Review: Apple Watch Series 2 | iLounge

Review

Review: Apple Watch Series 2

B+
Recommended

Company: Apple

Model: Apple Watch Series 2

MSRP: $369-$1,399

Compatible: iPhone 5 or later

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Phil Dzikiy

Pros: Series 2’s fitness tracking abilities give the Watch a more focused path. The awaited built-in GPS is accurate and adds another dimension to the smartwatch. Swimproof water-resistance will be welcomed by all, but swimmers will also appreciate the detailed swim tracking. Expelling water from the speaker by using the Digital Crown is smart and cool. The display is brighter, and better in direct sunlight. The processor, GPU, and vital watchOS 3 update all help the watch run quicker and smoother than ever before. Microphone performance has improved. Apple apps and features are still strong.

Cons: Though the Watch’s appeal has broadened, it’s still relatively narrow with no true “wow” feature. No notable gains in battery life or charging ability. watchOS 3 and an upgraded processor offer a great benefit to first-gen Apple Watch users as well, at a lower price. We saw some Bluetooth connection issues when playing music straight from the Watch, though they may be sporadic. Though watchOS 3 makes the watch a bit more intuitive, there’s still a bit of a learning curve for non-users. We’ll still have to wait to see how many third-party apps will prove to be truly worthwhile. Lack of elevation tracking may frustrate hikers.

Apple Watch Series 2’s built-in GPS solves a simple problem for many runners and cyclists — you can track your workouts while away from your iPhone. In an era of large iPhones, that’s no small thing. The watch will measure your distance, time, and pace, and you’ll be able to see the route on your iPhone’s activity app, along with calories burned and average heart rate. A built-in GPS has already been available in a number of available fitness trackers for some time, so it does make the Apple Watch feel a bit more “complete,” and our route maps and records appeared to be very accurate in testing.

Apple Watch Series 2 is swimproof. That means it’s water-resistant to 50 meters, standard for a swim watch, though Apple notes in fine print that it “should not be used for scuba diving, waterskiing, or other activities involving high-velocity water or submersion below shallow depth.” For swimmers, though, it’s great. One could argue that’s too narrow a portion of the market, though, and we wouldn’t disagree.

The Series 2 introduces two new workouts in the Workout app: pool swim and open water swim. Open water swim will actually use the GPS to track your swimming route. We were able to test pool swim, which instructs users to calculate the length of the pool for an accurate lap measurement. The Watch will lock up during the swim — so you won’t be able to swipe around and use the watch —but you can view total time, active calories burned, laps, and total yards swam by default, and can add average pace, total calories, and heart rate through the Watch app. Once the workout’s finished, you can turn the digital crown to expel water from the speaker, thus unlocking the watch. In our testing, the watch worked very well when it came to laps and yardage.

As we heard from Apple during the keynote, “calculating calorie burn for swimming is really tricky.” When the workout is finished, results show up in the iPhone Activity app for “active calories” and “total calories.” Presumably, the active calories show the time spent swimming the laps, while the total calories account for that time and any other time spent in the pool, even when resting between laps. The app also gives swimmers the location of the swim, time the workout was done, the weather at that location at the moment, and it even tells you which stroke you used most — I alternated between standard freestyle and breaststroke, so the “mixed” reading would be accurate. The average pace of the Watch doesn’t exclude any resting time in the pool. (For running, you can set the Watch to pause automatically for resting time through the iPhone Watch app.)

A few more tidbits: if you happen to have both an older Watch and Series 2 Watch paired to the same phone, the first-gen Apple Watch will still show swim results on it — it just won’t be able to do that tracking itself. Also, Series 2 doesn’t track elevation, so while you can take the watch hiking to measure other categories, you’ll need the iPhone for elevation.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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