Can you run with just your Apple Watch? Health and fitness tracking do not require iPhone per se, but…

“The Apple event only featured watches for right-handed users and we may not know definitively if there will be a left-handed watch until it becomes available early next year,” Nicole Perlroth reports for The New York Times. “Apple co-founder Steven P. Jobs was ambidextrous so one would hope Apple would cater to lefties as well, but an Apple employee tells us there is currently no left-handed version.”

“The Apple Watch pairs with the newer iPhones — including the iPhone 5, 5S, 5C and iPhone 6 — and pass information back and forth,” Perlroth reports. “If you don’t have your iPhone with you, basic watch functions like time and health and fitness tracking will work, but users will have limited functionality without their iPhones as far as messaging, music and other features.”

MacDailyNews Note: Apple Watch uses the GPS and Wi‑Fi in your iPhone to track how far you’ve moved. So, if you want that very important bit of information, you will need to take your iPhone along on your run.

“The displays for the most basic Apple Watch and Watch Edition models will be protected by polished sapphire crystal. Apple chose the material because, next to diamond, it is the hardest transparent material on earth,” Perlroth reports. “The Apple Watch Sport, however, will be protected by Ion-X glass, which is lighter and makes more sense for running and other exercise.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: Apple Watch will not have GPS, but it has an on-board accelerometer, so it’ll be able track your steps, distance, and pace. Therefore, even without iPhone, you’ll know how far you’ve gone, you just won’t know where you’ve gone. If you want a map of your route, you’ll need to strap the iPhone to your arm or carry it in your hand as usual. For avid runners who also lust after the mammoth iPhone 6 Plus (6.22 inches (158.1 mm) x 3.06 inches (77.8 mm) x 0.28 inch (7.1 mm) at 6.07 ounces (172 grams), this will create quite the conundrum.

For reference, an iPhone 5s is 4.87 inches (123.8 mm) x 2.31 inches (58.6 mm) x 0.30 inch (7.6 mm) at 3.95 ounces (112 grams).


  1. Re: right handed watch. The bands are removable (and therefore switchable), and I gotta believe there is a setting that dictates which aside of the face is “up”. If so, all of these watches can be configured/worn left or right handed.

        1. if you don’t get it immediately you are obviously a righthander who doesn’t really appreciate how much of the mechanical world is biased, in a fundamental way, against lefties. i won’t even bother going into language biases such as latin and french. it isn’t just the relative location, it is the assumption about which rotational direction is assumed to be up or tighten or down or loosen and what this means when things are turned upside down and rotated. i am really, really disappointed in apple for coming up with asymmetrical controls that assume either you are righthanded or so ehow you should just deal with it.

          1. Uh, no… The watch is left hand capable. The straps swap top/bottom. The display rotates. The input from the digital crown reverses. The only difference is that the digital crown will be below the side button instead of on top. That really doesn’t matter.

            1. I suspect we will have to repeat this continuously for the next 4 months and still those who font want to will not listen. And of course thereafter we will have those claiming to be discriminated against by having the controls reversed top to bottom despite it making no particular difference to the operation.

            2. This is assuming that Apple does have the screen flipping function enabled in the Apple Watch. Heard nothing about it so though it may be safe to assume we can’t be certain till we have confirmation. 😛 Otherwise, lefties, be prepared to read everything upside down.

            1. I am an ambi-lefty. My mother was a lefty (forced to write right handed in the 1920s). There are people who are strongly left/right handed and can’t hardly hold a stick in the other hand. Most people are somewhere in the middle.

              However, since we have two hands, ALL of us adapt to using both hands. Have you ever seen someone play the violin, piano, guitar, sax…… They HAVE to use both hands. I chuckle when I see a guitar strung for left hand operation, whatever that means. Each hand has a pretty tedious and precise role to play.

              Turning a watch around with the controls on the left or right is trivial.

    1. I would wear the thing upside down. I’m a lefty and don’t want to reach for the digital crown over the watch. It should not be hard to flip the display 180 degrees. Phones do it. They have the technology….

    2. Much like your iPhone or iPad, whose screen rotates depending on its orientation, my hunch is that Apple may do the same with Apple Watch once its operating software is finalized. We’re at least six months away from its actual launch, and I’m sure a lot of work is yet to be done on the OS.

      As for a physical left-hand version watch: how many specifically left-handed watches exist today? To do so would vastly increase the number of SKUs, and inventory, that Apple would have to create. Offering rotating orientation would be much more simple and cheap.

      Next burning issue…

      1. you just don’t get it, do you? one of the best things that ever happened with watches was self winding or a battery so you didn’t have to use the knurled knob to wind it. it might not be a burning issue with a righty, but lefties, who are often mechanically challenged to begin with, care about this. i would love to see your reaction if the watches were all made for lefties and you had to cope. you might not be able to. i have lefthanded can opener that i love to watch righties figure out how to use it.

