Apple Watch Series 2 review: It’s time to jump in

Faster, brighter, water resistant and far more versatile

Apple, iOS, Apple Watch, Apple Watch Series 2, wearables, Smart watch

I’ve been using my Apple Watch Series 2 for over a week. I thought I should share a few observations about my experience and try to explain why I think now is a good time for people who may have been curious about the product to take a look.

A little history

Introduced in a blaze of glory after years of speculation, Apple Watch quickly became King of the smartwatch scene. People liked its apps, full feature set and versatility, though people were turned off by application performance speed. Many of the criticisms were answered in watchOS 3 (the new Apple Watch software released this month), which is significantly faster than before on every edition of the Watch. And nearly all the criticisms (bar any aesthetic arguments) are answered in Series 2, apart from the need to make these things truly mobile with a network connection.

First glance

At first glance nothing much has changed. The new model is a little thicker and a couple of grams heavier (for more battery), but otherwise it is identical to the last edition Apple Watch. The big changes are what you’ll find inside: A much faster dual-core processor, a display that’s twice as bright as before, GPS, and water resistance.

The first edition Apple Watch remains available but has been upgraded with the same fast processor at a lower price.

Set-up is simple: strap the contraption to your wrist, wriggle your iPhone at it running the much nicer to use Apple Watch iOS app to pair the device, choose a watchface and enable a few apps and you’re ready to go. It’s as close to friction-free as you’ll find.

One neat trick: If you own multiple Apple Watches that you use with the same iPhone, you can enable the one you are wearing that day by raising your arm when you have it on – the iPhone will figure out which watch it speaks to that day.

Performance and apps

Anecdotally I was impressed by the speed improvements in every app, while I sometimes experienced a little lag as the app loaded for the first time; all subsequent uses of those apps were much quicker than on Apple Watch 1 on watchOS 2. There is not doubt that watch OS 3 brings significant performance gains across every app, and I fully expect developers to build new and better apps designed to exploit these improvements.

Apple claims you get up to 50 percent faster CPU performance and twice the graphics performance with the new model, and while I can’t confirm or deny this I can say that I saw significant performance gains. The far brighter screen is much easier to see in sunlight and apps, well, they do what they are meant to do rather than leaving you waiting.

I don’t have the space to work through every app improvement, but did want to quickly touch on two things: GPS and the new swimming apps. Apple has clearly worked very hard with this release to make sure the Apple Watch Series 2 is just about the best fitness tracker you can get, but it’s one that you can also use to buy your groceries, call for help and make a phone call. It’s incredibly versatile.

Hit the ground running

I love the GPS feature. When I go for one of my incredibly painful to watch stumbles across the local park (I call these “runs”) it had always annoyed me that I needed to bring my iPhone with me to get my location data.

Apart from the risk of losing the smartphone I know full well that I’d be just minutes away from the four-minute mile without its extra weight. Now with Apple Watch 2 I get incredibly accurate information on pace, speed, location and distance that feeds directly into my other health-related apps.

This is great and promises a really interesting future once Apple does put LTE inside the device – just because I’m running doesn’t mean I don’t want to receive the call I know one day will come that tells me I’ve just been left a million bucks by a relative I didn’t know existed. It’s going to happen, right? Meanwhile it’s great to be able to map my walks in the woods with the dogs.

Surfing USA

Are you a beach person? Do you like surfing? I’d love to like it more – I try hard, but I’m nearly always the one rubbing his jaw after an enthusiastic but clumsy collision with his board. I thought about taking the Watch to a lovely beach in Cascais, Portugal for a little swim. I don’t know what the experiment would have proved (the Watch is water resistant to 50-meters), but I would have used it as an excuse to enjoy a glass of chilled white wine at the Hotel Albatroz. The problem is that I would have needed to pay for my drink with my card. That’s going to change as Apple Pay launches across Europe, but it would be nice to be able to hang out at the beach without needing to safeguard my wallet, payment card or iPhone. This is why mobile connectivity is a necessary next step in Apple Watch evolution. (I still get a kick using my Apple Watch as a boarding pass).


As I couldn’t get to beautiful Portugal, I took the Watch to my local swimming pool where I swam a dozen lengths and checked the swim workout app included on the device. The app is amazing, it told me my swim distance, laps, average pace and calorie burn. Apple ran around a million swims to make sure it got those stats right.

When you get into the water the Watch automatically locks the display to prevent any accidental screen touches from water.When you get out the water it’s kind of fun, as when you rotate the Digital Crown you hear a little noise, which is the Apple Watch playing a series of frequencies designed to push the water out of the speaker. (Apple actually figured out what sounds would most efficiently empty that particular space around the speaker).

Battery life is much improved in Apple Watch, you get up to 18-hours. However, Apple continues to make a slight compromise in that the watch face isn’t always on, meaning you must raise your wrist to see the time, rather than checking it quietly during that boring meeting (Hint: Tap the watchface to check the time).

Final thoughts

There is a great deal to like about the new Apple Watch. You can use it more widely, it has become far more independently useful even without an iPhone, and the new fitness tracking, GPS and water resistance make it the world’s most advanced fitness tracker. Indeed, if you are looking for a fitness tracker I’d recommend thinking about one of these, given the most sophisticated fitness trackers cost almost as much, but just aren't as versatile.

You see, for all its fitness focused features Apple Watch Series 2 has a huge host of apps available too it, which means you can use it to get a cab to the beach, hire a surf board, reserve the restaurant and pay for your meal. And more.

In future it seems inevitable the Watch will grow an LTE radio and become a truly independent device, but ib the here and now I think the new model means it's time to try the smartwatch. Also watch the second user market, as over half of current Apple Watch users are expected to upgrade to the new device, so you may find a bargain.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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