I finally got my new Apple Watch Series 2 on September 28th, a solid three weeks earlier than Apple estimated. I have put it through the paces since then, comparing it to my good old Apple Watch Sport.
When I placed the order for an iPhone 7 Plus and the Apple Watch Series 2 on September 14th and based on Apple’s shipping estimates, I expected to receive the Apple Watch after I had received the new iPhone. Apple positively surprised me on September 25th when my credit card got charged. A day later, I received the shipping notification, and on September 28th, UPS delivered the new Apple Watch.
My new Apple Watch looks almost exactly like the old one: Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport Band. The differences between the old and the new Apple Watch are subtle. Apple Watch Series 2 is slightly thicker and heavier and has a second microphone cut-out on the left side of the case. Otherwise, they look identical.
If you want a new Apple Watch but don’t like Apple’s shipping times, you may want to try eBay.
Setting up the new Apple Watch Series 2
If you have iCloud Backup enabled and if the iPhone is locked and connected to its charger, iOS creates a backup of your device. If your Apple Watch is connected to a charger at the same time, it gets backed up too. Since I charge both my iPhone and Apple Watch every night, I knew I had a backup that I could restore.
When I set up my new Apple Watch Series 2 and chose “Restore from backup”, the Watch app didn’t offer me a recent backup to choose from. That was because the new Apple Watch had watchOS 3.0 installed, whereas my old Apple Watch ran watchOS 3.1 Beta. So I had to set up my Apple Watch as “new”, then install the Beta Profile from developer.apple.com before I could pair it again and restore a current backup.
Once that was done, both Apple Watches looked even more identical, thanks to the same watch faces and configuration. Because of that, I accidentally reset (delete all contents and settings) the new Apple Watch instead of the old one in the Watch app and thus I had to do it all over again 🙂
My first workout
Once I was done setting up the new Apple Watch Series 2, I grabbed my Plantronics Backbeat FIT and went for a run, leaving my iPhone behind so I could test the built-in GPS. With my old Apple Watch Sport I often noticed that the heart rate monitor failed to get a consistent reading, the screen was hard to read in bright daylight while wearing sunglasses and music playback would sometimes cut out.
I’m happy to report that every time I looked at the Apple Watch I saw my heart rate and the screen was very easy to read. Additionally, music playback did not cut out a single time after playback had started. I did notice a brief hiccup when I pressed play, and it took a second or so before playback began.
After the workout, I used the Activity app on the iPhone to check out my run on a map, and it seemed like the route was recorded perfectly, indicating that the Apple Watch never lost the GPS signal.
My experience so far
Built-in GPS works great
As much as I liked my old Apple Watch, I always felt bad running without bringing my iPhone along. My usual running route isn’t flat but instead has a couple of hills that naturally result in a change in stride. Additionally, I often run with my daughter sitting in a BOB Running stroller and that too affects my stride. Both factors combined, result in the old Apple Watch being unable to track my distance accurately. The built-in GPS of the new Apple Watch completely mitigates this problem.
Screen is bright and easily readable under ever condition
I can’t say enough good things about the screen of the Apple Watch Series 2. It’s brilliant and easily readable in every condition I have been in so far.
Apps are extremely responsive, thanks to the new SI2 chip
The performance of native and especially third-party apps have rendered most apps almost unusable on the old Apple Watch under watchOS 2. watchOS 3 improved the situation but what makes apps a pleasure to use is the SI2 chip of the new Apple Watch.
The screen comes on instantly
The Apple Watch turns off its screen automatically to save battery life when you lower your arm. That’s great but is annoying when the screen doesn’t come on reliably when you raise your arm. That was the case under certain circumstances, for example, while sitting or lying. Only turning your wrist was often not enough for the Apple Watch to activate the screen, resulting in weird-looking movements in an attempt to read the screen of the Apple Watch. That’s no longer necessary as the new Apple Watch seems to be much more sensitive to any arm movement.
Heart rate sensor appears to be more reliable during runs
In the past, I noticed on multiple occasions while running that the Apple Watch would lose track of my heart rate. With the new Apple Watch, I have seen this issue only during High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) sessions, when the Apple Watch loses contact with my skin (for instance, during push-ups).
Reliable music playback
I’m also glad to report that music doesn’t cut out anymore when the Apple Watch is paired to Plantronics Backbeat FIT headphones I use for running. I have had that issue in the past a lot, and it was annoying.
Better battery life
Early teardowns of the new Apple Watch indicated a larger battery compared to the old model. But Apple suggests that battery life between the old and the new model are the same. That’s an indication that the extra juice is used for the built-in GPS and the brighter screen. That said, I have noticed that my new Apple Watch has at least 10% more battery charge remaining in the evening as compared to my old Apple Watch.
So far, I’m happy with the new Apple Watch Series 2, and I can highly recommend it to fitness enthusiasts. If you’re not a runner or swimmer, I suppose the Apple Watch Series 1 would be a great companion. It lacks the GPS and waterproofing but has the same SI2 chip for better performance. I’ll do another review in a couple of months after I had more time to use the new Apple Watch. So stay tuned!