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Apple announced today that the Apple Watch Series 3 can track skiing and snowboarding activity, thanks to software updates added to watchOS 4.2. The new feature requires the latest Apple Watch — the first to include a barometric altimeter — and one of several third-party apps, including Snoww, Slopes, Squaw Alpine, Snocru, or Ski Tracks.

Historically, Apple has included software support for a new device’s hardware features at launch, but the Apple Watch Series 3’s altimeter was a somewhat different story. While the Watch shipped with the ability to measure relative elevation using the altimeter hardware, it depended on third-party apps to support the feature. Previously, Apple Watch apps relied on a paired iPhone with altimeter hardware to enable similar tracking, thereby impacting two devices’ batteries at once.

Apple updated watchOS 4.2 with custom workout APIs, enabling developers to track ski- and snowboard-specific metrics, including total vertical descent, horizontal distance, number of runs, and average/maximum speeds. The APIs also enable apps to give credit toward Activity rings despite pauses, record workout information to the iPhone Health app, and activate third-party workout apps using Siri.

The barometric altimeter can also be used for bicycle activity tracking and other purposes. As with skiing and snowboarding, third-party apps are required to make use of the altimeter.


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