        1. But you don’t wind the Apple Watch. The digital crown reverses direction input. The only thing that’s different is the placement top/bottom versus the side button, which isn’t an issue.

        2. Give it a break. I’ve been a lefty for over 50 years and have no issues with pressing a button with my right hand. This handedness issue is silly. I’ve learned to live in a right handed world just fine.

  2. According to the Q&A it looks like the watch has NFC, so I assume the phone is not needed to make payments. Using the watch to pay for things will be very convenient.

    1. I guess that would make sense if the card data is also stored securely on the iWatch. I think the watch is simply another way to use the payment system but will still require the secure storage the iPhone provides for it to work.

      1. It looks like a payment is made by placing the watch near a payment terminal and holding down the side button on the watch. In the demo I didn’t see the user interacting with an iPhone, so if the phone is needed because of security maybe it remains in the pocket/purse. Interacting with both devices to make a payment would be very awkward.

        1. I think the iWatch when used for payment will need to have an iPhone5 or above available. It will also enable the 5/5S/5C which lack the NFC chip to make payments. Depending on how close you have to get the watch to the terminal it may still be awkward trying to press the button.

    2. I want more info on this too. With the iPhone you have the fingerprint sensor to prove it’s you making the purchase right then. What does the watch have?
      If watch is stolen, what does the thief need to do for purchases?

      1. I think it would be cool to ‘unlock’ payment security on the watch so you just have to tap the watch to the terminal then confirm the transaction. This would save having to run your fingerprint, etc each time. The iWatch will remain unlocked while it detects your pulse. When the watch is removed the payment features are locked again. This way any thief would not be able to steal your watch and use it for payments even if they should also steal your iPhone.

          1. You bring up a good point.. What if you have multiple cards that you use for different purchases? (e.g. Card1 for Gas, Card2 for Groceries, etc. due to better points/cashback on specific categories) Is this an opening for some entrepreneurial programmer out there or has Apple already covered this type of usage?

    1. It supports Bluetooth 4.0 so I presume that should work. I also found on Apple’s Watch page that it has a mic and speaker that can be used in walkie-talkie mode also.

  3. Zdnet:

    “There’s even a southpaw mode for all the Apple-loving lefties out there, which flips the user interface around. ”

    don’t know how accurate Zdnet is but I wonder why the NYT didn’t just ask the apple staff at the demo?

    1. It was rather difficult to get answers during the demo. Even when I did get answers, many of the answers were non-answers…especially the waterproof/resistant question. I thought that was kind of frustrating since you’d think that question would come up from everybody as one of the top things they wanted to know. It also seems some people got some answers from some of the staff and others got answers to different questions from others… not different answers, just responses to different questions they were willing/able to answer.

      I couldn’t tell if this was from lack of finalization on some of the specs, or due to last minute prepping of the staff and in order to make sure every answer was correct, they limited the information… mostly to what was already discussed during the presentation.

  4. The lack of built-in GPS is a very frustrating oversight. GPS chips are cheap. Why leave out this feature that would be a selling point to many, many runners? Having to carry a phone for that data eliminates so much of the convenience of the watch.

      1. Assuming it did have a GPS chip, would it (or any similar GPS distance tracking system) still be accurate distance wise on long hilly runs (e.g. jogging for an hour in say San Francisco). Do those trackers actually take into account the actual distance or the differences in periodic points of your lat/long positioning?

  5. It looks like the Fitbit Tracker does not have GPS either:

    “Distance is calculated based on your walking steps times your walking stride length plus your running steps times your running stride length.”

    I would assume the iWatch would have similar functionality if not paired with an iPhone.

    1. You’re right. It will be able to measure steps taken. However, that will only give an approximation for distance. It can vary a lot. Think about the strides of a tall vs short person. It’s an approximation whereas GPS is accurate.

      I’m not a runner. I was far more concerned with the heart rate monitoring. I’m happy it has that.

      My wife is a runner though, and she uses a garmin watch with gps and a fitbit. She’s found the fitbit to be pretty much worthless. The garmin is ok, but seems to have issues with syncing and charging.

      She carries her iPhone when running most of the time, and he GPS on there with Map My Run works really well. It also lets her do just that, map her runs. You can’t do that without GPS.

      I really wanted the heart rate monitor, I got that. My wife really wanted built-in GPS so she could ditch her garmin and leave her iPhone at home on runs. She did not get what she wanted. I’m sure many people will share her sentiment.

      1. During the demo, I forget when but one of the watch screens showed an entry for stride length. So if that can be set accurately for walking and for running, it will be much closer to real distance.

      2. I think this will be more accurate than the fit bit if you run a few times with the phone the surely it will work out your average step and get more accurate. Then when you run without your phone the distance should be pretty close.

  6. Who cares how far you run, it’s how much energy you expend that counts. So steps is more important than distance. If you wrap your mind around a metric that is different for everyone, you won’t get a accurate reading… We tend to focus on miles run, but it just doesn’t mean the same to everyone.

