Apple takes on Garmin with new watchOS 9 triathlon fitness features

Screenshot from Apple's WWDC 2022 keynote
(Image credit: Future)

Apple just debuted watchOS 9 during the company's WWDC 2022 keynote speech, and lots of fitness features were announced as part of the reveal -- including a new triathlon-focused multisport mode. 

This new mode allows your Apple Watch to seamlessly switch between swimming, cycling, and running during your race or training.  Apple also said in a press release: "swimmers can now track their efficiency with a SWOLF score — a stroke count combined with the time, in seconds, it takes to swim one length of the pool. Users can view their SWOLF average for each set in the workout summary." Your watch can also classify the stroke type in the workout summary, along with the distance swam.

This new feature is in addition to a series of other advanced fitness features, including a new Power metric that detects the amount of effort you're generating. This can be measured across lots of different sports, and you can set yourself a target of beating your previous efforts, with each workout's Power level automatically saved. 

Other new stats include three new running metrics made possible via machine learning, which isolates your torso's movements from your arm swing. These metrics are vertical oscillation, stride length, and ground contact time, which work together to provide a complete picture of your run, Apple says. 

In the future, you might be able to use this information to purchase the right pair of running shoes for you. 

watchos 9 unveiled

(Image credit: Lance Ulanoff)

Analysis: The Apple Watch 8 could move into Garmin's territory

The Apple Watch, in all its iterations, has set the gold standard for everyday-use smartwatches. If you're out and about, checking emails and messages as well as fitting lots of workouts into your week, it's hard to beat (providing you're already invested in the Apple economy). 

Serious triathletes and trail-runners have always opted for specialist GPS sports watches, however, and Garmin is by far the biggest name here.

The option of a dedicated triathlon multi-sport mode, and more advanced metrics tailor-made for those deadly serious about their workouts, is intriguing. Your average park-runner isn't going to care about their vertical oscillation ... but someone gunning for their best-ever sprint tri race time certainly might.

The recent launch of the Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar and 255 has set the standard for multi-sport watches. If Apple Watch 8 is coming down the pipeline in September, it might be geared as much towards dedicated athletes as it is desk-bound weekend warriors. And if that's the case, Garmin better be ready for a fight.

Matt Evans
Fitness, Wellness, and Wearables Editor

Matt is TechRadar's expert on all things fitness, wellness and wearable tech. A former staffer at Men's Health, he holds a Master's Degree in journalism from Cardiff and has written for brands like Runner's World, Women's Health, Men's Fitness, LiveScience and Fit&Well on everything fitness tech, exercise, nutrition and mental wellbeing.

Matt's a keen runner, ex-kickboxer, not averse to the odd yoga flow, and insists everyone should stretch every morning. When he’s not training or writing about health and fitness, he can be found reading doorstop-thick fantasy books with lots of fictional maps in them.