Review: Apple Watch Series 2

I can’t help but smile every time I think about how Apple Watch has helped me over the past year. I’m healthier, more aware, and I can communicate easily, all using one device strapped to my wrist.

The new white Apple Watch Edition is stunning to see in person. I often talk about Apple’s attention to detail—this new ceramic watch epitomizes that. After inventing a new ceramic powder, this is how Apple describes the process of making the watch:

More than 70 diamond-grit CNC cutters machine every Apple Watch Edition case—a process that takes up to six hours. Each case then undergoes two hours of polishing to increase strength and achieve its characteristic pearl-like finish.

I want this ceramic watch as much as I wanted the black iPhone—it’s gorgeous.

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There are a couple of features of Apple Watch Series 2 that I was immediately interested in: GPS and using AirPods during my exercise. Both of these mean I don’t need to take my iPhone with me on my daily walk, which has given me a strange sense of freedom.

As I said in my iPhone 7 review, I didn’t use Bluetooth headphones before because every one I tried was horrible. This meant I needed to bring my iPhone to listen to music. The AirPods changed all that, allowing me to listen to a playlist on my watch and still have quality sound.

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It seems odd to me that you can only shuffle songs when viewing the songs screen on your watch. If you’re in the Artist, Album, or Playlist screen you get to choose the source or Library view. Not a big deal, just weird.

Double-tapping on the AirPods allow you to play/pause the music, which is very handy. Unlike the iPhone, you can’t change the double-tap to control Siri on the watch.

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Of course, having the phone with you also means you’re still available. I want my walk to be about my walk—nothing else. It’s easy to turn on Airplane Mode, but I always worry that I’m missing something at work, so I don’t bother turning that on. Without the phone in my pocket, I’m free to enjoy the music and a peaceful bit of exercise.

Having GPS allows the watch to sync my walk location to my iPhone. This gives me a map in the workout section of my daily activity, which not only shows where I walked, but also how I did.

If you look at the map, you can see it’s colored. Yellow is the average pace for this particular walk; Green is above the average pace; and Red is below the average pace.

This is tremendous information to have. I can look at my week’s walk and see where I am slowing down and try to figure out why. Is it the area? Traffic? To my surprise, my second mile is always faster than my first mile. Maybe I don’t need to figure out why, but I still like to have the information.

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GPS is also available to a new set of exercise routines for swimmers. I know how to swim, but I don’t do it in my exercise routine. Apple Watch Series 2 is water resistant to 50 meters, the industry standard for swimmers. The swim workout can count laps, track average lap pace, and auto-detect stroke type to accurately measure active calorie burn.

That, folks, is wonderful attention to detail. That has Apple written all over it.

The attention to detail doesn’t stop there. The other feature they added for swimmers has to be the coolest feature of all.

When you swim, there is a good chance that the water will hit the screen causing accidental taps. However, when you start a swim workout, Apple Watch auto locks the screen to prevent accidental taps. When you are done the workout, just turn the digital crown and the screen will become active again.

There is one other problem Apple had to solve, and they did so brilliantly. Apple Watch has a speaker and in order for the speaker to work, it needs air. Apple allows water into the speaker cavity, but when you turn the digital crown at the end of your workout, it activates the speaker vibration to push water out of the cavity. It’s an amazing solution to the problem.

Information

For me, Apple Watch is all about information. My screen is set to the activity rings, so I see all day how I’m doing. That’s important to me.

When I first started using the watch, I was obsessed with closing all of the rings, but that’s changed a bit for me. Now I just want the information about how I’m doing.

I understand that there are consequences for not doing my exercise or for not moving as much as I did the day before. If the rings are hidden, I may not look at it on days that are really busy, but having it front and center means I see it all the time. I don’t want those reminders that some apps give you to get out and walk—I just want the information. I’ll make the decision to exercise on my own.

Important information isn’t just about fitness or closing rings. It’s whatever information is important to you—texts, emails, or other notifications that pop up on your screen.

This is where the Apple Watch becomes such a personal device. What’s important to me may not be important to you. That doesn’t matter though because the watch is so versatile, it can be a companion to both of us in different ways.

I use my iPhone differently because of my watch, and that will continue to happen thanks to GPS and AirPods. I’m already using it differently in the past week of using Apple Watch Series 2.

Performance, Battery, and Display

We all know that performance was an issue with the first Apple Watch. I would tap on the rings and the watch would think so long about whether to open or not that I’d just give up. That’s no longer the issue it was.

If you are opening an app for the first time, it will take a few seconds to open—certainly not as long as it did before, but it won’t be instant. Once an app is open, returning to it will be almost instantaneous.

This is fine for me because I don’t actually use that many apps on my phone. Music, Fitness, Workouts, Weather, Maps, all kinds of notifications, and Messages—things like that are main watch apps.

I put my watch on first thing in the morning and take it off when I go to bed at night. I’ve ever run out of battery on my old or new watch when I keep this routine. I always have plenty of battery left at the end of the day, even with GPS workouts running and listening to music on the AirPods.

I think Apple had a lot of battery power to play with when they added these new features, but it appears they are still using it wisely.

Apple says the Apple Watch Series 2 display is two times brighter than the previous version. I know this: when I go outside, I can now see the display perfect, even in sunlight.

