The Apple Watch Activity Challenge is great, but it has one weird flaw

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A couple of weeks ago, I got a not-surprising push notification: My friend Jared was throwing down the gauntlet with an Apple Watch Activity Challenge. A hypercompetitive guy, Jared has always encouraged me to lose weight, pushing me to accept the MyFitnessPal app (which I still hate) into my life.

After looking over the rules of the challenge, though, I started laughing. "Oh, he thinks he can beat me? I can't lose this thing," I thought to myself. For those who don't know, there's only one Apple Watch Activity Challenge, and its rules are pretty simple, revolving around the Move, Exercise and Stand loops where your activity is measured:

  • Loop percentage points are tracked over a seven-day window.
  • You get 1 point for each percentage point of a loop filled per day.
  • You can earn a maximum of 600 points per day (4,200 per week).

How I "won" the challenge

Because I do a 55-minute walk twice a day as my work commute, and because filling the exercise loop requires 30 minutes, I knew I'd max out the score. I was already stashing 366 points with my new habit.

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Oh, and I was not letting a day go by without completing the Move and Stand loops, so that was another easy 200 points. The last 34 points? Well, by the end of the first day of the challenge, those points filled in from all three loops. 

At the end of that day, I checked the app and saw Jared's challenge progress. Surprise, surprise, he also maxed out the day. "Tied up!" I texted him. He replied, "Nice! I just want the award :)," sharing a screenshot of the outlines for the badges that read, "Competition complete" and "Victory over Henry." And after a bit of banter, he asked, "What if we tie for the whole week?" 

What does happen when you tie for the week?

It turns out that you earn the Victory award even if you don't beat the other person but you both get the maximum 4,200 points for the week.

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Yes, that doesn't make sense, but who said gamification — turning work or routine into a fun game where you can get a prize — had to be perfect? Maybe there should be a third kind of award, such as "4,200 Club" or "Maximum Competition Score." In the end, it's good that neither of us got anything less than both of the virtual medals that we desired.

What Apple could change

Maybe in watchOS 7, Apple could introduce a new level of its Activity Challenges, one with higher maximum scores. For now, this friendly way to make sure you and a friend stay active does exactly what it says.

Still, a challenge where there has to be a winner would definitely be more exciting. I bet the folks at Apple can challenge themselves to figure this out.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.