    1. Who cares about distance run? Runners. That’s who.

      You’re correct that for general fitness tracking, distance doesn’t matter. Energy expended/calories burned matters.

      But for runners, training for distance running, yes, distance matters.

      I don’t run, but I do lift weights. Knowing my weights, knowing my reps matters. For my overall health, it doesn’t matter, but I like seeing my changes and improvements. I track it closely and accurately, just as my wife tracks her runs.

      1. It would be cool if you could select the type of excersise, the amount of the weights/resistance and it records reps, calories burned, etc. I would also want it to monitor my heartbeat and warn me of potential issues.

        1. There are two crowdfunding projects (that I know of) for watches that incorporate sensors that specifically track weighlifting movements, being able to differentiate (or so they say) between a bicep curl and a seated cable row or bench press. Theoretically you wouldnt even have to enter the type of exercice, it’d just be automatically logged, along with sets and reps.

          Now that’s smth I’d have paid an Apple Watch a lot of money for. But as an avid lifter Im a niche customer. As it is now, as I do not care how many calories I burn or steps I take, the Apple Watch is a tad useless. Maybe the next one will cater to my needs.

          1. If those motion sensors can track weight lifting movements, then a 3rd party app should be able to do that on the Apple Watch. All depends on what type of sensors are in it and their capability.

  7. I always find it interesting when the issue about left and right handedness comes up. Teach a populations of dogs to paw shake and about 50% of them will go for right pawed, 50% of them left pawed.

    Of all the different human cultures, races, nations, groups on the planet all of them 100% are right hand dominant. Doesn’t matter if they are caucasian, black, asian, indian, or from Israel, Egypt, Somalia, or wherever they are all 100% right hand dominant.

    I find that quite interesting, as well as the purported reason as to why that is.

    1. Humans have two separate brains not one, left side and right, we evolved from using our right hand for tools, which turned our left side of the brain function for critical thinking and fine motor skills, then the right side became unused but out of it came creativity and other emotions. Evolution, it’s a theory that we have evolved due to the fact that we have switched to the right hand for dominance.

  8. I’m an avid runner and I don’t use any gadgets nor do I take my phone with me on runs and yes distance matters. This watch seems like a nice toy, what happens when the novelty wears off in 5 minutes ?

  9. Tim Cook is supposedly an avid runner, so I think Apple Watch will have excellent capability to track run data independently, without iPhone present. Otherwise, it is mostly superfluous for tracking the run, because if iPhone has to be there strapped to your arm, an iPhone can already do that (with GPS) by itself.

    Even my ancient iPhone 3GS can do that, although I use my equally ancient iPod nano (5th gen) on runs because it is more convenient for accessing the controls (and I don’t want to strap an iPhone to my arm). I bought a strap/case and tried it a few times with the iPhone. I liked using my iPod nano much better for this task. I just hold the iPod nano in my hand, and I can control music playback/volume, and workout pause/resume/feedback, with ease and mostly by feel; I don’t need to look at the device’s screen or reach to its location. It is actually easier to use than if the tracking device was a wristwatch.

    Also, where is it stated that Apple Watch has no GPS? Maybe the “basic” Apple Watch does not have it. But there are three types, and one version is called Apple Watch Sport. It would make sense if THAT version of Apple Watch DOES have GPS. Nike’s “SportWatch” has GPS. So does Motorola’s.

    1. I really hope that the apple watch can be used without the phone. I also use an old iPod nano to track indoor running. On a separate forum a person stated that the accelerometer will only track ‘movement’ i.e if the user stands in one spot and moves his/her wrist or run with the watch on, it will track the movement of the wrist rather than distance. Surely if the old nano can track distance, this watch should also be able to.

      1. My nano uses a Nike sensor (accelerometer) that I strap to my shoe, to accurately track movement of my left foot. Since it is on my foot, it is measuring things like acceleration and time of movement for each step, so it does calculate total run distance quite accurately, once it is calibrated using a completed run of known distance. However, it can never be as accurate as a GPS, because a GPS is measuring the ACTUAL distance traveled; it is not a calculation. The shoe sensor connects to the nano, using Bluetooth.

        Without the shoe sensor, current nanos can also use its built-in accelerometer to count the number of steps taken (by sensing “impact”). This method (a simple pedometer) is not as accurate for distance (although it can be calibrated), because it is not measuring how my foot moves. I could be running in place, or taking intentionally smaller or larger strides, and the calculation assumes an “average” distance per step.

        It would be disappointing if the version of Apple Watch, with the “Sport” designation, does not have a built-in GPS. Being able to use the Nike shoe sensor would be acceptable for me, since it works well for me now. Just a simple “pedometer” in the device would not be acceptable for me.

    1. Depends on the locker material and how many walls the Bluetooth signal goes thru. Someone posted months ago that he did this at his gym with great success.

      Bluetooth has about a 30′ range but any metal between you and the phone will cut that distance down quickly.

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