When I thought of a topic to begin this blog with, I finally decided to talk about the brand new Apple Watch Series 2. Especially in favor of the differences between the new model Series 2 and the Original Apple Watch. I tested the silver aluminum version of both watches. I purposely don't give much focus on the software since that may change over time.
The cases of the two watches look almost indistinguishable from one another, at least looking at the front, button sizes and button placement. Looking closer you see that the new watch is exactly 0.9mm thicker than the original one. But there’s two reasons why that doesn’t really matter. First, you can’t really tell the difference by simply looking at one or the other model without comparing them side by side. Second, and much more striking, they both are really, really thick compared to any other non-smart time-telling-only watch. Of course, when you look at other gps enabled triathlon, swimming or running wrist tools, the Apple Watch compares pretty well. From a fashion perspective it still is a fat watch. I’m guessing Apple didn’t get that much negative feedback for the original watch’s thickness and therefore didn’t press on getting it thinner, in favor of the battery. Because if nobody cares how thick a device is, why not give it some more battery power, right? (I’m looking at you, Apple! Why not make the paper thin current iPhones a little bit thicker and give them a better battery?)
From a fashion perspective it still is a fat watch.
When you exchange your first watch for it’s newer counterpart the first time you will probably notice the size difference. The Series 2 has a thicker glass front. The backs of both devices feature heartrate measuring double cameras and lights. On the Original Watch the black back was just disturbed by the four small circles. The Series 2 has a silver circle around each of the cameras and lights, supposedly for getting a brighter surrounding. I’d like to hear if dark-skinned or tattooed people, which had some troubles with the first watch, have better luck with the Series 2.
The feeling I have wearing the Watch Series 2 is almost exactly the same as it was wearing the Original Apple Watch. Because of the same material, the same color and nearly the same size. Your experience may differ, of course, if you switch to another material like the completely new ceramic edition. Also if you switch between the two sizes 4.2mm and 3.8mm you probably notice the change. But if you have the same model and size, it’s practically the same. There’s one difference though, which comes off one of its new features. The new Apple Watch is waterproof for 50m. That makes the Apple Watch Series 2 the first apple product ever that’s, as Apple calls it, swim proof. That’s what changes my experience with the watch. One thing less to care about. Washing Hands? No Problem. Taking a shower? No Problem. Going into my favorite bathing facility while filling my fitness rings and looking at the time now and then? Easily done with the Series 2.
That’s what changes my experience with the watch. One thing less to care about.
So while the original Apple Watch from 2015 was pretty water repellent already, the new one allows for much more water. The mechanism for this is kind of genius. Since a speaker needs air to function, the apple watch lets water into its speaker. But when the watch emerges from the water there’s an option to eject the water. You can invoke this function from the Watch’s control center. (Yes, you have to do this actively and you better not forget it.) Or, when you go for a workout, the watch screen can be locked for touch. When starting a swimming workout, this happens automatically. To unlock it, you have to turn the digital crown. This starts a sound, specifically designed to press the water out of the speaker hole. That’s strange and curious. You can let the watch eject the water out of its speaker, but you can’t do that silently because every time this sound emerges.
Note, that while swimming is explicitly advertised, the watch still isn’t meant for complimenting your diving gear. It probably wouldn’t survive an even shallow dive. The 50m water resistance means it has to take the pressure equivalent to being in a completely stilll water in a depth of 50m. But that depth safety vanishes drastically when the water or the watch is moving. And that makes it safe to do some swimming, but not more.
The touch display obviously doesn’t work properly under water because water conducts electricity and the watch can’t detect your fingers anymore. The connectivity doesn’t work either. You can test this for yourself by simply looking under water for the connection warning symbol at the top of the watch's screen. The water distorts the signal and even in 15cm deep water the connection is lost. Of course the watch gets it back the instant you take it out of the water. Also when you let water run over the screen, the watch shuts off.
The second big new feature of the watch is GPS enabled positioning, now for the first time without an accompanying iPhone. So for your next 10 mile run around an airport you don’t have to pack your iPhone. That’ll easily get your 2 minutes earlier to the end because of the reduced weight, I am sure.
The declared battery lasting time for having gps enabled is 5 hours. I haven’t tested this yet, but others seem to find that fitting. As my co-host Holger mentioned, this means the watch doesn’t last long enough for an olympic length triathlon with an average finishing time. Too bad. For a slow novice runner like me that means the watch should outlast my running stamina by far. Indeed what makes the Series 2 thicker than the first Apple Watch is it’s bigger battery to support the GPS and the faster processor.
For a slow novice runner like me that means the watch should outlast my running stamina by far.
I tested both watches on the same runs in various combinations. Series 2 without connection to the phone and relying on its own GPS versus Original Watch with a connection to the phone. I also tested both watches without a phone connection on the same run. All results baseline is they always showed different values for almost everything.
