PC News Archive

How I Lost 1.5 Years of Apple Watch Activity Data

July 28, 2018 – by Per Christensson

How I Lost 1.5 Years of Apple Watch Activity DataI just lost a year and a half of activity data. Everything I recorded with my Apple Watch from January 7, 2017 to June 15, 2018 is gone. All my daily step counts, stand hours, exercise minutes, and calories burned — gone. All my runs, workouts, and sports played — gone. Everything is gone.

The main reason I bought the Apple Watch at the beginning of 2017 was to record my activity data. So it was devastating to permanently lose all the data I have meticulously recorded the past 18 months. It is hard to justify even wearing my Apple Watch now.

So how did I lose all my activity data?

Actually, Apple lost my data. Let me explain...

My iPhone stopped recording data in the Activity app on February 8, 2018. When I returned from my trip to Antarctica at the end of February, I thought the Activity app would finally sync correctly with my Apple Watch, but it never did. All the days after February 8 had no activity data.

iPhone Activity App Monthly Data

I searched dozens of forums online and asked several employees at my local Apple Store and no one had an answer. At the end of March, I finally called AppleCare and a representative recommended I unpair my Apple Watch, erase and restore my iPhone, then re-pair my watch. I did these steps and then the Activity app showed this.

iPhone Activity App Spinning Wheel

For almost four months that is the only screen I saw when viewing the Activity app on my iPhone. I was hopeful that one day the bug would be fixed and I could finally view all the activity I had been recording. I was especially optimistic at the end of May when the iOS 11.4 release notes said it fixed a Health data syncing issue. But alas, when I completed the update, the Activity app still displayed a black screen with a spinning wheel.

iOS 11.4 Update Release Notes

The Solution

In June, the AppleCare representative I had been working with checked again with Apple's engineers and then called me one night with "good news and bad news." The good news was the engineers found a solution to the problem. The bad news is the solution was to delete all my data and start from scratch. Seriously.

This was not an acceptable solution for me, so I continued to be patient and wait for a better solution. A few weeks ago, however, the executive team at Apple reached out to me and had a senior support specialist look into my case. The engineers confirmed my data was corrupt and the only way to fix the problem I was having was to permanently erase all of my activity data.

After six months of not being able to view my activity data, I resigned to myself to the fact there was no other solution. I followed AppleCare's steps of deleting my Health data, uploading it to iCloud, then erasing and restoring my iPhone from iCloud. I can now see my Activity data again. My Apple Watch restored about a month of previous data to my iPhone, but most of my activity rings for the past 18 months are now empty. I keep getting alerts on my watch for achievements that I reached a long time ago, which at this point kind of feels insulting.

Apple Watch Movement Goal Achievement

I went through the standard stages of grief — shock, denial, anger — and now I am just sad. All the activities I recorded over the past year and a half are gone. I can't compare anything with 2017, which was my main reason for recording my activities so consistently the past six months. All those times I pressed "Start Activity" on my Apple Watch were pointless. All I have are a few screenshots I took before midnight because I knew I wouldn't be able to view the information once the watch struck 12:00.

Apple Watch Activity Totals


I'm frustrated for many reasons, but mainly because it should be impossible for this to happen. In the rare case that data is corrupted, it should never compromise the integrity of valid data. Yet my Watch and/or iPhone uploaded corrupt activity data to iCloud and it corrupted all of my Health data. This is poor programming on the part of Apple's engineers.

But I consistently back up all my data locally and remotely, so why didn't I just restore my data from a backup? Because the Apple Watch hides all activity data in iCloud and it the actual data log is completely inaccessible to the user. Therefore Apple is 100% in control of the integrity of my data — and the data of everyone else who uses an Apple Watch. (Yes, this is blatant violation of GDPR.) There was no way for me to back up my activity data locally and there was no way for me to roll back to the last valid (uncorrupt) state. The simple fact is Apple's cloud storage failed me and I permanently lost my data.

I appreciated Apple's executive team reaching out to me, but in the end their only consolation was to say, "Sorry." I can accept a sincere apology, but it doesn't make up for 18 months of lost activity data and over 40 hours of emails and phone calls with AppleCare. I was already at a low point in my relationship with Apple after a horrible experience with an iMac repair last December and this has definitely made things worse.

I'm back to recording my activity data with my Apple Watch again, but now with an uneasy feeling of trepidation. Who knows when I might lose my data again? There is still no way for me to save my data locally and as far as I know, Apple does not make incremental backups of the data in the cloud. If data gets corrupted again, I'm back to square one.

Until Apple fixes this system, I cannot recommend the Apple Watch to anyone.

News Archive