Apple Watch Series 2: Australian Review

My Apple Watch has taught me a lot of things. It's taught me that I can hit about 40km/h flat out on my cheap fixie bike before I run out of legs. It's taught me that my exercising heart rate is really kinda high and I should probably see a doctor. It's taught me that taking a minute out of each hour to walk around is really quite a good idea, but taking a minute to focus on my breathing just leaves me light-headed. Apple's newest and most fitness-focused wearable is, on paper, a small improvement from the original -- but those improvements under the hood translate to a massive increase in usability.

What Is It?

If you put an $529 Apple Watch Series 2, to use its proper name, next to its predecessor Apple Watch, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference unless you looked very closely. The two are nearly identical, apart from some different writing on the Series 2's rear casing, with the same 38mm and 42mm screen sizes and the range of bands on offer. That O.G. Apple Watch, by the way? It's now being called the Apple Watch Original. The internet, though, seems to be calling it the Series 0, an updated O.G version with a faster processor is being called the Series 1, and the shiny new thing on my wrist is the Series 2.

The Apple Watch Series 2 gains an integrated GPS receiver over the original, as well as water resistance to a depth of 50 metres (in an ISO-certified standard). Both are important features for a watch that can also function as a fitness tracker, and Apple's first-party Workout app has been updated with appropriate outdoor and in-water activities -- like Outdoor Walk and Pool Swim -- that translate those hardware improvements into software results. The water resistance comes despite the fact that the Watch has a built-in speaker, which even spits water.

The crowning glory of the Series 2, though, is a OLED screen more than twice as bright as the original -- rated at a maximum of 1000 nits versus the O.G's 450. That translates into much better outdoor visibility and glare resistance, helped in part by the sturdy sapphire glass on the stainless steel and ceramic case variants (although the aluminium only has Apple's in-house Ion-X strengthened glass). The resolution of the display scales with the two screen sizes available -- 272x340pixels on the 38mm and 312x390pixels on the 42mm, both translating into similar 292 and 302ppi pixel density overall.

And, of course, with the new Apple Watch Series 2 comes Apple's significantly revamped operating system, called WatchOS 3. It's a feature also made available to other Watch variants, but it's an integral part of Series 2 because you can't get one without it. WatchOS 3 means a Watch owner can keep many commonly used apps running in the background, reducing the need to navigate to the cluttered and clustered apps menu. It's also a hell of a lot faster to operate and bring up apps from memory, to the point where you'd wonder how older Watch users tolerated the original software.

What's It Good At?

The Apple Watch Series 2 has come at a convenient time for me. I'm exercising more than I ever have in my lazy sedentary life, and having integrated GPS and water resistance means that I'm using the Watch to track my workouts -- and there's a bunch of different apps available. Apple's Workout app is incredibly straightforward and does a good job of tracking a huge variety of movement from rowing to elliptical to swimming. The swim tracking is a huge advancement if you visit the pool regularly, since it'll surprisingly accurately measure your distance traveled based on stroke length and the length of the pool you're in.

The value of the Series 2's GPS can't be understated. If you're a big fan of outdoor walks -- bushwalks or a weekend jog -- having that more accurate metric of your travel, as well as some way of tracking your course later when you've actually completed it, is a boon for your activity stats. The watch's GPS is accurate enough for tracking your location and movement that it's already come in handy for me: on a weekend traverse through the Royal National Park without a map, taking a wrong turn quickly showed up as a discrepancy; the difference between the Watch distance traveled and the distance remaining on our (apparently) 10km walk was enough to make us think twice.

On the Series 2, you're more likely than ever to use one of the Activity watchfaces that come pre-loaded, because they're the best way to work out how much you've moved (and hopefully to share with your Apple Watch-wearing friends while you pat yourself on the back). Both the digital and analog Activity faces give you a visual representation in three rings of your active kilojoules burned, your minutes spent exercising, and how many hours in the day you've moved at least a little during. 'Closing the rings' is a phrase that Apple talks about a lot in reference to the watch, and it's the same addictive gamification that makes step trackers enjoyable.

All the smaller, less obvious updates to the Series 2 combine to make it the best Apple Watch by far, as well as the best smartwatch that I've used at all up until now. That very bright screen is of huge usefulness for outside viewing, and the new hardware under the hood makes it much, much quicker to operate than the original Apple Watch in everything from the lag for the screen to power on when you raise it to your wrist to the speed with which you can double-tap the side button to bring up Apple Pay. There's no one stand-out in this laundry list of minor changes, but they all work together to just make the Apple Watch Series 2 feel complete in a way that I couldn't say the original did.

