Version 2 of any product is always the one to go for, or so they say, especially when it comes to technology.
Such is the case with the latest incarnation of the Apple Watch, now called the Apple Watch Series 2 – although the changes are modest, they do make the watch a whole lot more useful than the first version.
This time, Apple has kept the design mostly the same – in fact, at first glance you’d probably not be able to tell it apart from the original Apple Watch.
However, there are changes, and it’s mostly on the inside.
Although the aesthetic design of the Apple Watch Series 2 is the same as the original Apple Watch and even accepts the same straps as before, there are actually a couple of differences if you look closely.
For one thing, the watch is 0.9mm thicker than the original – it’s a minimal difference and you really can’t tell unless you put the original right next to new one.
The other difference is that there is an additional hole on the side of the Series 2 – apparently, the new improved waterproofing requires one additional opening so that the barometric sensor can work properly.
Yes, that’s right, in case you don’t already know, Apple has improved the waterproofing on the Series 2 and now instead of being splashproof like the original model, it’s now water-resistant down to 50 metres, so you really can take it swimming.
For the Series 2, Apple has retained the three different variants – namely the aluminium and ion-X glass model, the stainless steel and sapphire crystal model and the luxury Apple Watch Edition which now features a ceramic case and sapphire crystal instead of the solid gold from the first generation.
Apart from the price (the ceramic one costs a whopping RM5,699), the different models feature the same 50m water resistance no matter what material – interestingly the aluminium model, which used to feature a composite back (a fancy word for plastic), has now got the same scratch-resistant ceramic back as the other more expensive models.
The one we got is the black stainless steel and sapphire crystal model with a black sports band – I personally still think a watch is more likely to get banged up and scratched than a smartphone is (especially when you stick your hand through the gate and accidentally knock it) so having the added scratch-resistance of the sapphire crystal is always welcome.
More importantly, though, inside is where you’ll find all the most significant changes to the Series 2 – the watch now features a dual-core S2 processor, a slightly bigger battery and a GPS chipset.
The GPS chipset is used to track your outdoor sport activities like swimming or running and have it more accurately track your distance and speed traveled while also using the data to overlay your track on a map in the Activity app.
Yes, if you carried your iPhone around with you, it would also have recorded your location using the iPhone’s GPS, but now you can at least leave your phone at home and still have the advantage of accurate location tracking.
Talking about GPS, Apple automatically turns it on during specific activities only and you have no option to control or to manually turn it on.
On the upside, the GPS starts up much faster than any GPS sports tracker I’ve ever tried – apparently, the watch periodically downloads GPS satellite data from your iPhone and stores that information in the watch so that it can achieve a location lock as fast as possible whenever you start an activity.
Thanks to the new waterproofing measures, Apple has added pool swimming and open water swimming to the list of activities it can track – in case you're wondering, the GPS isn’t used for pool swims but it is on for open water swimming, although it can only accurately track you when your arm is above water.
One thing Apple has done for the pool swim option is to let you enter the length of the pool so it can use the accelerometer to track your calorie burn.
Since water interferes with the touchscreen, when you engage pool swim or open water swimming, the screen is also locked – you unlock the screen by turning the digital crown.
You can also lock the screen manually by swiping up on the main watch screen to bring up Control Centre and tapping the little water droplet icon – useful if you’re say, running in the rain and want to prevent accidentally activating the screen.
Unlocking the screen when in screen lock mode also does something quite interesting – it makes the watch beep loudly a few times.
This loud beeping vibrates the speaker and expels water from the speaker enclosure – if you have a lot of water in there, you really can see it being expelled when you turn the Digital Crown.
Oh yes, the OLED screen on the Series 2 is two times brighter than on the original Apple Watch – you probably won’t notice it indoors, since the watch automatically adjusts brightness, but outside in bright sunlight, it’s actually a little more readable.
Battery life and performance
Thanks to the slightly larger casing, Apple has managed to fit in a slightly larger battery into the Apple Watch Series 2 as well.
While it’s probably meant to compensate for the increased power draw from the GPS chipset, it also seems to increase battery life slightly for day to day use – I’ve noticed that at the end of the day I’d end up with about 20% more battery life left than with the original Apple Watch.
On the 38mm version, this extra battery life will probably take you quite easily to about 1.5 days without charging or just barely till evening of the second day if you don’t engage the sport activity tracking at all.
The 42mm will probably do much better since it has an even bigger battery.
What you'll notice however, is that with the new dual-core S2 processor, apps are actually a lot snappier, especially when starting up certain apps and when doing dictation using Siri.
No review would be complete without some mention of watchOS 3.0, since I think it’s actually a very significant part of the whole Apple Watch experience.
Not only does installing watchOS 3.0 significantly improve the speed of launching apps on the original Apple Watch, but there are a number of enhancements that make the Apple Watch in general a much better smartwatch.
For one thing, Apple has finally added a way to input text by directly writing on the screen with your finger with the Scribble option.
Before watchOS 3.0, the only way you could input text was to have Siri transcribe your voice – while transcription was actually surprisingly good, if you use any special words or colloquialisms it will struggle to transcribe what you’ve just said.
In fact, before watchOS 3.0 I had learned to speak in short, clear sentences if I wanted the Apple Watch to transcribe my speech but finally, with the Scribble option, I can now write out exactly what I want to say.
The other significant change that watchOS 3.0 introduces is the Dock – you can now store up to 10 apps in the Dock so they launch faster and can be accessed quicker.
To get to the Dock, Apple has repurposed the side button (formerly used to bring up a quick contact list) to show you a scrollable list of apps resident in the Dock.
If you're interested in more watchOS 3.0 tips, check out our story here.
I’m one of the early converts to a smartwatch and besides the Apple Watch I’ve also owned various smart activity trackers before that.
Sure, a device like the Apple Watch doesn’t do much beyond what your smartphone already does, but believe me, it’s a lot more useful than you think to just lift your wrist during a run to check and respond to messages and other notifications.
With the Apple Watch Series 2, Apple has made the activity tracking parts even better by adding GPS and beefed up the water resistance so it’s now a very competent device to track your calorie burn when engaging in sporting activities.
At the same time, though, there’s little that has changed that justifies upgrading to the Series 2 if you already have the original Apple Watch, especially since you already get many of the benefits by upgrading the Apple Watch to watchOS 3.0.
If you haven’t already got one though, then the Series 2 is worth a serious look – if you're an iPhone user, Apple's combination of hardware and software improvements in the Apple Watch Series 2 means it's hard to beat, except maybe in price.
Pros: Brighter screen; better battery life; GPS built in; watchOS 3.0
Cons: Battery life could be better.
Processor: Apple S2 dual-core system-on-chip
Display: 1.32in (272 x 340 pixels) OLED force touch display
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi 802.11b/g/n
Features: 50m water resistant, accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate sensor, light sensor, compass, Apple Pay NFC
Size: 38.6 x 33.3 x 11.4mm
Price: RM2,499 (space black stainless steel with sport band)
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
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