Red Sox Cheating Scandal Highlights Apple Watch’s Illicit Uses

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Commercials for the Apple Watch show people swimming, running, climbing, jumping. But the watch can also be used, it turns out, for another activity: cheating.

The Boston Red Sox were caught by baseball’s authorities in a scheme to use the Apple Watch to steal signs from New York Yankees catchers.

Investigators confirmed accusations by the Yankees that a Red Sox trainer used his Apple Watch to receive messages from the team’s video room about upcoming pitches, and then passed those messages to the dugout, where they were signaled to teammates on the field.

Sign-stealing is a time-honored baseball tradition — as long as only eyesight is used. Visual aids and technology — including walkie-talkies, cameras and Apple Watches — are not allowed.

A fan of both the Red Sox and Apple said he was disappointed.

“It’s embarrassing – it’s an odd sport in that cheating is legal as long as you get away with it, but using technology is over the line,” said Seth Lieberman, a Boston resident and Red Sox fan and chief executive of SnapApp, which creates content for marketers. “Both the Red Sox and Apple Watch are striking out.”

A Yankees fan used stronger language: “Debacle,” said Richard Ting, a Brooklyn resident raised not far from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. “It leaves a bad taste in our mouths in terms of what levels Boston teams are stooping to to win games,” he said.

But, curious about what happened, Mr. Ting spent part of Wednesday conducting an experiment with a colleague’s Apple Watch. They timed how quickly a text from an iPhone could reach the watch and be relayed to a third party.

“If they really wanted to do it right, the batter could have just had an Apple Watch on his arm with vibrations to signal a fastball or an off-speed pitch, instead of having a middle man on the bench,” said Mr. Ting, an executive at a design and advertising firm

Apple declined to comment.

The company need not worry about the latest news affecting sales, analysts said. The third iteration of the Apple Watch is expected on Sept. 12, with LTE cellular data capacity and improved battery life.

And the Apple Watch’s fortunes have improved. Last month, Timothy D. Cook, the chief executive of Apple, said that quarterly sales of the watch were up 50 percent over the same period a year earlier.

The Red Sox were not the first to see illicit opportunities with the Apple Watch.

Users on Reddit have posted about cheating on exams by transferring documents to their watch. One video on YouTube from 2015 declared the Apple Watch the “New Easiest Way To Cheat in Exam” and garnered more than 180,000 views.

But testing firms have responded.

The College Board, which administers the SAT and Advanced Placement tests, does not allow wearable technology such as digital watches or Google Glass in its testing centers. Neither does Law School Admission Council, which handles the LSAT.

Students who try to take smart watches into the GRE graduate admissions test are removed from the testing room, their fees forfeited and their scores canceled.

GMAT test-takers must deposit watches — smart or otherwise — in lockers before entering testing rooms, said Jennifer Garfinkel, a spokeswoman for the Graduate Management Admission Council.

Digital watches have been prohibited during the New York bar exam for several years, said John J. McAlary, executive director of the state’s board of law examiners.

Analog watches are allowed for now. But in July, the board tested large, synchronized clocks in exam rooms and will decide this fall whether to ban watches altogether, he said.

“We’ve been concerned about this for a while,” Mr. McAlary said.