Reviews

Apple Watch Series 2 – User Review – GadFit

November 13, 2016

The Apple Watch Series 2 is birthed right in the middle of the smart watch controversy. Some have lambasted smart watches for the lack of practical use, while others have criticised the genre of wearable tech as nothing more than an unnecessary extension of the mobile device.applw watch series 2 -feature-3With the addition of GPS and enchanced water resistance, can the Apple Watch Series 2 win consumers over after the less than stellar reception its predecessor had?

I had the Apple Watch Series 2 for a while now and here’s what I have to say.

APPLE WATCH SERIES 2 IN SHORT

Pros:

  • All day activity tracker. Counts moving, standing and exercise duration, steps, distance. calories
  • Water resistant to 50m, safe for swimming
  • Wrist based heart rate monitoring, all day HR measurement periodically
  • Heart rate sensor, ambient light sensor, GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope
  • Audio and vibration enabled for alarms and smart notifications
  • Display visibility decent in the day and excellent at night
  • Full smart watch function; make calls, reply messages, app notifications, remote for camera and many more right from the watch
  • Plays music on watch with Apple Music and Bluetooth headphones
  • Changeable and dynamic watch faces
  • Numerous 3rd party Watch apps for productivity and working out
  • Inactivity alert
  • Changeable wrist straps
  • Wireless syncing and magnetic wireless charging.
  • Battery life up to 1.5 days on OS 3.1 (with 24/7 activity tracking 1hr/day of training with GPS and optical heart rate, full smart watch capabilitiles
  • OLED retina display with Force Touch. (Double the brightness of the original Apple Watch)
  • Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz) and Bluetooth 4.0
  • Siri activated functions
  • Magnetic wireless charging

Cons:

  • Lack of sleep tracking
  • Limited workout profiles
  • Customisation of display stats during workout limited
  • Lack physiological and running metrics at present
  • Still requires connected mobile device for functions such as smart notifications and calls

As usual, I’d suggest you brew a cup of coffee or tea, sip slowly as you read through the user review and enjoy the pictures. Drop me a note if there are any queries you may have which I didn’t manage to answer.applw watch series 2 -feature-7

LOOK AND FEEL

In terms of hardware, the new Apple Watch Series 2 comes packed with the new dual-core S2 chip which allows the device to performs up to 50% faster than its predecessor. There’s minimal lag when opening apps and the watch works in the absence of the iPhone for some functions.applw watch series 2 -feature-8Other than the touch enabled display, there are 4 physical means of controlling the Apple Watch Series 2; by tapping the display, through force touch, turning the digital watch crown, and side button. applw watch series 2 -display-under-shadeThe Apple Watch Series 2’s display boasts of a brightness level that’s twice that of the original Apple Watch. Usually, there’d be some inconvenience trying to view OLED or LCD displays under bright sunlight.

In the case of the Apple Watch Series 2, the inconvenience was present but minimal. Screen display under normal lighting conditions and at night is superb.applw watch series 2 -changeable-wrist-strapsThe wrist strap is changeable and there are options aplenty at the Apple online store or 3rd party stores ranging from Ebay to Amazon.applw watch series 2 -optical-heart-rate-sensorsThe back of the watch houses the optical heart rate sensors. My own comparison of the accuracy of the Apple Watch Series 2 versus a Polar H7 chest strap HR monitor found little to complain about. You check out the heart rate graph comparison by scrolling down.

The Apple Watch Series 2 is also water resistant to 50m so swimming is strongly encouraged. It’s even got swim tracking functions for pool and open water swims.applw watch series 2 -charging-dock-magneticBattery is listed at 18 hours but an OS update to 3.1 has brought about extended battery life, for my case at least. Previously I’d have to charge every day but I can go up to 1.5 days on a single charge after the OS update.

If it helps make sense of the battery life span, a single GPS and heart rate monitoring enabled workout lasting 40 minutes used about 9% worth of battery. Charging is via Apple’s magnetic cradle.

FUNCTIONS

Heart Rate Monitoring

The Apple Watch Series 2 was compared versus a Polar H7 chest strap heart rate monitor. The workout would consist of a 5 minutes of warm up, followed by about 30 minutes of interval on an elliptical machine followed by 5 minutes of warm down. The entire workout lasted about 40 minutes.

I specifically picked elliptical machines because there’s continuous use of the upper limbs when pulling and pushing which may cause inaccuracies for the optical heart rate sensors. Here goes.Apple Watch Series 2 -hr

Heart rate appears to be measured every second but only recorded once every 5 seconds; I noted 12 recordings of heart rate in a minute on the Apple Health app. The 12 readings per minute were then extracted and plotted into a graph. Other than the modification of the aspect ratio, the data wasn’t changed.

You be the judge and decide if it’s good enough for you.

The Apple Watch Series 2 also periodically take the heart rate measurements throughout the day. The duration can vary from once in 2 minutes and up to 12 minutes.