I’m not sure what the specs are on that, but I know it works much better.

Bottom Line

For me, Apple Watch is about improving our lives and making us more efficient. It has done that for me many times over and Apple Watch Series 2 will continue that journey.



  • StruckPaper

    AW2 does seem like a decent “toc” follow-up.

    One thing:

    “There is one other problem Apple had to solve, and they did so brilliantly. Apple Watch has a speaker and in order for the speaker to work, it needs air. Apple allows water into the speaker cavity, but when you turn the digital crown at the end of your workout, it activates the speaker vibration to push water out of the cavity. It’s an amazing solution to the problem.”

    It’s an old solution. If it is brilliant, it has been brilliant for some time.

    • DanielSw

      Absolutely nothing wrong with old if it solves a problem.

      • StruckPaper

        Agree. But my point is that the problem is already solved. It’s not amazing. And it’s not Apple’s brilliance. 🙂

        • PhilBoogie

          I agree. No idea why the author thinks this is ‘Apple -brilliance’.

  • Tom_P

    Glad to know the watch make you more healthy. Healthy life is happy life, and less doctor bills. Seems it’s worth it to you already.

  • Alexcroce@me.com

    The ceramic case may be more transparent to radio waves than the metal case. It would be an interesting experiment to compare the two cases, by measuring the range at which blue tooth connectivity drops off between the Watch and an iPhone or earphone. This might show how much more efficient a ceramic iPhone case could be for reception and transmission. An iPhone which is significantly more efficient at radio frequencies may have improved battery life and range.

  • DanielSw

    Thanks, Jim, for your reviews of the new Apple goodies. I think the new Apple Watch Edition is much more sensible than the gold one. Sophisticated, classy, and exclusive without being outrageously expensive.

  • JohnK

    Is there any way to listen to music from the Apple Watch without having the phone nearby? Any services that allow you to store a playlist or album on the watch? (I don’t have an Apple Watch or Apple Music subscription) Just a watch and bluetooth headphones on me? Yes, please.

    As a runner, the GPS would be a huge plus for me, but if I still need to have my phone on me to also listen to music while I run, I might as well just use the GPS in the phone.

    • Chris Licata

      Yes, the music app allows you to create a playlist on your phone that is locally downloaded to the watch. They watch has something like 5.5GB of available user storage for that reason

      • JohnK

        Thanks! Is this currently Apple Music only or do you know if the Spotify App has the same storage on the watch?

        • you’d rather have no device than listen to some of your own music on the devce? how strange.

          • JohnK

            I have a solution now, which is to carry my iPhone when I run, I’m just looking for something better and I’d rather have $250 in my pocket than have an Apple Watch that doesn’t work with Spotify. Apple Music was DOA for me…I’m sure it’s gotten better, but too little too late for me.

  • PhilBoogie

    “The swim workout can count laps, track average lap pace, and auto-detect stroke type to accurately measure active calorie burn.

    That, folks, is wonderful attention to detail. That has Apple written all over it.”

    Other might say they are copying what the competition (Polar, Garmin, Suunto) have done for many years now. And just as an FYI: GPS doesn’t work under water, so your Open Swim won’t get a map afterwards (some people put the watch in their swim cap).

    Strange how Apple forgot to include a triathlon app, glaringly absent.

    • Luda

      I think you are not completely correct on this one. All thriatlon watches work with outdoor swimming and are trying to calculate the path by connecting the “patches” made by the watch while above ir close to the water surface. Of course this doesn’t work without glitches so to get it completely foolproof one can get watch under the swimming cap. Please correct me if I am wrong.

      • PhilBoogie

        That is indeed correct. The GPS signal can be received ‘an inch or two’ under water. And yes, the line gets drawn from the positions that it did register.

  • “I’m healthier, more aware, and I can communicate easily, all using one device strapped to my wrist..”

    I have a high opinion of the Watch — which I’ve worn daily since the launch — in regard to everything except for the workout feature.

    I have the opposite opinon.

    My workouts are too long, killing the Watch battery and, if I don’t catch the low battery warning and cancel the workout, I lose my workout data entirely.

    I could live with this early-adopter issue if the Watch “remembered” the workout leading up to the power cut, but its doesn’t. And cut the session short is a half-a@@ed solution as it is.

    My wife’s run into a similar issue with her Watch. Both of us often skip the workout function on longer workouts, which is a shame given that its one of the Watch’s best features.

    As an interim solution, I wish the iPhone had camera AND a charging hump on the back that I could use to get couple more hours out of the Watch while I was out on the road.

    • how long are your workouts? ive often done 2 hours and not run out of battery by nights end.

      if you go long than that it’s recommended to disable the constant heart rate monitoring for the workout.

      • hi, mdelvecchio,

        Rides over two hours typically kill the battery. I wear a 38mm which doesn’t help, and I train at mid-day rather than in the morning, when the Watch would have a full charge.

        I’ll try your suggestion, thank you, but recording heart rate is a nice feature.

        • Luda

          I use battery pack for recharging while resting on longer runs, hikes or bike rides. A kind of compromise for the moment. I say give Apple 2-3 iterations untill battery technology together with power savings from newer CPU architecture etc. gives us 2-3 days of battery or 10+ of GPS usage. The other actors like Garmin have 11-12 years of advantage of designing wrist-worn GPS devices.