What's It Not Good At?

There is a Nike-customised version of the Series 2 Watch on the way. It has a perforated elastomer watchband rather than the solid one on Apple's Sport series watches, it has some Nike+ Run Club watchfaces, and although it only has Ion-X rather than sapphire glass it's probably a more tempting fitness watch for semi-serious athletes than the standard Series 2 itself is. That's a reason you might want to hold off on your purchase at least until late October, when the Nike+ Watch drops.

The battery life on the Apple Watch Series 2 is better than the original, and you might be able to stretch two days' use out of it rather than one and a half before you'll hit the low-functionality Power Reserve, but it's still bested by many of the Android Wear competitor smartwatches out there. This isn't a huge deal -- I clip my watch onto its magnetic charger overnight to fill it with precious electrons just like I do my iPhone -- but if you're taking a short holiday it is another proprietary charger that you'll need to throw in your overnight bag.

There's one feature that the Apple Watch Series 2 is missing that would have been a very useful and forward-looking piece of technology. Hell, maybe it's in there waiting for the iPhone 8. No, the Apple Watch Series 2 does not have support for eSIMs, or virtual SIM cards -- which would have been a great stand-out feature in line with Apple's excellent Continuity features across iOS, WatchOS and MacOS platforms. Imagine being out for a run (without your phone) and being able to take a phone call on your watch -- now that's the future. But it's not here, not this time, and while I can't begrudge Apple for not including it, it would have been really freaking cool.

Should You Buy It?

I think it's the biggest compliment I can give the $529 Apple Watch to say that I've stopped using a Fitbit, I've stopped using Google Fit, and I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything at all. The GPS, water resistance, heart rate monitor and suite of apps on offer all combine to offer a fitness regime tracker that genuinely rivals a proper fitness watch from a respected brand like Garmin or Polar or TomTom. Even something as simple as setting a fitness target and filling those three activity rings just works so well, with such positive reinforcement from the visual cues to the speaker's sound effects to the haptic engine's thud. This is a smart watch that can get you fit, and that looks good while you're doing it.


    In what universe does an Apple Watch look good? I think they look bloody awful. Watches are meant to be round, anything else looks stoopid. (Yes, as stoopid as spelling stupid with a double-o.) And why would anyone still be using fitness trackers when the research shows it doesn't help?

      Watches are circles because clocks are circles because spinning something around makes a circle and spinning something around was a very good way to make something that could tell the time for quite a while. Rectangles are much better for screens :)

        And your point is? It's a watch and in order to look great, as the review says it does, it needs to be round. It has nothing whatsoever to do with functionality or anything else, it is purely down to the fact that rectangular watches always look naff. ALWAYS.

        BTW, you do realise it requires a lot more effort for you to keep registering names than it does for me to keep changing them, right?

          Disregard my posts, I'm a nob!

          Clock faces are round. Computer screens are rectangle. Looking at rectangular content on a round screen is a spectacular waste of space. Square watch looks just fine. Eye of the beholder and all that.

          Don't buy it.

            My wife and I are going o buy each other one for Christmas, just because.

              Yeah, it's my birthday in two weeks. I'll probably be ordering one from apple in the next few days. Didn't like the first iteration, this one seems much much better.

      Research show fitness trackers don't help with what? I thought they were just designed to a record of what you've done not help you to improve something like how to run (bad example but an example).

          I never thought it would help you lose weight, it can record your weight and record what you do but that's its log/record your workouts so you can build a history on what you are doing, how much you've improved and even maybe where to improve as well.

      Having a fitness tracker is one way unfit people can pretend they are doing something about being unfit.

      You be surprise on how many people like the squarish look watch.

      I myself as an Apple product user loves the MOTO360, HUAIWAI round watch, I think it's gorgeous. But few people from work thinks the square looks much better for smart watch.

        I can guarantee you that is 100% because it's an Apple product and if they had been introduced to it through a blind test they would not have liked it at all. Of course, on top of being the wrong shape, the band doesn't integrate with it very well at all. It looks like two separate products - a watch and a band. No decent proper watch looks like that. It's also too thick.

        To be fair, I don't think it is as ugly in person as it looks in photos but it is ugly, however you look at it.

          Pebble Watches are square and they are one of the most popular Smart watches out there. So your point is blatantly false.

      somedummy: please go back and shoe your horse, and watch your CRT, this is clearly a troll post. They look great, I remember this comment in 1979 when the first digital watches started appearing... its was a stoooopid comment then, as much as it is now. 1970 wants its style back !

