- Waterproof capability
- Built-in GPS
- Brighter, more legible screen
- Two day battery life
- Faster dual-core processor
- Lots of third-party apps
- iOS only
- Increased size and weight
Apple Watch Series 2 – Introduction
Apple has attempted to build on the platform provided by the original Apple Watch with the release of the Apple Watch Series 2. This smartwatch aims to solidify the dominant position of the consumer electronics giant in the niche, while also addressing some of the bugbears associated with the first release. But is the Apple Watch Series 2 a success, and is it ultimately worth purchasing?
Even the harshest critic of Apple would have to concede that the corporation has always excelled in design, and thus the original Apple Watch is already instantly recognizable. It is perhaps not surprising then that Apple has not strayed significantly from this design with the Apple Watch Series 2, certainly resisting the temptation to include a circular face.
The Digital Crown has this been retained, and it still provides a convenient way of zooming in and out of apps, as well as delivering general navigation functionality. Meanwhile, new features have been added to the button located beneath the crown, transforming it into an engaging way to scroll through the new apps dock.
The Series 2 is available in a range of colours: Gold, Rose Gold, Space Grey and Silver, with the gold-plated option having been phased out. But the ceramic appearance of the smartwatch is rather attractive, and it is also notable that the new Apple Watch is significantly more durable than the previous generation. Numerous options are available to consumers, but the smartwatch depicted in this review is the 38mm Gold case with midnight blue band.
Strap options are plentiful, and the sport strap is particularly useful for those who intend to swim with the Apple Watch Series 2. Apple also provides an extra strap in the box with this device, which is a welcome addition. One slightly surprising aspect of this second-generation smartwatch is that it is marginally thicker than the previous release. However, this is so fractional that it is only really perceptible when placing the two watches next to one another.
Performance is always key to any item of consumer electronics, and with this aim in mind Apple has updated the processes in the Apple Watch Series 2. The dual-core S2 CPU is around 50 percent faster than the processor included in the original Apple Watch, while the GPU responsible for handling the visual display is twice as fast as its predecessor. This means that the everyday operation of common functions is simply more rapid.
Testing of a wide variety of applications reveals that the Apple Watch Series 2 loads everything more speedily than the previous generation. It also boots up more quickly, and overall just delivers a slick user experience; probably the best among smartwatches available on the market.
Apple has included a new brighter screen with the Apple Watch Series 2, and this makes reading information easier in any lighting conditions. Indeed, the sharpness of the display makes this new smartwatch excellent for pretty much any task that you attempt with it.
This is the major alteration with the Apple Watch Series 2, as the screen dimensions are identical to the first release in the series. The 1.65-inch screen is thus retained, with the 390 x 312 OLED display maintaining the attractive visage from the first release.
However, with the Watch Series 2 now capable of 1000 nits, the improvement in clarity is certainly tangible. And Apple’s utilization of OLED means that black backgrounds are turned off when not in use, ensuring that the brightness of the display is preserved, as well as the battery life of the device.
This detailed display is an outstanding aspect of the Apple Watch Series 2, and indeed the technology used seems to have influenced Apple in eventually including OLED in forthcoming iPhone releases.
Apple has paid particular attention to the waterproofing and health-tracking capabilities of the second generation Apple Watch, with the Californian corporation desiring for the smartwatch to be viewed as a fitness device. This was one area where the original Apple Watch could be legitimately criticized, as it was only water-resistant to a depth of one meter for 30 minutes.
This new release improves massively on this functionality by delivering water-resistance at 50 meters under ISO standard 22810:2010. Whereas the original Apple Watch could only really be worn in the shower, the Apple Watch Series 2 is a viable swimming companion.
The new ‘wet mode’ also unlocks the display of the Apple Watch Series 2 and disables touch functionality when activated. This prevents functions from being inadvertently activated while swimming, for example. In order to acknowledge this, Apple has included two new swimming options in the Workout app.
Vastly improving the waterproof capabilities of the Apple Watch Series 2 ensures that this smartwatch instantly becomes more flexible and a superior fitness device.
GPS fitness tracking
Meanwhile, Apple has also included new GPS fitness-tracking functionality in the second-generation Apple Watch, transforming the abilities of this smartwatch. It was massively disappointing when Apple was unable to include GPS in the original Apple Watch, and it is a blessed relief that this features prominently second time round.
The accuracy of tracking in the Series 2 is also somewhat improved over the original Apple Watch. Attempting to trick the tracking system by cycling at different speeds, for example, yields impressive results, as the next generation smartwatch delivers a superior performance in this department to its predecessor.
Haptics and heart rate monitoring are also included in the new Breathe feature, ensuring that vital signs and athletic performance can be tracked at all times.
Apple had originally featured fitness prominently in the advertising for the Apple Watch, but the Apple Watch Series 2 really delivers on this promise. The combination of an extremely accurate GPS system with vastly improved waterproofing means that this is now a viable fitness tracker, which can compete with the likes of Fitbit.
Apple has also dropped a new operating system for the second generation of its smartwatch, with watchOS3 debuting. The consumer electronics behemoth has already promised to make continual and regular improvements to the operating system, and has done so since the first Apple Watch launched, but the latest iteration takes advantage of this entirely new system.
watchOS3 encompasses a wide range of new features and improvements, many of which aim to improve the way that users interact with the Apple Watch itself. New functions such as SOS Emergency attempt to expand the palette of uses that the Apple Watch Series 2 delivers.
There is also an increased focus on music, with 2GB made available for storage. Navigation has been made considerably more convenient, while the customization of watch faces is also handled with aplomb. Siri makes a welcome appearance, and delivers the intuitive package that we have come to associate with the personal assistant.
In addition, there are several other tweaks and improvements included in watchOS3 that are too numerous to list here. But the overall feeling is of a better user interface and feature set, that enables users to derive far more usage and genuine benefit from this smartwatch.
This is one area where Apple could certainly improve on the original Apple Watch, and arguably battery life is even a black mark against the entire range of Apple mobile products. The original Apple Watch had to be charged with far too much regularity, and it is obvious this needed to change rapidly with the second iteration of the series.
Thankfully, it can be stated with conviction that the battery life in the Apple Watch Series 2 is much improved over its predecessor. Deriving two days’ worth of charge from the battery included in the Apple Watch Series 2 is perfectly plausible, although the GPS-tracking features do drain the battery significantly more rapidly.
By no means does the Apple Watch compare to competitors such as Pebble’s range of smartwatches, which deliver 10 days of battery life on a single charge. But considering the complexity involved, there is no doubt that the Apple Watch Series 2 delivers much better battery life than the original Apple Watch, making it a much more viable everyday wristwatch.
Considering that the Apple Watch Series 2 appears almost physically identical to the first release in the range, it would be easy to think that it represents an incremental upgrade. But in reality this second smartwatch release from Apple is a massive improvement on the original. It scores heavily in both convenience and performance, while the new features and functionality ensure that this is now a credible sports and fitness device, rather than a limited and trivial tracker, as was pretty much the case with its predecessor.
Usability has also been significantly improved, and the next generation operating system delivers several nifty bells and whistles. It is also notable that the Apple Watch Series 2 is more durable than its predecessor, while the ability to take it underwater provides welcome additional flexibility.
In short, this is undoubtedly the best smartwatch available on the market, and one that will inevitably result in Apple’s existing hegemony of the market solidifying still further.