GPS

There’s been complaints about the erratic pace issue with the Apple Watch Series 2 on a few review sites. After using the watch for a while now, this really depends on the environment you’re running in. In the outdoors with minimal canopy or buildings, the pace is comparable to that of the Forerunner 735XT with GPS/GLONASS.

Naturally, expect jumping readings when running under tree cover or near tall buildings. On the whole, it does average out. If you’re interested to know how jumpy it can get, I did notice up to 45 seconds off at times when running in conditions I’ve mentioned earlier. The comparison device is the FR735 XT.Apple Watch Series 2 -gps-vs-forerunner-735xtWhat I didn’t like is that there’s no notification nor feedback on whether the GPS signal has been acquired. I use the Forerunner 735XT as a benchmark for my testing. Once Forerunner gets a locked signal, which is usually quick, off I go. Thankfully distance recorded by the Apple Watch Series 2 is usually close to that on the Forerunner 735XT.Apple Watch Series 2 -workout-appThe tracked workout can be viewed on Apple’s Activity app where you can access more information such as the route on map, weather and even lap timing.

According to reader Perikc, you can manually lap by double tapping on the display during workouts.

All Day Activity Tracking

Apple Watch Series 2 -breathing-activity-remindersWhen it comes to all day activity tracking, the Apple Watch Series 2 functions almost like a personal assistant, providing timely reminders and updates on the day’s progress. It’s subtle yet effective.Apple Watch Series 2-daily-activityI’ve used a lot of activity trackers and while most will buzz to remind the user to move, nothing quite drives it home like succinctly worded and timed advice. Kudos to Apple, they’ve nailed it.

Workout app on watch

Apple’s native workout app on the watch is by far better than most of the 3rd party apps. The list of available sports profiles include:

  • Elliptical
  • Indoor Walk/ Cycle/ Run
  • Outdoor Walk/ Cycle/ Run
  • Rower
  • Stair-Stepper
  • Open Water/ Pool Swim
  • Others

Apple Watch Series 2 -display-stats-customisationIf you need duration, HR, distance and pace for GPS enabled workouts, it’s all covered. Display stats for other sports profiles will vary accordingly.

Strictly speaking, I personally thought the list of available stats should suffice for most people who aren’t particular about more specific numbers such as cadence, heart rate zone, pace for last lap and so on.

Swimming

Apple Watch Series 2 -pool-swim-featureThe Apple Watch Series 2 can track pool and open water swim. In pool swim tracking mode, you’ll have to set the distance before other parameters such as duration, calories and so on. I didn’t manage to swim this time round but here’s a decent review you can check out with regard to the pool swim tracking.Apple Watch Series 2 -pre-pool-part-2Since the speakers can’t be sealed, Apple has adopted an ingenious solution to use sound to expel trapped water that may block the speakers.

To prevent accidental triggering of the touch display, the Apple Watch Series 2 allows the user to “lock”the screen during swims.Apple Watch Series 2 -pre-open-swim-statsI didn’t manage to try open water swim mode but I did search around for experiences other reviewers have and I thought Graham Bower from Cult of Mac wrote an excellent piece about open water swimming with the watch. The watch only provides distance during freestyle stroke when the arm with the watch is lifted out of the water.

Breathing

Throughout the day, you’ll receive notifications to take a minute to breathe, if you haven’t. Once you tap start, the Apple Watch Series 2 will slowly vibrate to signal the breathing in. The cessation of vibration would imply breathing out. There’s no need to look at the watch. I love this function. It’s brilliant an reminds the individual to take the mind off things for a while. Apple Watch Series 2 -breathing-activity-2To increase the duration of the breathing sessions, simply turn the digital crown dial. The user can also tweak the number of breaths per minute if the pre-set seven breaths a minute too fast.

Smart Watch Functions

I personally thought Smart Watch functions have grown compared to 2, 3 years ago but capability is still at its infancy. Sure I can initiate a search on Siri on the Apple Watch Series 2 but it usually directs me to my iPhone for more complex searches.Apple Watch Series 2 -phone-calls-from-watchOtherwise simple tasks such as making phone calls, setting reminders or alarms can be done swiftly without accessing the connected iPhone. Just long press the digital crown dial and have Siri take your commands.Apple Watch Series 2 -smart-notificationsApple nailed it in the smart notifications department. You’d have no problems reading and replying messages, and even view and like Instagram notifications. Also I was able to expand, read full emails and reply!

The options to reply through scribbling alphabets right on the display and the addition of emoji’s convinced me the Apple Watch Series 2 alone is sufficient for quick responses when necessary.

Watch Apps

The 3rd party watch apps have also improved dramatically since the original Apple Watch. But this would require a bit of fiddling on the part of the user to download and install the useful watch apps.

For me, I’ve set up an IFTTT recipe with a DO button to track my reading and I would clock that right off my watch. Apple Watch Series 2 -3rd-party-fitness-appsFor health and fitness apps, the functionality and display will depend on what watch apps you install. For example, Runkeeper, Nike + Running Club and Strava will tap on the Apple Watch Series 2’s GPS capability or optical heart rate sensor when tracking activities for you.