      Most high end, fashionable, watch makers have made a rectangular or square watch. The Tag Heuer Monaco is a well known example (the original and the current), Raymond Weil make a few today, Omega made several in the early half of last century that are often sought after. That's just 3 examples but there are many, many others.

      I also don't like this trend of trying to make smartwatches look like traditional watches, with the skeuomorphic or photorealistic watch faces, etc. I think the Apple Watch does a good job of being true to it's heritage and it's intended use while still having a classic, clean style and a solid build from quality materials so it feels nice to use.

      I like traditional analogue and mechanical watches and appreciate their design and engineering, but I also like, and appreciate, smatwatches like the Apple Watch, Huawei W1 and Fossil QFounder to name a few.

    No mention of battery life, price, or complete list of sensors etc that I saw, is this a complete review or will there be another in-depth review soon? (not being mean just asking and wondering)

    It's your boy, Luke Hopewell.

    Because I don't do internet at Gizmodo anymore, I have to buy my gadgets these days if I want to figure out if they're good or not. Because I really loved the first one (which I had to give back when I left), I threw down $579 for the Apple Watch Series 2 when it came out. And because I bought the Aluminium Sport Series 2 model and not the Stainless Steel Watch Series 2, I'm here to tell you what the difference is.

    In a word? Better. Having used the Stainless Steel Apple Watch 1 (1, not Series 1), and now owning the Watch Sport Series 2, I can happily say that I'm the design of the Sport Series 2 is MUCH more pleasing to carry around on your wrist all day.

    If you're using the Watch as a fitness tool, you don't want Stainless Steel. Not for one second. The extra weight of the metal makes it really obnoxious to lug around when you're at the gym or heading in for a swim.

    The only real issue with the weight is how it behaves when it's high up on your wrist. Because it's lighter, you can't flick your wrist and wriggle the Watch further down so it sits below your sleeve. That's not a huge issue now that the weather's getting warmer, but something to keep in mind for you suit jacket wearers.

    The durability of the Watch is largely the same between the Aluminium and Stainless Steel so far. I had the old silver Stainless Steel Watch last time, which had LOADS of tiny abrasions within a few weeks of using it. Now I've got the Black Aluminium Watch Sport, and despite belting it around A LOT more than my old one, the finish is yet to sustain lasting damage.

    Series 2 with its brighter screen, faster processor, waterproof-ness and new screen means that the Watch now makes sense to a lot of people who weren't quite over the line with the last-gen model. Apps don't hang, Siri is way smarter, the speaker is way better, it's more convenient for every day use with Watch OS 3 and because Apple have had a year to get stylish, the Watch is now better looking than ever.

    A word on which model you should buy, however: the Watch Series 1 got an update at the same time as Watch Series 2. Watch Series 1 now features a beefed up Apple S1P processor as opposed to the S2 processor in Watch Series 2. It's not likely to be as fast as its bigger brother, but Series 1 is almost definitely faster than the original Apple Watch that came out last year. You only get a splashproof case as opposed to a water resistant one on the Watch Series 2, and you lose out on nifty stuff like the GPS receiver, but otherwise, that's it. Before buying, I'd definitely consider your use to see if you can't save some cash: the Apple Watch Series 1 is a perfect smart watch for the Apple user who wants the power of Watch OS 3 with its notifications, apps and new Watch faces. If you aren't doing hardcore fitness with it -- that is, you won't be swimming, you're not planning on doing Tough Mudder with it, etc -- I'd weigh up purchasing that for $449 (42mm). That gives you a saving of $130. #soundconsumeradvice.

      So let me ask you a question please Luke. You're happy with throwing out $500 plus on a smart watch then something cheaper from Google, Moto, Microsoft or any other maker that can do the same? Some more than the Apple Watch and some less than the Apple Watch? Also, what's it's battery life, how many days?

        Ah, you've reminded me of something I forgot to mention. Without trying, you can get 4 days out of your Apple Watch Series 2. It *sips* power compared to the original Apple Watch I had last year. Hypermiling it means you could easily get over a week.

        As for the cost versus the competition: it just comes down to the platform I prefer. I really like iOS and as a result, the best smartwatch for that platform is Apple. I also really enjoy how it intelligently handles notifications. Rather than throwing every notification to your device and your phone at once, the Apple Watch knows if it's on your wrist or not and intelligently figures out where to send the information you need. I prefer how it tracks fitness and movement with its workouts, and I think it's really a great-looking piece of tech. It all comes down to what you like.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now