Apple Watch Dive Computer
A week or two ago I got an email from Apple gleefully announcing the release of their new Apple Watch Ultra. The email made a big deal that the new watch could serve as a full-featured dive computer. Along with the announcement was news that the diving app, called Oceanic+, is in the final stages of development by Hollis/Oceanic.
In the diving computer world, Hollis has never been considered on par with, say, Shearwater. However, Oceanic has been making dive computers for a long time and the brand is a major player among divers. Their involvement added credibility in my view.
My first reaction was to be a little bummed out, having just purchased an Apple Watch 7 at the beginning of Summer. Just months later, the Apple Watch 8 comes along, AND it’s a dive computer??!! No way! Just the same, I was fully prepared to upgrade based solely on the fact that I thought it was cool. This, in spite of the fact that I dive rebreathers and use the Fischer version of the Shearwater Petrel for PO2 monitoring. I’m pretty sure PO2 display is not a feature of the “dive computer app.”
Then I read further, still hoping to talk myself into upgrading to the new Apple Watch Ultra. Turns out, the Hollis Dive App is only useful to a recreational dive of 130’. Hmm… what if I go to 140’? Supposedly, the rated depth is 330’, so couldn’t Hollis offer some clues about future plans? In the back of my mind, I already knew I would never use the Apple Watch for diving. I have 4 Shearwater dive computers that I use for actual extreme dives.
Also, even traveling, doing recreational dives, I bring two for backup, and data continuity in my logs. I’d wear the Apple Watch on land and even swimming, but I seriously doubt I’d actually dive with it, except for the novelty of seeing how it works. Even then, I’d be wearing my usual Shearwater Petrel.
Reading on, I discovered the Hollis Dive App is only available as a subscription! What??!!
Yeah, the app has 3 subscription options…
Option 1: $4.99 per DAY
Option 2: $9.99 per Week
Option 3: $89.99 per year
You can buy a used Zoop for less than $89, and from what know so for, the Zoop is just as powerful, and no doubt, more durable.
Trust your life to Apple Watch Dive App?
I read an article from some diver making a case for “trusting his life” to the Apple Watch as a dive computer. I don’t disagree that the Apple Watch is safe to use for recreational diving. I am an instructor. The standard practice that I, and every other instructor, have been teaching since dive computers became a thing, is to abort the dive and make a safe ascent in the event of a computer failure.
Recreational dives are “no decompression” or, more accurately, “no stop” dives. Given that a recreational diver is free to surface at any time, it simply isn’t a life or death situation. In fact, if a diver does abort a dive due to computer failure, it is perfectly safe to work the previous dive history into pressure groups and continue diving using tables.
Technical diving is a No-Go for the Apple Watch Ultra
As technical divers, we actually DO trust our lives to our dive computers. I was puzzled that Hollis was selected as the dive app partner for the Apple Watch. Why not Shearwater, or some company better known for dive computers? I have lots of Hollis gear (some of which, I like), but never once thought of Hollis as a dive computer company.
Granted the Apple Watch is not making any claims about being appropriate for extreme dives. I’m just making a comparison about what is and is not “trusting your life” to a dive computer.
Apple Watch Ultra compares to a high-end dive computers?
Another comparison I’ve seen several places is that $799 for the Apple Watch Ultra is comparable to any other high end dive computer. But, that’s completely bogus. For that price, you can buy a top brand, multi-gas computer, suitable for trimix decompression dives exceeding 330 feet.
On top of that, you don’t need a subscription to use any dedicated dive computer that I know of—high end or not.
Then there’s this. I read an article citing a section of the Apple Watch Manual that indicated the degree to which the Apple Watch Ultra remains waterproof degrades over time! Wait! Did I read that right? If true, that’s a serious problem. Even the Zoop stays waterproof pretty much forever!
Also, high-end dive computers often include air integration, and other features that divers expect at that price.
A lot of the hype about the Apple Watch Ultra for diving makes rather outrageous claims.
“Apple Watch Just Broke Dive Computers.”
“Apple Watch Ultra is a Diver’s Wet Dream.”
“The Apple Watch Ultra to Replace Your Garmin…”
“Apple Enters the Dive Computer Market.”
That’s a lotta talk for an expensive machine that you have to pay to use, lacks key features and may eventually leak.
Honestly, did Apple really just enter the dive computer market? I don’t think so. If Apple seriously saw a major opportunity among divers, bringing in Hollis (Oceanic) to make a watch app isn’t how they’d do it.
Apple is known worldwide for making some of the coolest, most user-friendly tech available. If Apple’s goal was to make dive computers, it would be building hardware to pick off Shearwater.
In my view, Apple knows there are very few divers (relatively speaking) that are going to switch to the Apple Watch Ultra as their primary dive computer. However, promoting it as a being capable as a dive computer further bolsters the watch’s credibility as a tough, use anywhere, device.
Hollis took the bait, believing that all those Apple Watch Ultra users will be lining up for the Oceanic+ app. To make a guess, I’d say most of the development cost rest firmly on Hollis, which explains the ridiculous subscription price.
Hollis is betting on countless divers that can’t wait to get the Apple Watch Ultra and take it diving. Meanwhile, Apple has new “extreme” features to promote.
My prediction: Apple Watch Ultra will be a major fail for divers
I am a major Apple user. I’m not necessarily an Apple lover, but the company’s hardware and software play a major role in my company. I was ready to buy the new watch the minute it came out. It didn’t take a lot of research to realize the Apple Watch Ultra isn’t going to be the Suunto killer many bloggers believe it to be. After all, I have half a dozen dive computers and I just bought the regular Apple Watch, yet I still wanted one based on the cool factor alone.
That’s not to suggest the Apple Watch Ultra won’t find an audience. I believe it will. For adventurers in remote locations the satellite link alone is a life saver. But, for divers, not so much.
If you disagree, I’d love to hear about it.