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One month with the Apple Watch Series 2 and WatchOS3

GPS sensor and better water resistance target fitness tracking with Apple Watch Series 2.

Forget talk about Apple being second only to Rolex in worldwide watch sales.

Apple’s Watch is not a direct competitor to Rolex. It is a fitness tracker first and wearable computer second. Being a wristwatch is only one of many applications.

Yes, it is a smartwatch. When they first appeared people didn’t know what that meant. Apple’s original smartwatch reflected that uncertainty.

What people want


Apple now has a better idea of what people expect when they spend hundreds of dollars on a wrist device.

Health and fitness tracking[1] are top of the list.

Although the first Watch was great at tracking heath and fitness, it had flaws in other departments. Its Byzantine user interface confused users. Displays were often too busy or otherwise hard to read.

The fact that you can set up “complications” warns you something is amiss.

Battery life was more than tolerable, but not outstanding.

Nudge, nudge


When the first generation Watch isn’t tracking health and fitness, it sends notifications. There could be a constant stream of, often unnecessary, disruptions.

Getting haptic wrist taps for incoming mail or other messages suits some people. Fans often talk about finding it helpful to glance at a message in a meeting when looking at a phone would be rude. It’s as rude to read a wrist message, but less obvious.

For others frequent distraction makes it hard to focus.

You can tweak the Watch to send only important notifications. That’s tricky. It is simpler to silence them.

Upgraded hardware, software


Apple upgraded the hardware and the software. The Apple Watch Series 2 is an improvement. The move to WatchOS 3 is also important.

Together they fix many of the earlier Watch’s shortcomings.

Meanwhile, Apple bumped up the health and fitness tracking. This now plays an even bigger role.

Series 2 hardware includes GPS and better water resistance. Both underpin health and fitness use.

GPS helps users navigate walks, runs and bike rides. It means you don’t always need your phone when moving about. That’s a win.

Thanks to better water resistance you can go out in the rain without destroying the Watch. It can go in the shower with you after you’ve worked up a sweat. You can also use it for wet activities such as kayaking or swimming.

Water resistance


There’s something clever about how the Series 2 handles water. If you enter swimming mode, the Watch screen locks. This is necessary as flowing water can trigger the touch screen. The Watch software adjusts to your swimming style to help you measure progress.

Then when you finish swimming, spin the Watch crown to clear out the water. The phone makes a beeping sound. This is the speakers ejecting water from the speaker chamber. It expels all the water from inside the Watch.

Looks, looks, looks


At first sight it is hard to tell an Apple Watch Series 2 from an original model. The case is 1mm thicker. You can’t see that or feel it when the Watch is on your wrist. The two models have to be side-by-side for you to notice any difference.

If you do place them side by side, you will also notice the Series 2 has brighter display than the earlier model. It is now bright enough to read out-of-doors on a sunny day. Text and colours that were hard to see in the first Watch are now visible.

Battery still a weakness


Battery life is better. The Series 2 battery is larger than the one in the first Watch. This gives you an hour or two extra.

In practice that doesn’t make much difference. The Watch still can’t stretch to two days between charges. A couple of extra hours help if you’re on, say, an overnight flight or away from home overnight, but otherwise nothing changes.

There’s a notable speed boost between the first Watch and the Series 2 running WatchOS3. While there is a new chip, this is as much to do with software as hardware. If you own an original Watch, you’ll get a performance bump upgrading the software.

Prices start at NZ$600 for a 38mm Apple Watch Series 2 with a sports band. At the top end you can pay over NZ$2000.

Impressions


My favourite Apple Watch application may also be the most trivial. When my Mac logs out, the Watch bypasses the normal password procedure. It gets me back into the computer faster and with no fuss.

In a similar way, the Watch is useful when logging onto sites or services that use two-factor authentication. I can either read codes sent by SMS from the Watch or use the Authy app to find a security code.

Apart from being able to tell the time, the only other Watch application I use all the time is the health and fitness tracking.

The frequent reminders to stand are useful when I sit at a desk for too long. I’m uncertain what to make of the reminders to breath — but I play along. It’s not clear whether it does any good.

It’s not always easy to read the Apple Watch Series 2 display. In part that’s because an old sports injury makes it hard to twist my wrist to a comfortable reading position. But also because, despite being bright, screen text and information can still be hard to see.

In practice a 42mm screen is too small for most applications. Text-based applications and that includes any form of written message, are hard to read because the characters are tiny.

Conclusion


Two years after the first Watch was announced, Apple made incremental hardware improvements. The updated software is simpler and slimmed down. A WatchOS3 upgrade makes an old Watch feel new.

If you couldn’t see a reason to buy the first Watch, there’s little to change your mind.

The Apple Watch Series 2 still won’t make you more productive or ease your working day. It can make you fitter and healthier. You might live longer.

The first Watch was a great fitness tracker. Apple has double-downed on this. The Watch Series 2 allows for more fitness tracking over a wider variety of activities.

Heath and fitness tracking were the main reasons to buy the first Apple Watch. If you already have one, the If you don’t, the Apple Watch Series 2 is worth considering, but it is not for everyone.



  1. For me that was always the most important application. It actually encourages me to take more exercise. I find I walk the long way round and take extra trips to get the performance bars to hit their daily targets.  



One month with the Apple Watch Series 2 and WatchOS3 was first posted at billbennett.co.nz

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