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Power meter connectivity is coming to the Apple Watch — can it kill off the dedicated bike computer?

The big OS10 software update for Apple Watch includes new cycling features such as power meter connectivity

Apple announced a number of updates at their annual WWDC event (World Wide Developer Conference) yesterday, including watchOS 10 for Apple Watch with a host of new features including redesigned apps and additional watch faces. We are most interested, though, in the new Bluetooth cycling sensor support, which includes power meter connectivity. Could this be the thing that sees fitness watches and phones replace the dedicated bike computer

2023 Apple Watch OS10

Previously, Apple Watch had a dedicated cycling workout mode which utlisied built-in sensors and GPS to track cycling activities, including metrics such as distance, duration, heart rate and calories burned. It also supported various third-party cycling apps such as Strava

When we reviewed the Apple Watch Series 7, a limitation was that it couldn't connect to cycling sensors. Now with Apple's new watchOS 10 software update, you can connect to cycling sensors via Bluetooth and turn your iPhone into a comprehensive head unit on your bike handlebars with all the data you'd get from a dedicated GPS computer. 

WatchOS 10 enables power meter, speed sensor and cadence sensor connectivity, which is beneficial to those with a more serious cycling focus to be able to monitor their training in more detail. 

The new Bluetooth cycling sensor support also allows for connection to smart turbo trainers that transmit Bluetooth Smart, as well as GymKit, and to third party apps such as Strava if they incorporate this new connectivity. Cadence data can be obtained from a power meter, and speed data from a PowerTap hub or smart trainers. 

2023 Apple Watch OS10

> What is FTP? 7 key facts to learn about functional threshold power, a major training metric

Utilising power meter and heart rate data, new algorithms are said to be able to calculate Functional Threshold Power (FTP) through data collected by the Apple Watch. FTP can then be used to calculate personalised power zones and is useful to have as a benchmark for measuring changes in fitness over time. 

These power zones are customisable, and you can choose how many zones you want and the range of each zone. They can then be used during structured workouts and are presented in data fields on the watch.

2023 Apple Watch OS10

> Is a smartphone better than a cycling computer?

When a cycling workout is started from an Apple Watch in watchOS 10, it will show up as live activity on an iPhone which allows the data screen on the Apple Watch to be mirrored on the full screen of an iPhone, when clicked. 

You can then mount your phone on your handlebars to see data such as heart rate zones, elevation and power, turning your phone and watch into a proper bike computer. So, can we expect to see one device that does it all in the future? 

2023 Apple Watch OS10 map feature

Maps have always been a feature that enabled cycling-specific directions and navigation, and now with watchOS 10 and new maps, the compass automatically generates the last place with cellular reception so emergency calls can be made. 

These new features add to the previous fall detection technology and emergency SOS feature, which has been praised by cyclists for saving their lives. It can detect if you have a heavy fall while cycling and prompt you to initiate an emergency SOS call. 

> Cyclist says Apple Watch saved his life after driver knocked him off bike

Other new features include redesigned apps, new watch faces and tools to support mental health, and we can expect this update to be made available to download in September in line with Apple's annual release cycle of new watches and phones.  

www.apple.com

What are your thoughts on the new features in watchOS 10, and will it tempt you to ditch your bike computer? Let us know in the comments section below as always. 

Emily is our track and road racing specialist, having represented Great Britain at the World and European Track Championships. With a National Title up her sleeve, Emily has just completed her Master’s in Sports Psychology at Loughborough University where she raced for Elite Development Team, Loughborough Lightning.

Emily is our go-to for all things training and when not riding or racing bikes, you can find her online shopping or booking flights…the rest of the office is now considering painting their nails to see if that’s the secret to going fast…

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16 comments

Avatar
lio | 1 year ago
0 likes

Until Apple can do cycle routing outside of central London it's not going to be competive with units from Garmin, Wahoo, SRAM or Coros.

It's a joke that years after Apple introduced cycle maps as a feature on iOS that it still only works in central London.  That is weak.

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skwarczek | 1 year ago
0 likes

Until the apple watch can do vo2 max for cycling, i'll only use mine for notifications and the daily challenges

"Only two workout types can produce an estimated VO2 max on Apple Watch: Outdoor Walk and Outdoor Run."

Avatar
Jetmans Dad | 1 year ago
4 likes

Regardless of my total lack on interestin anything Apple, my take on this has always been ... why would I want to spend £1,000 on a smartphone and then sit it on my handlebars vulnerable to a crash? Given that my daughter's iPhone screen cracked being dropped three inches onto the coffee table, that just seems like a fundamentally bad idea. 