My comparison of the first watch’s iPhone assisted GPS and the Series 2’s integrated GPS showed some differences for a short run. The reaction time of the Original Watch was around one second slower than on the Series 2 to begin the workout. The Original measured a slightly shorter distance of 3.02 kilometers in comparison to the 3.1 kilometers of the Series 2, which makes a difference of about 3% in length. Because a lot of results of these workouts base on the covered track, that didn't quite fit. There were deviations in current pace, overall pace, split times and more. Even the measured calories and the weather(!) differed. Okay, why the weather differed I don’t know, but it certainly isn’t the watch’s GPS measuring’s fault.
When you don’t leave your iphone at home while doing a workout the watch falls back to the iphones integrated GPS for saving it’s own battery. This is pretty neat. So the watch uses it’s implemented GPS when necessary, but doesn’t waste power on it. There is no indicator which GPS is used or how accurate the GPS currently works. It just works.
What still doesn’t work is listening to anything but apple music on the watch via bluetooth. So you can sync your favorite playlist to your watch - when the watch is connected to the wifi and its loading cable and the iphone via that wifi - but that’s it. No podcasts like Dirty Minutes Left, no listening to audiobooks, no nothing that doesn’t count as music. (There’s always the hack to declare anything as music in itunes, putting it into a playlist, syncing it to your iphone and syncing that to your watch, but that’s everything but comfy.) So until apple allows third party apps to load audio files onto the watch and play them from there, the only viable way is to schlepp your iphone with you on your tours.
On a run with both watches without the iPhone the Series 2 of course had the unfair advantage of integrated GPS. But since there are many people out there who go for a run with an Original Watch and leave their iPhone at home, this needed to be considered as well. This time the deviations were pretty extreme. To get a bet on the running tracks length you have to calibrate the Original Watch by going for a run with the watch and it’s iPhone for at least 20 minutes. These guesses turn out to be vague at best. The guessed distance of this run by the Original Watch was wrong by 11%. You can’t rely on any value that’s based on that, like pace and calorie burning.
GPS in the watch enables completely new kinds of apps that couldn’t exist before. Like navigation without the iPhone. Not only for hiking but also for running or cycling or other sports with some distance to track. I could imagine apps for canoeing or standalone turn by turn car navigation. Maybe you could even give your cat a watch to log where it’s been the whole night. I cannot wait to see what ideas real developers can come up with. GPS can be a pretty helpful feature.
The new battery also powers the new two core processor that’s build into apples SIP 2, the System in a Package version 2. As a user you don’t really notice the number of cores, of course, but the system and the watch seem just the right bit snappier than the original Watch. This shows in a lot of things. The few seconds which the watch’s screens stays on after raising your arm are over much earlier on the Series 2 than on the Original. That’s kind of logical, but weird. Also the workout I did started nearly one second earlier on the Series 2 than it did on the Original Apple Watch. Siri reacts a lot faster (but unfortunately not cleverer and is still of pretty restricted use). The most noticeable feature in speed is the butter smooth scrolling on the Apple Watch Series 2 which has evolved a lot since the first processor.
The most noticeable feature in speed is the butter smooth scrolling on the Apple Watch Series 2
That new snappiness is the reason Apple build a hybrid of the original Apple Watch and the Series 2. It’s the original not-waterproof enclosure with the new, faster SIP 2. They call it Series 1, which makes the original Watch an awkward Methusalem. The new watchOS 3 works fine on the first watch, and in fact makes it a lot more useful, but I doubt there will be another iteration of system software that will run on the Original Apple Watch.
Opening Apps on the Series 2 feels sometimes faster. The reason they don’t always load much faster is the watchOS 3’s clever memory management. It tries to keep as many recently used apps in its memory as it safely can, but the algorithm sometimes kicks some Apps out of the memory. Changing the watchface via swiping from side to side works more reliable in general, just as the rest of the watch’s interface. Even force touching the device seems to work better and react faster. I don’t like forcefully pressing an immovable object, and am happy that watchOS 3 uses this brutal feature much less than before, but sometimes you still have to use it, like for adjusting your watch faces without using your iPhone.
When you like to collect Apple Watches, the new iOS 10 is the right platform for you. You might want to use one very beautiful rose gold aluminum watch for showing off at the local walmart but like to play golf with your friends wearing your real gold watch? (The gold edition isn’t part of the Series 1 upgrade and seems to be silently removed from the apple watch page overall.) I tried having two watches for some time now. I made a backup of my original watch and restored that on the new one. That took about 10 minutes for syncing all apps and settings back to the new watch. What really surprised me was that the activity rings are shared from each watch to the iPhone and are synced back to the currently connected watch. You can only have one watch connected to your iphone at the time, but there’s an option for automatically selecting the watch which you raised on your wrist last.
