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How Does the Apple Watch Calculate Calories for Workouts?

Okay, maybe I’m a bit obsessive, but when I spend $400 on a device, I expect it to perform as advertised. Early today, I showed that the Apple Watch confuses miles and kilometers, and doesn’t count distances for indoor walks very well. In the past, I’ve also pointed out how there are problems with the heart rate sensor, and that the device’s resting calories are from the realm of science fiction.

After a friend read the article about miles and kilometers today, he said, “78 calories? That’s weird.”

Apple watch miles kilometers

I had never actually considered whether the calorie counts were correct or not, though I’d heard some people report very odd numbers. So I went to an online calculator, entered my weight, the grade of my treadmill (measured with the Compass app on the iPhone), the distance the treadmill recorded, and the time. It told me:

You burned an estimated 230 calories.

The same website also has a calculator that uses your heart rate. Since the Apple Watch records this – albeit not very accurately – I went back to a 20-minute outdoor walk I did last week. I entered the time, the average heart rate, and the rest of the information, and the calculautor told me:

At a heartrate of 109 bpm, or 64% of your estimated maximum heartrate (170 bpm), your calorie burn is an estimated 646 calories per hour. In 19 minutes and 43 seconds you will burn approximately 212 calories.

The Activity app says I burned 83 calories.


I think that Apple needs to do some work on this whole fitness tracker thing. It’s hard to take any of this seriously now.

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The Apple Watch Confuses Miles and Kilometers

The Apple Watch, by default, records distances in miles, when you do a workout. You can change this, but the setting is hidden. However, the Apple Watch seems confused about which unit it is using.

I just finished a 30-minute walk on my treadmill. At 3.5 mph, I walked about 1.7 miles; this is a simple calculation. I recorded this on my Apple Watch as an Indoor Walk workout. The Apple Watch, a replacement I just received two days ago, hadn’t yet been set to use kilometers.

At the end of the workout, the Activity app on my iPhone shows this:

Apple watch miles kilometers

The Apple Watch counted the distance as 1.02 miles, which happens to be about the equivalent of 1.7 kilometers. In other words, it seems to have calculated my distance by converting miles to, well, miles, using the conversion from kilometers to miles. I’ve noticed the same thing before with indoor walks, even with the first Apple Watch I had, which I did set to kilometers.

It’s quite clear that this is a simple conversion error. Walking at around the same pace outdoors, the Apple Watch shows my pace to be around 20 minutes per mile. (Alas, while you can change the unit of measurement for distance, you can’t change it for pace, or for what displays in the Activity app on the iPhone.) When I do an indoor walk, it shows the pace, as you can see above, at around 30 minutes per mile. Yet if it’s simply counting steps in an indoor walk – since it can’t use GPS – and knows the length of my stride, this should be the same pace. Unless some developer at Apple introduced in error in calculation.

This isn’t something that should be too hard to get right. I calibrated the Apple Watch outdoors, as one should, so it could learn the approximate length of my stride. It should take that into account during any activity during the day, but also during workouts that involve movement. Yet it gets it wrong, in what seems to be just a dumb bug. This is another disappointing example of the Apple Watch’s inaccuracy as a fitness tracker.

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Two Underrated Bob Dylan Albums: Good as I Been to You and World Gone Wrong

71ubfeTOX4L SX522Today, I spun two Dylan albums from 1992 and 1993. These two albums feature Dylan alone with an acoustic guitar, simply recorded. Good as I Been to You (, Amazon UK) and World Gone Wrong (, Amazon UK). Originally said to be “contractual obligation” albums, Dylan recorded these in his garage studio at his home in Malibu, singing old folk songs, covers, and blues songs.

61P R7Xrs2LThese albums are a blip in Dylan’s production, but they are also quite important, in retrospect. Around this time, Dylan was performing this type of music on tour, in acoustic sets, and he has always respected traditional music. (As he would later show in his Theme Time Radio Hour show, where he played a wide range of old tunes.)

Looking back, there is a link between these two albums and his recent Shadows in the Night (, Amazon UK), an album of songs that Frank Sinatra sang. (In fact, this album was so popular, that a sequel is reportedly due to be released later this year.)

Listening to Good as I Been to You and World Gone Wrong, you can hear how much Dylan respects the classics of folk and blues music. He gets it right; he doesn’t try and turn these songs into “Dylan songs,” but he just plays and sings them. There’s no embellishment, no fancy studio trickery. If anything, they sound a lot like Dylan’s first album, simply titled Bob Dylan (, Amazon UK), which was mostly covers and folk songs.

A few years after the release of Good as I Been to You and World Gone Wrong, Bob Dylan had an especially fertile period, with such albums as Time Out of Mind, Love and Theft, Modern Times, Together Through Life, and Tempest, where Dylan found new inspiration, writing some of his best songs in decades. Perhaps these two solo acoustic albums were just contractual obligations, but they may also have redirected him toward a rejuvenation of his music through an immersion in older songs. In any case, these two albums are a delightful set of songs that show Dylan fully unplugged.

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How to Run Advanced Spotlight Searches in the Finder

In my previous two articles about using Spotlight on Yosemite, I looked at Spotlight basics and then showed you how to construct search queries with Spotlight. In this final article, I’m going to move from Spotlight to the Finder, and show you how to perform even more advanced searches.

When you search in the Finder, you’re actually searching the Spotlight index on your disk; you just perform your searches from the Finder’s search field instead of the Spotlight menu. And, when you move to the Finder, you have even more power to search.

Read the rest of the article on Macworld.

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The Committed Podcast Welcomes Ted Landau

The Committed Podcast Icon 1400x1400 01In this week’s episode of The Committed podcast, Ian Schray, Rob Griffiths, and I welcome veteran Mac writer Ted Landau, to discuss his retirement, Jony Ive’s possible retirement, the state of Mac websites and much more.

Listen to The Committed, Episode 82: “Mac (space) World”.

If you like The Committed podcast, you can subscribe or leave a rating or review on iTunes, or with your favorite podcatcher.

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Writings about Macs, music and more by Kirk McElhearn