Not everyone needs a smartwatch, or so the statistics tell us. Recent research on watch sales indicate they’ve slowed down considerably this year. Some of that slowdown may be as a result of Google pushing the release of Android Wear 2 in to next year, which will allow Android watches to connect directly to the Google Play store. Garmin have had a good year, as their sports themed gizmos adorn more active wrists but Christmas may well see the numbers getting a huge spike. The gifting season is approaching, and Apple’s new Watch Series 2 could be top of many Christmas Wish Lists.
I liked the original Apple Watch but it was wanting in too many areas. Unpacking this new Apple Watch 2 reveals that its changed, but it’s almost indistinguishable. It still feels beautifully made, sleek and smooth to the touch with its new ceramic back. The second generation watch is ever so slightly thicker by a millimeter and slightly heavier, with the smaller Sport model I tested weighing just over 28 grams.
In the box are the case, an adjustable sport band, a 1 meter charging cable and the USB power adapter. I needed to use the Apple Watch app on my iPhone and you’ll need an iPhone 5 or newer, running the latest version of iOS. The set-up is made remarkably simple by using an animation on the watch to pair it to your phone.
I selected which wrist I’d wear it on, decided on which features I wanted to use and I set a passcode and my SOS details for calling emergency services. After I’d entered my Apple ID details I was ready to go and began installing iPhone apps that are compatible with the Apple Watch.
The original watch was splash-proof, but this new gadget is water-resistant, to 50 meters, and Apple have added new swimming functions to the activity app. You can enter the pool length and have the laps recorded, along with the calorie burn for that exercise and the watch will display laps completed and other details during a swim.
After getting the watch wet, there’s even a clever Water Lock feature that plays a sound to eject water from the speaker, which as well as being amusing is a cleverly engineered way of ensuring the watch returns to normal operation. Apple is careful to say resistant rather than waterproof, so the watch is not designed for scuba-diving or other deep water activities.
As well as improving the speed and performance, Apple have also added a GPS to this new watch, and the difference that makes to fitness tracking is significant. There are no estimations of runs anymore as the watch and the distances are more accurate with the activity app displaying average pace, distances covered, average heart-rate and calories burned.
Regardless of what you’re using the Watch 2 for, the watch’s new screen improves the overall experience and although the resolution is the same, this new screen is twice as bright, and noticeably so although direct sunlight might force to you tilt or twist your wrist.
Apple Watch 2 has also seen a dramatic improvement in its battery life. I wore the watch for two days, and I was genuinely surprised to find I didn’t have to charge for those two days. Connecting the watch to the magnetic charger is a simple task, best done at bed time but if you forget to you can be reasonably confident that you’ll get all or most of a second day from one charge.
There’s an increasing number of apps created for Apple Watch for all sorts of diverse tasks, but for me, the critical things are text and phone notifications and email and calendar events. Apple have made a great job of getting what you need, on to a tiny screen and the addition of dictation to speak a response to a text or email makes it more far more useful than previously.
Apple Watch 2 is pricey though and the original may appeal to users who don’t mind about the water-resistance or fitness features. Those features though, are what make this such a powerful device that’s easy to wear. With apps that will let you turn on your lights or home-heating, features that accurately measure fitness and tools to stay connected to family, friends or even the office, Apple have created something that’s an unobtrusive joy to wear.