My current smartphone is a Motorola G, and therefore very much at the cheap end of the market, and yet I still don't take it out on a ride with just in case. Whenever I change phones, the old one is redeployed to cycling duties, as I consider it a lot more expendable. 

Avatar
bobbinogs replied to Jetmans Dad | 1 year ago
3 likes

Yepp, very good points.  I actually have a bike specific phone, a Nokia 100.  Small, light, cost less than a tenner and battery life is measured in weeks.

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Oldfatgit | 1 year ago
4 likes

Whatever functions apple put on their watch, it still won't kill off cycling computers.

Too many people (like me) refuse to buy in to the apple ecosystem.
I'm aware that many people enjoy whatever it is that apple devices being to them ... personally, I enjoy that if I run out of storage space on my phone, a micro SD card is significantly cheaper than a new phone.

Avatar
HoarseMann replied to Oldfatgit | 1 year ago
3 likes

Oldfatgit wrote:

Too many people (like me) refuse to buy in to the apple ecosystem.

Look into my eyes.... you will buy into the Apple ecosystem...
Ok they're not my real eyes (or hers!).

Avatar
HoarseMann | 1 year ago
1 like

This is progress BUT you still can't use an Apple watch as a HR monitor paired to a Garmin head unit.

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Fish_n_Chips replied to HoarseMann | 11 months ago
0 likes

HoarseMann wrote:

This is progress BUT you still can't use an Apple watch as a HR monitor paired to a Garmin head unit.

I just would like the Apple Watch heart rate to be picked up by my Garmin or Wahoo without the rubbish apps to beam it across.

Apparently the wrist is t that great for heart rate watches anyway so use a chest strap.

Avatar
Pub bike | 1 year ago
1 like

Garmin sports/outdoor watches have been doing this for a long time, but using their own bike computers as extended displays for the watch rather than a phone.  And that hasn't killed off the bike computer either.

I've been using an old 310xt on a handlebar mount as a display for basic sensor data whilst I record rides on my more recent Garmin on my wrist.

Avatar
Off the back | 1 year ago
2 likes

I always ride with my Apple Watch. It's useless for riding. Even on the smart trainer. What's the use of data I have to keep holding my wrist up to see? I could put it on a mount you might say. Then it loses its only half decent function of being a hrm. Data like power you want in front of you all the time. Sat on your garmin or wahoo / hammerhead etc is where it is best placed. They said iPhones would kill off the dedicated head unit. That didn't happen either 

Avatar
mark1a replied to Off the back | 1 year ago
1 like

Off the back wrote:

I always ride with my Apple Watch. It's useless for riding. Even on the smart trainer. What's the use of data I have to keep holding my wrist up to see? I could put it on a mount you might say. Then it loses its only half decent function of being a hrm. Data like power you want in front of you all the time. Sat on your garmin or wahoo / hammerhead etc is where it is best placed. They said iPhones would kill off the dedicated head unit. That didn't happen either 

road.cc article wrote:

When a cycling workout is started from an Apple Watch in watchOS 10, it will show up as live activity on an iPhone which allows the data screen on the Apple Watch to be mirrored on the full screen of an iPhone, when clicked. 

You can then mount your phone on your handlebars to see data such as heart rate zones, elevation and power, turning your phone and watch into a proper bike computer. So, can we expect to see one device that does it all in the future? 

I guess it's the phone that goes on the bars and does the display in this instance, leaving you the watch for wrist HRM.

I'll stick with the dedicated head unit I think. 

Avatar
Off the back replied to mark1a | 1 year ago
1 like

But I can pair my power meter to my phone already. If I'm using Zwift I use companion app . What's the watch bringing? 

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mark1a replied to Off the back | 1 year ago
0 likes

HR

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Off the back replied to mark1a | 1 year ago
0 likes

It could always do that. Point of this is about pm pairing lol 

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mark1a replied to Off the back | 1 year ago
0 likes

Read the article again, and read what your first comment was. The update that watchOS 10 brings is recording the activity with HR & power, while being able to view metrics on the phone, negating the need to look at your wrist, or mount the watch on the bars and losing HR. 

Avatar
SimoninSpalding replied to mark1a | 1 year ago
1 like

Quite, I am already very conscious that my Wahoo/ Cycliq combo on my bars is approx £500 of electronics to replace and they are robust, designed for the application. In principle I could already do all this with my Android phone on the bars using the Wahoo app with sensors paired to it, but the replacement cost of a phone is way more than a wahoo, and much more likely to be needed.

I also don't wear a watch when cycling.

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