The Apple Watch Series 2 is finally here.
It has been well over a year since Apple launched its first smartwatch and while it might feel like the time has flown by it has been a very very long year for smartwatches.
When we reviewed the original we noted how smartwatches in particular were suffering from something of an identity crisis - companies were making them but they weren’t entirely sure what they wanted them to do, or indeed how us as consumers were going to use them.
Well that long year is up, and in many ways you could say that the training wheels are off. Apple knows what it wants the Watch to be and has made it, in the form of the Watch Series 2.
So has Apple really discovered what a smartwatch should be and has the Series 2 provided enough of an argument to make us feel like it will genuinely enhance our lives? We find out...
The Watch Series 2 is to look at, incredibly similar to the original. In fact the only real indication you’re going to get that you’re owning a new Apple Watch is the inscription on the back.
That has significant meaning for what will be a good percentage of potential Apple Watch owners: If you didn’t like the design of the first one, you’re not going to like this one any better.
For those of us that like the Watch’s design however Apple now offers the new Series 2 in over seven different colours with (at last count) a staggering 50 different straps on offer. That’s not counting the thousands more unofficial straps you can find on Amazon or the rest of the web.
Apple’s vast increase in straps makes a lot of sense, the Series 2 isn’t just a notifications device, it’s a monitor of your health, wellbeing and overall fitness. As such it generally needs to be on your wrist whether you’re going for a swim, out to dinner or walking the red carpet (we literally never walk the red carpet).
The Series 2 is a little thicker, and when we say a little we’re talking 0.9mm. That doesn’t sound like much at all, but in smartwatch terms it allows for something essential to the Series 2’s survival: A bigger battery.
That larger battery helps power the new GPS chip which in turn effectively frees the Apple Watch entirely from the iPhone when you’re doing any form of exercise.
Wireless headphones are now becoming the staple for runners and so the need to have your audio physically tethered to something is waning, also having a whacking great phone strapped to your arm is considerably less than ideal.
GPS watches are notoriously battery-hungry however, so while we were pleased to see the addition it did cause some concern. This was unwarranted, not only did the Series 2 perform admirably in terms of accuracy but we found the battery drain to be extremely low. A 30-40min run after work or at lunch shouldn’t kill your Apple Watch before the end of the day. Of course if you’re thinking of running a marathon then we’d potentially consider using your phone.
Fitness in general has become a central core of what the Series 2 offers, and Apple’s spent a lot of R&D in making the act of being fit as hassle free as possible. In addition to GPS, the Watch Series 2 is now water-resistant to 50 metres which means yes, you can take it to the pool.
This is where we have to take our hats off to the engineers in Cupertino. Not only does the Series 2 know when we’ve reached the end of the pool, but it also knows what type of stroke we’re doing and, rather embarrassingly, how badly we’re doing it. Why does that matter? Well it turns out that the worse your swimming technique is, the more calories you actually burn.
How does all this translate in real-life? Well. You simply start a pool activity and the Watch locks the screen, then all you have to do is swim. When you’re done use the manual buttons to finish the exercise and finally go through the steps of unlocking the screen.
This is our favourite part, mostly because it’s just so ludicrous. You see in order to keep a speaker on the Apple Watch and make it water-resistant the engineers had to come up with a way of removing the water from the speaker chamber. As you scroll the dial on the side of the watch a bubble begins to expand, upon it popping the Watch emits a powerful audio frequency which then physically expels all the water. Absurd, and yet very Apple.
Last but not least is the display. It’s brighter, in fact as Apple is very happy to point out, it’s the brightest display they’ve ever made on any device. It’s a welcome addition and while we generally didn’t have too much trouble with the original Watch in sunlight, the Series 2 eliminates any concerns entirely.
What makes the Series 2 really special is how all these hardware features come together, in the form of watchOS 3.
WatchOS 3 is a course correction, and a truly welcome one. When we first reviewed the Watch we pointed out that smartwatches should be brief momentary encounters. watchOS had slowly started moving in that direction but watchOS 3 marks a major step forward.
Rather than having to use your finger to scroll around the Watch’s fiddly home screen a simple press of the side button reveals a Dock of apps that you use the most. You can then quickly scroll through with the crown and then tap on the one you want to open
This simple change along with the Series 2’s powerful new dual-core processor means that actually using the device is seamless. There’s no lag and apps load instantly.
This leads us back to our initial question: Does the Series 2 present enough of an argument to own a smartwatch. In our view it does.
The Series 2 is no longer just a notifications screen. It’s a meaningful piece of technology that successfully tracks and encourages you to be fitter and healthier.
Who should buy the Apple Watch Series 2?
The Series 2 is the complete package. It’s the smartwatch that we feel Apple always wanted to make. It’s a fitness tracker, health monitor and wellness device that’ll help you stay fit and, just as importantly, calm in mind.
Who shouldn’t buy the Apple Watch Series 2?
Series 2 is still an expensive device starting at £369, so unless you’re looking to utilise all of its new features we really wouldn’t recommend just going in head first. It’s also a deeply personal device, so make absolutely sure that you’re willing to wear it no matter the occasion, for some though the design just won’t work, and that’s OK.