Apple and Samsung Smartwatch: Need more Buttons

Samsung revealed the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro. It’s Samsung’s most enduring smartwatch ever, and at Unpacked, it was obvious that the company intends the Watch to appeal to outdoor athletes.

Apple also announced that watchOS 9 would feature a ton of new running metrics, counting fuel to tales that a rugged Apple Watch may be on the way.

It’s evident that both companies are looking to lure in users from the Garmin and Polar crowd — but aside from battery life and durability, another obstacle could derail these efforts. Touchscreens.

For better or worse, Apple and Samsung have relied on touchscreen navigation on their smartwatches. That’s fine for casual exercise or the average person who isn’t traversing all sorts of terrain with extreme temperatures. But, unfortunately, it’s not going to cut it for the outdoor enthusiast both companies are aiming at with these “Pro” watches.

The regular 40mm Galaxy Watch 5 is not the same, but the Pro is a more extensive, hardier version of the Watch 5. When it comes to UI, they share the same design DNA. It’s been challenging to swipe through screens mid-stride. It’s August, and as the famous Santana song goes, man, it’s hot. It sounds easy enough, but it’s not easy when the humidity is thick enough to feel like you’re swimming in soup.

It isn’t just a summer problem, either. If you’re a triathlete, it’s a swimming problem too. If you work out year-round, it’s an even bigger issue in the winter when you have to wear gloves. There have been plenty of “touchscreen-compatible” gloves, but they’ve never been reliable on my phone, let alone on my smaller smartwatch screen.

It is a non-issue when you use a Polar or Garmin sports watch. That’s because physical buttons aren’t thwarted by moisture or gloves. Once you get accustomed to them, you can flip through menus without looking down until you need to. Some even use a combination of touch and button controls — ideal because you can always use the most convenient method for a given situation.

Apple and Samsung know athletes’ prize battery life, in-depth metrics, and durability. But it’s less clear if either company has thought about why so many outdoor enthusiasts and triathletes would instead give up a fancy touchscreen than physical controls.

We still don’t know a ton about Apple’s rugged Watch. The details surrounding that have been kept under reasonably tight wraps. But the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro isn’t a secret anymore. It’s out in the world, and regardless of what it does have, it lacks the physical controls so many triathletes have grown accustomed to. Given that, it’s somewhat perplexing that Samsung eschewed the rotating bezel for the Pro.

The watchOS 9 update features layout improvements, new watch faces, and new apps, concentrating on updated health and fitness capabilities.

Four new watch faces are available. Lunar portrays the relationship between the Gregorian calendar and diverse lunar calendars, while Playtime features fun, animated, and embodied numbers completed in collaboration with artist Joi Fulton. Metropolitan is a traditional type-driven watch face with a style that varies as the digital crown is turned. Finally, astronomy is a revamped version of the original astronomy watch face with a remastered layout, a new star map, and cloud data.

Several existing watch faces have composition updates as well. Utility, Simple, and Activity Analog have improved and modernized complications, and Modular and X-Large feature background color editing. The Portraits watch face adds a depth effect to more photos, including cats, dogs, and topography, and the Focus mode attribute can now be associated with a typical watch face. So if you’re in a “work” way, you can put it to a watch face distinguishable from what it might be in a “personal” Focus manner.

Sleep tracking in watchOS 9 now contains sleep stages, allowing users to catch when users are in Core, REM, or Deep sleep. Sleep stage data is open in the Sleep app and can be considered in more detail in the Health app on iPhone.

The latest Medications app on the Apple Watch is created to help users govern and track their medications, vitamins, and supplements. The app keeps a list of medicines, emails reminders when it’s time to take them, and cares for drug interactions. In addition, data is synced to the iPhone Health app, where users can get more attributes on their medications.

The Workout app has been updated to employ the Digital Crown to switch between Workout Views, and there is a new option to complete custom workouts with work and rest intervals. Heart Rate Zones can be constructed to monitor the intensity of a workout, and there are new alerts for speed, power, heart rate, and tempo that can guide users through activities. In addition, swimmers have the key to a new automatic kickboard detection stroke type, and efficiency can be followed with a SWOLF score that unites stroke count with the time it accepts to swim the span of the pool.

For triathletes, there’s a unique Multisport workout class that can swap between biking, swimming, and running exercises, and for runners, the Fitness app delivers more data. For example, runners can track Ground Contact Time, Stride Length, and Vertical Oscillation, plus there are alternatives to race against the best or final result on repeatedly used routes.

Apple has also counted a new pacer experience so runners can pick a distance and goal time they like to complete a run, with the Watch calculating the pace required. In addition, for all users, Cardio Recovery assessments are now provided after an Outdoor Walk, Run, or Hiking workout, even when the training does not hit peak intensity.

Fitness+ workouts in watchOS display on-screen guidance and trainer coaching to assist users in getting more out of HIIT, Rowing, Cycling, and Treadmill workouts. Additionally, fitness+ users who don’t have an Apple TV can use AirPlay to stream exercises and meditations to compatible third-party TVs for service without an Apple TV.

The ECG app’s atrial fibrillation cautions have been updated, with Apple counting a new AFib History feature. Patients with AFib can switch on AFib History to track AFib frequency for more in-depth insight into their heart disease that can also be shared with medical professionals.

The Reminders app has an option for editing key details like location, tags, date, time, and notes. The Calendar app permits users to create new events directly from the Apple Watch and provides entry to Day, List, and Month views.

Apple recreated notifications on the Apple Watch to feature slimline banners that are less interruptive when the Watch is in vibrant use. Family Setup now keeps the Home app so kids can control innovative home accessories from their wrists. Quick Actions on the Apple Watch lets users do more with a double-pinch gesture, including playing/pausing media, answering/ending phone calls, and starting or staying a workout.

An Apple Watch Mirroring accessibility feature allows users to control their Apple Watch remotely from a paired iPhone using AirPlay. In addition, the QWERTY keyboard on the Series 7 now supports different languages, including Japanese, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish.

Developers have the key to a new CallKit API to allow calls from third-party VOIP apps to be replied to on Apple Watch, and developers can now build share sheet support into their apps and incorporate watchOS apps with the Apple TV. watchOS 9 is restricted to developers and public beta testers at the current time.