However, you have to take note that the tracked activity with 3rd party apps will not appear in the same way as Apple’s native workout app. You’ll have to experiment and try yourself.

Apple Health

Since there’s no access to history on the Apple Watch Series 2, the user will have to access the stats on Apple’s Activity mobile app. Apple Watch Series 2 -move-appThe app syncs all the activity tracking data, workout sessions from the Apple Watch Series 2 and rewards the user with badges. I was able to access past data easily, including those I had when I wore the original Apple Watch about a year back.Apple Watch Series 2 -move-app-2Apple’s health badges are insanely difficult to complete. While you can tweak the calories target really low, there’s no getting away from hitting your “Move”goals 1000 times; the equivalent of wearing the Apple watch and hitting the move goals for close to 3 years!

ANYTHING ELSE?

Complications

There’s nothing complicated about complications. It’s merely Apple’s lingo for creating shortcuts right on the watch face.

Not all mobiles apps have watch apps and not all watch apps have complications. And you would want to know if a particular complication is really worth the limited real estate on the watch screen. For me, I installed a IFTTT complication for quick access to log my reading duration.

Battery life

While 18 hours of battery life is hardly sufficient, anything between 24-36 made more sense. It’s longer than a day and since the Apple Watch Series 2 doesn’t track sleep, you can leave it charging then while the wrist takes a breather.Apple Watch Series 2 -power-reserveTo further prolong the battery life, the user may elect to put the watch in “Power Reserve”mode. All features will be turned off with the exception of time.

Customisable Watch Faces

Apple Watch Series 2 -watch-face-tweakingNot only does the Apple Watch Series 2 allow you to choose the watch face, it also allows the user some customisation in terms of how the particular watch face should appear.

If you refer to the screen grab above, you’d seen that I’ve changed the colour of the watch face while inserting differing complications. Apple Watch Series 2 -mickey-and-minnie-watch-facesTo change the watch display face, simply force touch to choose or swipe left or right to scroll through the all available watch displays.

Screen Grab of watch

To initiate a screen capture, simply press the digital crown dial and don’t let go, then quickly press the side button at the same time. The captured watch screen would then appear in your iPhone photos.

Watch app

This is where all the settings, complications, app downloads and notifications are tweaked. So if there’s anything you wish to adjust or customise, it’s likely here and not on the watch itself.

Nike + Apple Watch Series 2

There’s very little difference between the Apple Watch Series 2 and the one produced in collaboration with Nike other than a few custom watch faces and the perforated watch band.Apple Watch Series 2 -feature-5Even the Nike+ Running Club watch app has been updated and looks great now. It’s a matter of choice really since the two versions of Apple Watch costs exactly the same.

Music

You can pair Bluetooth headphones to the Apple Watch Series 2 directly and thereafter play music from the watch. The watch can also be used as a remote to control music that’s being played on the connected iPhone.

Remote for camera

Apple Watch Series 2 -remoteThe Apple Watch Series 2 can also be used as a remote when you want to take pictures without assistance. Simply use it as a viewfinder of what the iPhone is focusing on and snap. Or you could set a 3 seconds timer which should suffice for selfies or wefies.

APPLE WATCH SERIES 2 IN A NUTSHELL

Apple Watch Series 2 -comparisonI’d be lying if I said It didn’t occur to me to switch my main fitness tracking watch to the Apple Watch Series 2. The only reasons why I held on to my Forerunner 735XT is simply due to the lack of physiological measurements and rudimentary activity review display of the former.

When it comes to smart watch functions, the Apple Watch Series 2 wins hands down. Possibly the best smart watch I’ve ever used to date. While smart watches have a reputation of merely being an extension of the mobile device, there were times I actually found the extension (the Apple Watch) sufficient in terms of usage; there wasn’t a need to take out my phone at all.Apple Watch Series 2 -one-hour-towards-goalUsability is intuitive; hardly perfect but well thought out nonetheless. The burgeoning 3rd party watch apps is also a good indication that there are companies out there who are keen to tap on and support the Watch OS.

Apple’s ecosystem is what makes the Series 2 Watch better than its competitors.Apple Watch Series 2 -weather-smart-watchThe Apple Watch Series 2 was unveiled when most companies have chosen to delay or postpone their smart watches to 2017. In my opinion, it’s a smart move and reviews are generally good. Apple has raised the bar of what a fitness focused smart watch should aim to be. I’m genuinely looking forward to the third rendition of the Apple Watch!

The Apple Watch Series 2 is currently available for sale and prices start from $369 for a 38mm to $1299 for the Apple Watch Edition with ceramic case.

2 Comments

  • Reply Perikc November 14, 2016 at 11:01 am

    You can manualy activate lap by a double tap on the screen when you are running.

    • Reply Michael S November 14, 2016 at 11:38 am

      Thanks! I’ve included your solution and credited you.

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