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.

Now that the GPS is on board, users have more of a reason to store music on the Watch itself. Before, we mostly just used the watch to control playback when working out. Now, you can leave the iPhone at home and call up your workout mix on the Watch, listening on connected Bluetooth headphones as you run, jog, or walk. You can still store up to 2GB of music on the Watch itself. Note: syncing a playlist still requires the Apple Watch to be charging at the time, and even if the playlist is relatively short, the process seems as slow as it did in the previous Apple Watch.

In theory, this is a great development — store all your workout information on the fly and get your music without another device. But in practice, Apple Watch Series 2 was spotty in its Bluetooth connection. Using the same trusty Bluetooth 4.0 earbuds we’ve used for a while — earbuds which gave us no problems during iPhone 7 testing — Series 2 went from fine to unlistenable and back again over the course of one walk.

 

So, we paired Series 2 with a speaker, and it worked fine. We re-paired it with the earbuds, and got the same problems as earlier. We then paired those earbuds with an iPhone and had zero issues. We then tried a second pair of Bluetooth headphones, and everything was fine. It seems that, at the very least, this Watch isn’t playing nice with all Bluetooth options as it should. This will hopefully be fixed in a watchOS update, but for now, we hope the Watch works as it should with your favorite pair of Bluetooth headphones.

Charging Apple Watch is still a bit hard to quantify, but we think, based on our tests, that a 38mm Series 2 watch should fully charge in about two hours or so. This jives with Apple’s estimates, as the company claims both the 38mm and 42mm should fully recharge in “about 2 hours.” We assume most users plan on charging the Watch overnight.

As in our first Apple Watch review, we’re excited about the potential for third-party developers getting involved. The first time around, that didn’t work out so great — we thought a few third-party Watch apps were great (Dark Sky, MLB At Bat) — but for the most part, they never came close to Apple’s own apps. We’re already seeing an improvement due to watchOS 3, and now we’re hoping for even better results and worthwhile apps, with developers getting to take advantage of the speedier processor, and tap into the GPS. Not everyone loves Apple’s Workout app, after all.

Truth be told, a lot of the improvements first-time Watch owners might see in Series 2 are thanks to watchOS 3, which has also arrived on Apple Watch Series 1 and the first-gen Watch. The speed at which apps open is a wonderful development on its own, in addition to new Watch faces and a bevy of smart UI changes. Series 2 users might see slight performance boosts by comparison, but watchOS 3 is as big a reason as any to purchase either Apple Watch right now. (Read our watchOS 3 Instant Expert feature for more details.)

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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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