitations.
It’s a facilitator. Taptic triggers, trio of activity metrics and progressive achievements are crucial to the value I see it brings to the difficulties of building and maintaining fitness and healthy habits (feedback, reminders, ambient visibility of daily trajectory and trends)
I show them the graphics, tell them I’m losing weight and sleeping two hours more.
The constant presence of it being on your wrist makes this type of monitoring virtually effortless. Constant and paced knowledge of where you start and where you need/want to be is the best foundation for really making the most effective choices to better your life.
In the aggregate this week’s research continues to reinforce our belief that we are witnessing the birth of a new market. This is a product that is attracting a broader type of consumer — aka it is not just attracting the early adopter of prior activity bands and other “quantified-self” wearables. Additionally, the Watch continues to show very high usage levels, truly “always-on”, with noticeable improvements in one’s overall fitness and health.
To the members of our research panel once again a big thank you for your participation. Other readers, if you have the Watch, please consider joining the project.
It really only take a few minutes each week. Sign up on our site at www.wristly.co.