I went for a whole day wearing both watches on my left wrist for comparing their battery life. Since you can only connect one watch at a time to one iphone, I turned the bluetooth on my phone off and therefore didn't connect any of the watches for a better testing environment. There's to say that, first, wearing a watch without an accompanying iPhone doesn't provide much use. Apples own watch apps are allowed to connect over wifi to the internet. So whenever I was at place where I had my iphone connected to the wifi before, my watches both loaded new emails, new imessages and got new notifications for my friends activities. That's about it. No Tweetbot for example.
Secondly, wearing two watches doesn't get you closer to any goal except looking ridiculous. Since you can only connect one watch at once, the second remains pretty useless all the time. In the Apple Watch iPhone App there's an option to automatically connect the watch which was unlocked and raised on an arm last. Also you can manually connect which watch you want. But only one at a time. So getting a model for sports and one for showing off at your local coffee shop may be a reasonable idea, but wearing two at the same time definitely is not.
First, wearing a watch without an accompanying iPhone doesn't provide much use. Secondly, wearing two watches doesn't get you closer to any goal except looking ridiculous.
On this day, wearing both watches without using GPS on the Series 2 and without connecting one of them to the phone they both lasted pretty much exactly the same time. I went from 100% to 33% on the Original One and from 99% to 30% on the Series 2. So if that's any indicator, the Series 2 lasts a little bit less even. Only in this situation of course. I couldn't think of a fair testing environment for having them connected to the phone.
The fourth and last new feature of the Apple Watch Series 2 is it's new display, which has a luminance of 1000 nits compared to the 450 nits of the first Apple Watch. These 550 nits can make the difference on a semi-sunny day, but on most occasions it will - like the last one - be bright enough in most moments and to dark in very sunny moments.
The Ambient Light Sensor seems to work better on the Series 2 than on the Original Apple Watch. When I went for a run at sunset which ended in twilight the Series 2 showed me a nice, adequately lit screen, while the Original Watch tried to burn the skin of my face (but luckily failed due to it's low overall brightness). That's the reason I never turned on the full brightness on the Original Watch, except for testing.
When in Sunlight the Series 2 has indeed the noticeably brighter display. Also for looking at the screen under sunlit water this brightness is indeed helpful.
When in Sunlight the Series 2 has indeed the noticeably brighter display.
I chose to get my Series 2 watch with a different watch band this time. The options in color changed quite a lot, because that's what's easily changeable by apples fashion marketing department. I wanted a silver aluminum watch again. But since the white rubber band wears off pretty quickly and takes every bit of color from clothes it can find, I decided to go for the woven nylon band instead, which was my only other choice. And now that I have worn that a while I like it pretty much. It feels more like fabric made of cloth than of plastic, but plastic has the advantage of being ignorant to water and being cleaned much easier.
So now you can decide if you want the new top notch model starting at $369 in the US (~419€ in Germany) or the Series 1 with the fast new processor but without GPS or waterproofing for $100 (~100€) less. Of course you can go for the Original Watch for about $250€ as well.
For me personally the waterproofness is the ultimate feature – because who would really want to wear a gadget for practically his or her whole awake daytime on his or her sweating body without the ability to wash it properly? – but if your clock ticks different than mine, you're free to go for the now faster Apple Watch Series 1 for a price that almost competes with other fitness wearables and a lot more features or even the Original Watch which still is a lot better than wearing no smart watch at all.
Who would really want to wear a gadget for practically his or her whole awake daytime on his or her sweating body without the ability to wash it properly?
The feature I like the most about the Apple Watch as a product is it’s ability to motivate me to move. Every. Single. Day. This is very awesome, because I didn’t before. And to be honest, it didn’t click for a good year until suddenly I realized that filling the activity rings on the watch is something I simply must accomplish every day.
The new watchfaces work for me as well. The analog watchface with the rings together beneath the clock hands gives you another nice feature. When you enable the now usually deactived time travel feature, you can see on this watchface your progress over the length of the day, which is pretty nice. This only works if the activity rings were indeed on the very watch you try to look up this feature at, not synced back from one of your other watches via the iPhone.
The feature I like the most about the Apple Watch as a product is it's ability to motivate me to move.
So, is the new Watch series 2 worth it’s money? Should you buy the Series 1 instead? Should you wait another unknown time period for the third version? I can’t really tell you, when you don’t already know after having read this article. For a fit athlete with interests in long distance triathlon or runners who - like me - like to listen to audiobooks by Andreas Eschbach it maybe isn’t the watch for you. But if GPS is exactly the feature which you waited for and didn’t buy the first watch for, go for it.
Despite of its fitness features it also is a pretty smart Companion for your iPhone. I use it a lot for all notifications (my iPhone is now silent at all times except for waking me up), for looking predefined things up quickly like the time, weather, current fuel prices, or the remaining time of the podcast running on my iphone. I love the Apple Watch Series 2 for many of its features and would definitely buy one again.
Despite of its fitness features it also is a pretty smart Companion for your iPhone.